Artist Series ~ Andrew Skurman
If you read my post on radial balance, you may have visited Andrew Skurman’s website. If you did, you saw the above room. I have a love of radial balance, so I have an affinity for Andy. Why does Andy have many examples of radial balance? Perhaps it is because he has been influenced by the works of architects such as Andrea Palladio. Here is an example of Mr. Palladio’s work…..
But what many folks don’t know is that Andy did not start his architectural career in his now famous French, Mediterranean, and Georgian styles; far from it. In fact, if his family had won their argument with Andy about his career pursuits, we may not have his magnificent structures today. How do I know all this? I asked him. I don’t do typical interviews, I always want to know more than the average. What’s makes Andy tick? How has he achieved all that he has? He was very forthcoming ~ “I wanna tell you all about everything.” Wonderful! I really want to know.
If you are unfamiliar with Andy Skurman, you’re not watching HGTV. He regularly appears on their series HGTV Top Ten. Here he is….
Here is a bit more about Mr. Skurman from his website….
“Andrew received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1976 from Cooper Union in New York and subsequently worked at some of the most prestigious architectural firms in the world. He began his design career apprenticing with the New York firm of I.M. Pei & Partners. He then worked in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as a Senior Associate and subsequently served as a Studio Director at Gensler and Associates in San Francisco and Los Angeles
He remains active in the world of academia, where he is sought after as a guest architecture critic. His affiliations in this capacity include the University of California, Berkeley, Yale University and Cooper Union. He has taught design courses in interior architecture at California State University, Long Beach, and currently serves on the board of the Northern California chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture. (A man after my own heart!)
In addition to architectural pursuits, Andrew is a talented industrial designer. Under his label Andy Designs he creates and manufactures decorative objects that are featured in shops at Americas major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The products are also available at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Royal Museum of Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium and retail stores in North America, Europe and Asia.
Homes designed by Andrew Skurman Architects have been featured in numerous publications such as Architectural Digest, House & Garden, Southern Accents, Maison Franaise, The New York Times Magazine, Western Interiors, California Homes, California Home & Design, C Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, This Old House and the Robb Report. Work by the firm is also included in the books Napa Valley Style (Rizzoli, 2003) by Kathryn Masson and San Francisco Style (Chronicle Books, 2004) by Diane Dorrans Saeks.”
The picture at the top is one of my favorite rooms done by Andy. It is part of a renovation Andy did in the French style. The room is worth repeating here with additional photos from that project.
Our conversation was interesting. We spoke about his family, his childhood, his work, his art, his business philosophy, even hotel recommendations….. He graciously gave many photos of his work and home. I think you’ll be surprised, enchanted, and enlightened.
Today is installment number one. In my next Tuesday and Thursday posts (maybe more), I will continue my in depth interview with Andy as well as show his photos.
Paula: Okay, so the first thing I want to know just so I could help my audience put you into context, is that if you can just tell me about yourself and your family.
Andy: Well Im an architect. I live in San Francisco and in Paris. Im 56. I am married to my wifes name is Francoise and shes French, and its the second marriage for both of us. I have a son from my first marriage named Luke whos 29 years old.
Paula: Is he an architect too?
Andy: No hes not. Hes an entrepreneur, CEO, and his business is based on the Internet. His business is named College Prowler.
Paula: I see.
Andy: And what they do is rate colleges from a qualitative point of view rather than just a quantitative point of view of U.S. News and World Report. So they talk about what its like to be at these schools to help young adults select the college thats best for them.
Paula: Thats an area that isnt covered quite a bit and thats great. Im glad I know about that now for future –
Andy: Whats great about that is he has figured out how to get a revenue stream going so he can now for the first time give away the information.
Paula: Oh great.
Paula: Even better.
Andy: I know. It took him about seven or eight years to get there, but he did it.
Paula: You know Im probably gonna give him a call and do a blog story about him because education as you probably gathered from this interview is just critical in my point of view and art education in this particular interview, so I may actually ask you for his contact information.
Andy: You can find him on Luke@collegeprowler.com.
Andy: And hell be happy to do it. Hes on TV and hes much more media savvy than I am. Hes into PR and all that.
Paula: Well he probably grew up with it more.
Andy: Hes just really doesnt wanna work for anybody else. Hes got to be the entrepreneur and hes figured it out, so its great.
Paula: Thats great.
Andy: Yeah. I have two stepchildren. Theyre both French. Theres a young lady, her name is Raphaelle. She lives in Paris. She works in private equity and her office is on the Placan Dome, which is great, and shes doing really well. She is 28 years old. Emmanuelle is my elder stepchild. He lives in London and he works in computers. He does software development.
Paula: So does he have his own company or does he work for -?
Andy: No. He works for companies that need him to help write programs and things like that.
Paula: I know this is not in the interview questions, but you have your office in San Francisco and you have your office in Paris. Do you have your office in Paris because of your marriage or -?
Andy: Yes. Oh, and also a great interest in everything French and French architecture and thats how the marriage happened. We met in Paris.
Paula: Oh, how romantic.
Paula: Thats wonderful. Thats great though that you can actually do that, open up and office in Paris, so you travel back and forth I imagine pretty regularly.
Andy: Yeah. I do go there three or four times a year.
Paula: Ive only been to Paris once and Im just dying to go back there, so that sounds lovely to me being able to go back and forth so easily.
Andy: It is great and Francoise loves to be there because shes from there and shes not American and just loves to be with her friends and family. It works for both of us.
Paula: Okay. Great. So tell me, do you do any other types of art? Do you paint or write music?
Andy: No, but I collect modern art.
Paula: Oh you do?
Paula: How wonderful because well Im gonna get to that question, but lets just go ahead because on your website for Andy Designs you have all of these people listed and you have all of these places listed and art guides.
Andy: Theres a lot of museums listed.
Paula: Yeah, a lot of museums listed. Exactly. Is that sort of a list of people that you collect?
Andy: Oh no. Those are places that have sold or are selling Andy Designs.
Paula: Oh, I see. I didnt make that connection cause Im so focused on the art. Thats fabulous cause that was quite a long list.
Andy: Yeah. I cant say they all have it anymore, but they did have it at one time. They did sell it at one time. You know these products have shelf lives. They go up, they go down, they still sell, but it may be at different places at different times.
Paula: I see, so tell me about some of the art that you have.
Andy: Well I live in a very contemporary apartment, which is very different from what I do for a living.
Paula: So you know Im gonna ask you about that in a minute.
Andy: I wanna tell you all about everything.
Andy: And the apartment has white lacquered walls and white glass floors and polished stainless steel window frames, and its on the 15th floor on Knob Hill in San Francisco with views of the Bay and of the city.
Paula: Wow. That sounds beautiful and perfect for your art.
Andy: It is perfect for the art. We actually collected this art when we moved into this apartment and I have a lifelong interest in art, and I was able to call upon that knowledge to be able to collect the art. Now the art we collected is not the financially inaccessible type of art that you think of with modern art. Its artists that we appreciate that have great talent but maybe havent yet reached that level. Maybe theyre more emerging or artists that I can give you names of all these artists.
Paula: Thatd be great, cause you know Ill probably call them.
Andy: Well we have a centerpiece of art is six feet high and seven feet wide and it is by Alessandro Twombly who is the son of Cy Twombly. Cy Twombly is one of the greatest artists in the world and his work goes for multi-millions of dollars. This looks just like one of his fathers works and its just beautiful. We love it. We bought it in Switzerland. I was searching the web, and Im a believer in buying art through the web, by the way.
Paula: Wow. Okay.
Andy: And Alessandro Twombly was having a show in Geneva, Switzerland and I found images on a site called Art Net, and I called the I tend to search Art Net on the weekend, and then I called the gallery from California time on Monday morning. I called Europe kind of before work and found out how much it is and maybe most of the time I cant afford it, but occasionally Ill hit it right. Ill have them send me a hard copy, maybe an 8 x 11 photo or 8×10 photo and make a decision right away and thats how this piece happened. Now this piece is so large that it could not get up the elevator in my building.
Paula: Oh no.
Andy: It had to be taken off the stretcher and rolled. It was rolled in Switzerland, sent in a box, and then the stretcher was fabricated in the apartment and the piece was stretched on the stretcher and then the frame was put around it in the apartment and then hung on the wall.
Paula: Oh my gosh. Thats quite a journey for one you were properly motivated it sounds like. It sounds like you fell in love with the piece.
Andy: Yes, and I loved the scale of it, and I loved the colors. Its a predominantly turquoise painting with rose and yellow and its just beautiful.
Paula: Okay. Now you know Im gonna ask you, do you still have the 8x10s?
Andy: Oh yes.
Paula: Do you have a scanner?
Andy: Sure. I can scan it for you. I actually have a magazine article that featured the apartment that I could send you.
Paula: Oh perfect.
Andy: And you could see the apartment and see the art.
Paula: Okay. It does seem quite the contrast to I know Ive read that you think office space should be much cleaner and more contemporary, but the work that you focus on with your clients, the French and the Mediterranean and the Georgian styles does seem sort of quite the contrast to what you live in personally.
Andy: It really is. Its amazing that way. My wife sculpts. Shes a sculptress and were married 10 years, and when my wife came to San Francisco I showed her all the work I was very proud of, all the things that look like theyre French and right out of Paris, right out of England, right out of Italy, and she admired them very much and the French things really made her feel as if she was in France. They were really done to that level, but there was an apartment I showed her that I had done about 18 years ago that was extremely contemporary, and thats the one she really loved because shes coming from the old world, and for her the very contemporary is what turns her on. So this is the one she really loved, and then my former client had it up for sale, so we were able to purchase it, and we sold our former charming house that we lived in with all the moldings and paneling and we were able to close concurrently on this apartment, so it was an easy transition. My former client was very nice to allow us to do that.
Paula: Yes, so you designed this apartment as well.
Andy: Thats correct, but this was before I took up classical. In my former career I worked for I.M. Pei, SOM (Skidmore Owings and Merrill), and Gensler, and I did modern.
Andy: And when I started my own firm thats when I really took up my personal interest in classical.
Paula: I see.
Andy: But I loved both.
Paula: So you decided to move your practice a bit more towards the traditional, the French, the Mediterranean because you personally liked that style.
Andy: Correct. I love bringing the old world to the California climate. I love taking French or Mediterranean architecture and bringing it here. That architecture primarily of the 18th century really is very green in terms of the fact that it has the thick walls, windows and wall and window wall rhythm, and in the winter it keeps the heat in, and in the summer it keeps it cooler because its not all glass. It has mass. So it works in our climate really well and I just am drawn to it. I have a passion for it.
Paula: I did read on your website that you try to do things in green when at all possible, but that is interesting. It shows to me the dynamic part of your wife really liking the contemporary because she has grown up and been inundated with that style, and then you –
Andy: Right, grown up and inundated with the classical style.
Paula: Exactly, so shes drawn to the new and to the fresh, and for you it sounds like the traditional was more new and fresh for you.
Andy: Absolutely. Yeah.
How wonderful that Francoise is drawn to contemporary and Andy to classical design. Opposites DO attract. Plus, they will always have France! How do they make decisions about furnishings and art? I ask about that too.
Next Tuesday, more of the interview along with photos of his home and more of his truly fantastic work!
I will leave this segment with more of Andy’s work in the French Style in honor of Francoise’s heritage (she is a wonderful sculptress, her work is stunning and will be seen in the photos of their home)…..
RESIDENCE IN THE FRENCH STYLE
INTERIOR DESIGN: Diane Chapman Interiors.
LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Lou Marano
CONTRACTOR: Lencioni Construction
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mark Darley Interiors, Matthew Millman Exteriors