Sunday, February 21, 2010

Design Inspirations: The Movie as Muse Part Two

There are people you meet in life that are instant kindred spirits, ones you feel like you have known forever. Usually there is a common link -- such as a love of design and movies. Such was the case when I met Joe Ruggiero.

I had the pleasure of meeting the multi-faceted interior designer and television personality at the High Point market last October and our paths crossed again at his lecture at my friend Donna Hysmith's Designers Gallery in Nashville recently. His incredible career has spanned a variety of multi-media disciplines within the design profession for the past 27 years ranging from design consultant on Good Morning America, host and producer of a number of shows and specials on HGTV (Homes Across America), Editor in Chief of Home Magazine and Director of Advertising at Ethan Allen -- and this list just barely scratches the surface. My favorite gigs are his HGTV specials on international design where he literally traveled the globe reporting on one incredible residence after the next based on the best of French, Italian, Japanese, Irish, Portuguese, Mexican, Scandinavian and Spanish design. The ultimate dream job!

Today he designs the JR Home collection that includes the Domino line of all seasons wicker for Woodard,  an upholstery line with Miles Talbott, the Sunbrella  textile line, a wood furniture collection with Caperton and an outdoor furniture line with Terra Furniture

His Maxfield sofa is reminiscent of the classic Harlow movies of the thirties -- streamlined, modern and sophisticated while low to the ground and comfortable. The Bergen chair is influenced by all the twenties and thirties travel themed escapist films  where ocean liners played a predominant role. Art Deco, French Deco and Moderne ocean liners were notably featured as both a backdrop and plot device in films such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical  Shall We Dance (1937), The Big Broadcast of 1938, Transatlantic (1931) and Reaching for the Moon (1931). 

One of Harlow's most stylish films was the 1933 comedy Dinner At Eight

Harlow in Life Magazine

The Bergen chair was a Pinnacle Award winner in furniture
and as Joe notes, "inspired by French design but paired down to the bare essentials."

Ginger Rogers publicity photo for Shall We Dance

Barrymore Chair
(think thirties actor John Barrymore, grandfather of actress Drew)

Joe's travels have taken him literally all over the world and he was particularly influenced by his visits in Kyoto which later became the muse for his Geisha fabric as seen on the kimono and interiors below. While in Kyoto, he purchased kimono fabrics from garments of the early 1900's and a collection was soon born. "I have always loved the simple design principles of Japan and have been inspired in the design of all my home furnishings," he details.

His collection reminds me of the film Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). Production designer John Myhre (of Chicago fame) designed a section of the pre World War II city of Kyoto on a horse ranch near Los Angeles. Seen below is the tatami room for the geisha and the baron's lair. The geisha district was miraculously built in 14 weeks and strongly influenced by the novel of the same name, traditional dance and Kabuki theater as well as actual historical and cultural references.

The JR collection's Chop Block Mist Sunbrella fabric also found its way on the television hit Melrose Place. Seen below is the star Heather Locklear.

Chop Block Mist

For more on the  Joe Ruggiero Collection, see his website here.

Photo Credits: Architectural Digest/Columbia Pictures Company, MGM, Life Magazine.


  1. Cathy, I am honored to be a part of your marvelous blog!! Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  2. You are most welcome! Keep making the world a more beautiful space!

  3. Very nice decoration with furniture styles and tones of colors for a escenography of film.

  4. Decoración muy agradable con los estilos de muebles y tonos de los colores para un escenography de la película.

  5. Very nice decoration with furniture styles and tones of colors for a escenography of film.

  6. Love the connection to the Moderne and Deco looks of the 30s Hollywood sets - rich contrasts of the sleek satins, exotic hardwood finishes and polished floors, with the soft sofa fabrics, quilted headboards, and wearing furs,and feathers.

  7. Thirties films really set the standard for art direction.