You’re a designer about to embark on an exciting new project; what is it that first sparks or arouses your imagination? Is it intuition, inspiration, perception, conception, or conceptualization? What aesthetic, shape, form, texture, illumination, feel, and personality should this project take on? What is your process underlying your vision? How do you ensure your project’s genuine realization and that all goes according to your master plan?
There are always conventional, mainstream, clichéd, or textbook paths to follow, but what if you wish to chart your own course? What then? What if, like us, you truly desire to exemplify the pinnacle of your craft? What then? What if you find the easy way out quite unbeguiling? What then? What if what you truly seek is the authentic manifestation of perceptible perfection? What then? What if you favor an alternative artistic interpretation of beauty? What then? What if instead of seeking shelter in the sameness and safety of the middle, your’s is an unfathomable and contrarian view? What then?
Well, you roll away that stone, you suspend all manner of disbelief, you call upon your intuition, you open your eyes, you investigate, you observe, you take notes, you examine, you converse, you interrogate, you go down that rabbit hole and explore, you scrutinize, you think twice, you reconsider all possibilities, you reimagine, you deconstruct and reimagine some more, you take the time to find that which has been lost, and you emerge into the light senses fully alive ready to breathe life and pure fascination into this new project, whatever it might be. Well, that’s the way Raven Vanguard does it anyway.
So this is a story about us, and our process, and our dedication to something uniquely ours – doing things our own way, the only way we know how. This Raving is also a story about our Music Room and our vision to balance darkness, shadow, and light, and harmonize stillness, elegance, abundance, and mystery. Our intended goal with this Raving is to reveal rather than conceal the often misunderstood creative impulses that lie beneath a creator’s finished design in the hope that you can decide for yourself whether our design is a true expression of our identity, or not. But please be patient with us as we walk you, step-by-step, through our creative process because using words and the lexicon of the English language in our attempt to define and describe an artistic craft that is highly visual is not an easy task.
Music is an absolutely remarkable living and breathing phenomenon. For each one of us at Raven Vanguard, ever since early childhood, our uniquely personalized daily rituals of listening to music have given us pure and boundless enjoyment. And for us individually, and as a Design Studio, it is an essential part of our shared DNA and our unified everyday existence.
Not surprisingly, one of Raven Vanguard’s specialties is designing breathtakingly vivid and tranquil music rooms of uncompromising sensuality, comfort, and, budget permitting, custom made luxury. Mind you, our rooms are nothing at all like the typically hideous or monotonous-looking music rooms so commonplace among male audiophiles today. Instead, we create visually stunning, uber-cool sacred sanctuaries in-which ALL beings of every gender can peacefully assemble and gather together to idle away oh-so-many carefree hours while having their collective minds blown listening to their favorite music. Yes, that is undoubtedly a bold proclamation, but this proposition has become one of our most cherished of human undertakings.
This Raving is decidedly different from our past Ravings in that this Raving is intended to let the world in on a very well kept and guarded secret – for the very first time, we offer you a detailed sneak peek behind the scenes into the intricacies and divine madness underlying Raven Vanguard’s design process work, from its immaculate conception through to its divine realization.
Specifically, starting with this Raving and extending over our next two or three Ravings, we intend to reveal and explain the creative processes connected with the aesthetic redesign of our beloved and one-of-a-kind Music Room located within Raven Vanguard House. Among the many enigmatical secrets we will divulge in future posts will be the who and why behind every single item of furniture we selected to fill this space. These are the types of decisions we agonized over because the furnishings manufacturers we considered for this project are the cream of the worldwide crop, the best of the best, and have been crafting heirloom-quality masterpieces with generations of skill and artistry. Consequently, this selection process has proven to be far more difficult than we ever imagined it might be.
Although the creative risks in any project promising a comprehensive redesign are incredibly high, our personal expectations for our redesigned space have already been launched well beyond the stratosphere. Rather than view large-scale design projects like this as merely presenting architectural and spatial challenges to overcome, we eagerly look forward to them as unique opportunities to demonstrate the outer boundaries of our artistic creativity, and a chance to exercise the illimitable possibilities of our mind’s eye.
As things stand presently, assuming the heavens align perfectly for us over the next six months, we plan to reopen our Music Room in mid-March of 2019 with an invitation-only Grand Re-Opening Event. Faith and patience is my oft-repeated mantra to our clients whenever they are struggling with the sometimes turbulent and tedious progression from concept to design to realization. We are reminded to exercise this same degree of faith and patience now because this project has already been consuming far more time than any one of us had expected first heading into it.
Over the past five years, we have entertained an incalculable number of music lovers and other curious thrill-seeking guests in this particular physical manifestation of our wonderfully uncommon room. Since the date we first publicly announced our intention to redesign our room entirely, we have been beset by countless inquiries from many of these same individuals questioning why we would dare make any changes or alterations to a space that every single one of them has called the most mind-blowing listening and experiential space they have ever enjoyed.
We have often asked ourselves this very same question; for when something isn’t broken in the first place, why attempt to fix it? The reality is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current incarnation of our space, it is, by all accounts, magnificent. The only problem we have ever had with it, and it is such an incredible problem to have, is that no one who enters here, ever wishes to leave, well, voluntarily that is.
So, then why change it? Quite directly, to challenge ourselves to create something so utterly over the top, a showpiece of our collective imagination. By starting anew with an altogether blank slate offering infinite aesthetic possibilities, we would be giving ourselves a rare gift, the unfettered creative mental space in which to conceive and experiment free from any artificial boundaries whatsoever, that is, outside of the physical dimensions of the room itself. So we ultimately decided to eliminate all practical limitations to the practice of our craft by completely untethering our collective imaginations and by disconnecting and untangling our creativity from any earthly constraints. Our goal? Why the pursuit of perfection, of course, which, by all mortal means, is, theologically speaking anyway, unattainable here on earth. Guess what? Challenge accepted! Through this project, we will indeed wreak havoc on the so-called realm of impossibility.
The history of our Studio space dates back to 1850, more than a full decade before the start of that un-Civil War that ripped at the already tattered fabric of this Country. This current project will be the third large-scale reboot of our Music Room. However, this will be no simple makeover, but instead a complete reexamination of what is possible in redesigning a space having this particular scale and purpose. We decided to start from the perspective that we will not be in any way constrained by any hard or fast rules relating to its architecture, design, or natural acoustics. Our single guiding principle will be our Raven Vanguard sense of beauty, where every detail is considered and then obsessed over in perpetuity.
Perhaps the most common question we continue to receive from our clients, readers, and those intimately familiar with our music room relates to their ongoing curiosity and a desire to better understand our underlying creative processes to transform a space that is unbroken, into something wholly different from a visual perspective. In Raven Vanguard’s imaginative world, we see our “creative process” as being comprised of the series of steps that give form, fluency, and fluidity to our intuition and concept, no matter where our intuition might lead, nor whatever that concept might be. Somewhat in jest, we previously described our creative process as it relates to the creation of our music rooms as the alchemy of transforming space through pure imagination, hocus-pocus, the wisdom of bygone days, science, voodoo, technology, and art, with the ever evasive goal being to capture lightning in a bottle.
The perceived attributes of music as a function of listening are dramatically affected and shaped by what one simultaneously sees, touches, smells, or tastes. But it is our visual perception and sense of sight that profoundly impacts our listening experience most of all. For these reasons, and from a philosophical perspective, we design our music rooms to transform the whole journey, not just the hearing part of it. However, to understand my next statement, always keep in mind that perfect sound reproduction in a residential environment is a practical impossibility. It is also a theoretical impossibility if you wish your music room to have any visual appeal at all. Also, it helps to remember that making sonic perfection your overriding goal takes you further and further away from the potential mind-altering purity of the listening experience itself. For these reasons, we value the visual and tactile qualities of the designed space over its precise acoustic and technical properties.
At this point, to help you better understand our process, it makes sense for us to give you some insight into why we decided to create music rooms in the first place. If you haven’t already read that section of our Website dedicated to music room design, now might be the perfect time to do so - https://www.ravenvanguard.com/music-rooms
Shedding light on the when, how, and why of a small part of my musical past life will give everyone a better understanding of why Raven Vanguard designs music rooms differently than everyone else. I purchased my first high-end music system in the early 1970s, and I became painfully aware almost immediately of how vital the natural acoustic attributes of your listening room are when it comes to chasing the illusion of live music in that very room. Although, at that time, outside of live music venues, very few private homes had rooms that were entirely dedicated to music listening. Starting with my very first home in the early 1980s, I began creating spaces that were intended for music listening only.
However, after decades spent studying books related to sound reproduction and acoustics, and utilizing acoustic panels, ceiling treatments, bass traps, diffusers and the like to optimize the sonics of my listening rooms, it finally dawned on me how visually unappealing, even ugly and uninviting, these rooms had become in the relentless pursuit of my goal to achieve audio perfection. Moreover, although not by intention, almost every female friend or acquaintance who stepped foot into these rooms wouldn’t stay for more than five minutes because the visual aesthetic and vibe were so tasteless, clinical, and masculine. Even my male friends, many of whom were involved in architecture, design, and the arts didn’t care much for the visual appearance of these rooms. It also became clear to me that those who stayed may have enjoyed what they were hearing, but the total lack of any artistic design sense whatsoever in the room discouraged any meaningful social interaction or hope of interpersonal connection, and, quite frankly, lessened the overall enjoyment of the music listening experience.
So, after nearly three decades of continuing to fall short of the mark in my ever-elusive pursuit of acoustic perfection, I finally came to the enlightened realization that my quest had become more about tilting at mythic audiophile windmills, rather than anything having to do with the art of music listening, the pure enjoyment of music, or just chilling to music in an ultra-cool, moody, sexy and edgy looking space specially designed and put together just for that purpose. The lessons learned? Invaluable ones; there is a crucial difference between hearing music as sound, and actually listening to music as an emotional experience. And we listen with our eyes and soul more than we do with our ears alone. The other major takeaway, women love music every bit as much as men do, perhaps even more so. Then why not design a room around a woman’s sense of style and artistic taste? I could think of no good reason not too.
Now, fast forward almost ten years after first transforming my music room into something that was far more artistically and visually creative; I am currently involved in a new design business venture with my Wife, Brooke, Dakota, and Nicky designing atypical residential music listening rooms for music lovers that are high in artistic concept and design but still sound and look awesome. Like most every space we create, we design with the intention of affecting the entire wide-ranging spectrum of the sensory experience.
Now that you have a sense of why we create music listening rooms, we want to give you a basic understanding of our room’s architecture, dimensions, and other physical characteristics. In other words, our architectural, dimensional, and aesthetic jumping off points. Back in 1850, our room began its life as the formal parlor inside our magnificent French Second Empire residence, now in the process of being fully transformed into Raven Vanguard’s Studio, Gallery, and Showrooms.
The Music Room itself is intimate, but with generous enough dimensions at just over 30’ in length, 15’ in width, and slightly more than 12’ in height. There are two floor-to-ceiling roundtop windows on the east face of the room. The north wall contains a carved marble fireplace located approximately at the midpoint of the room. The south wall includes a custom-made, built-in record/LP cabinet and a large Tiger Maple pocket door. The ceiling is adorned with an intricate plaster ceiling medallion and plaster crown moldings, plaster onlay, and a large ornate, midnight black Murano glass chandelier. The floor is black-dyed resin over concrete cement board and an engineered subfloor affixed to true 2” x 16” floor joists which themselves are undergirded by a steel I-beam running perpendicularly across the full length of the room. Each of these features will remain as part of our redesigned space.
Concerning redesigning our room, we have a running joke. How many designers does it take to select furnishings, fabrics, lighting, materials, finishes, and artwork that together are collectively intended to be the principal focal points of the space that itself is destined to epitomize the brand image of the designers themselves? In the case of Raven Vanguard, the answer is four, but Brooke, Dakota, Nicky, and I have yet to achieve consensus on what constitutes perfection in this instance. But we did create wish lists of a sort after weeks of brainstorming, and these wish lists continue to serve as our formative guideposts through this evolving process.
Our first list pertains to our hoped for mood, vibe, and energy in our new space. This list is lengthy, but it is also consistent with who we are as people: darkly surreal, hip, cool, unpredictable elegance, influenced by fashion, edgy, mysterious, poetically sexy, Victorian-styled cabinet of curiosities, where little details matter, leathers, velvets, and lace, Scandanavian Gothicism, sense-awakening sensuality, tactile and touchable, inviting, approachable, and immersive, dark romanticism, the color black, especially matte black and textured black leather, in the tradition of the European avant garde, enveloping warmth, opium den-like, a beckoning sense of intimacy, serenity, the union of ancient and modern, more black, voyeuristic romance, inscrutable melancholia, cryptic nostalgia, tranquil well-being, subtlely contrasting colors and deeply contrasting textures, beautifully timeworn, more black, decadent, indulgent, deep bed of roses comfort, more black, a dreamer’s paradise, uncompromising olde-world luxury, attention to the smallest detail, haven, escape, shadows and shadowplay, lamplight, candlelight, more black, emotionally connected in time, patina, originality, singular, and heart and soul (and just a tiny bit more black). The idea is to create a space that ages so beautifully and is so utterly unique that it will still look as artfully vibrant more than a quarter century from now.
What our room will most definitely not have – acoustic panels, or any other type of visible audiophile-styled acoustic treatment, ill-fitting seating surfaces, harsh bright lights, glitz, sheen, sparkle, flash, showiness, flamboyance, pretentiousness, creams, beiges, or peach tones, the latest short-lived trends, or any reflective and shiny metal, stone, or glass surfaces.
Our want list concerning desired design elements reads like a designer’s pipe dream that started from the premise of identifying what’s best among those bespoke and custom manufacturers, makers, craftspeople, and then imagining the perfect union of these signature pieces. The words we used to set the bar were distinctive, quintessential, timeless, esteemed, treasured, unsurpassed, and iconic. We set our sights on the finest of British, Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Asian and American furniture making with their extraordinary methods of hand-stitching, hand-tooling, handcrafting, and hand-finishing, and with exceptional depth of texture and unsurpassed richness of color tone. We were shooting for couture seating pieces of uncompromising tailor-made excellence, in other words, statement pieces of furniture capable of telling their own story while further elevating our Brand beyond exceptional.
So, over the next couple of months, we plan to go into detail describing the selection process for each piece of furniture, each light fixture, each fabric and textile, each finish and paint color, each rug, and every piece of art and decorative accessory in this space. By retelling our trials and tribulations, we hope to give you a clearer picture of who we are as people and as designers. And in future months, we plan to do the same thing by introducing you to our incredibly talented audio equipment partners, who, we believe are the among the best in the industry. As always, if you have any specific or even totally random questions about our process in general or our experience in designing this room in particular, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Peace to all who enter here; our Music Room, that is. And once inside, please join all those who have gathered together in this otherworldly place as we enthusiastically press pause on the chaos taking place all around us and experience the saving grace of music.