James Swan

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The Art of Display

Million Dollar Decorating

The number of design and decorating questions coming my way seems to grow daily and I’m thrilled by each and every one.

A trend seems to be forming recently around the idea of how one successfully displays furniture and objects in a room.  Such a good question!

I was enjoying the quiet of a rainy Sunday afternoon yesterday with a small stack of old Architectural Digests on my lap and while there were many images that might be helpful in answering that question the one below seemed particularly good.  It’s from the December 1999 issue and is taken from an article featuring the NYC home of designer Ron Bradshaw, with text by Jeffrey Simpson and photography by Robert Reck.

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In this one image I see illustrated one of the most important principles I use in arranging and displaying furniture and objects.  It’s the Rule of Three.  Unless strict symmetry is desired the best principle to use when creating beautiful displays is to group items by threes.

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I’ve marked up the image to show you the many ways this collection of furniture, objects and art is artfully arranged using the Rule of Three.  Even the key furniture pieces (two antique chairs and the antique ebony and tortoiseshell chest) for an structural grouping of three that anchors the entire composition.

Begin looking at your favorite room images with the filter of the Rule of Three.  You’ll start to see the power of this simple principle which you can start utilizing to create more beautiful arrangements in your home.

As you do I hope you’ll send me pictures of the finished space so we can celebrate with you the power of the Rule of Three. 

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About the author, James

With the launch of the new podcast, Million Dollar Decorating, James Swan adds media-host to his career accomplishments. The interview-based show becomes the first daily podcast devoted to the worlds of design, decorating and beautiful living and features interviews with the world’s leading designers, decorators, architects and artisans. Life-style leaders like Robert Couturier, Sandra Nunnerly, Vicente Wolf and Timothy Corrigan populate the podcast where unguarded conversations reveal behind-the-scenes sources of inspiration, resources and stories that inspire and motivate.
James Swan has built a career crafting classically influenced interiors across the United States. Swan has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune and wrote for the “Trends & Shopping” column in House & Garden magazine. His book “101 Things I Hate About Your House” won a 2011 American Bookseller’s Award.
Television appearances on HGTV’s “Homes Across America,” speaking engagements with the professional design industry association NEOCON, regular guest spots on national radio programs have consistently placed Swan in the media spotlight.
Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious design firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives. In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.
Swan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and music from Southwestern College in Waxahachie, Texas, and studied in Arizona State University's Architecture and Design master's degree program.
Swan is a past member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, serving on its Executive Board of Directors. His other commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth. In his free time, Swan may be found furthering his passion for skiing and traveling. Currently he lives and works from his home on the Maine coast.