Adam Charlap Hyman Harnesses Dissonance between Classic and Contemporary Design

Adam Charlap Hyman Harnesses Dissonance between Classic and Contemporary Design

The interior designer behind the celebrated architecture and design firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero selects the most captivating pieces from the upcoming Classic Design auction, including a Lalique service, a Buccellati silver lobster and several Queen Anne period pieces.
The interior designer behind the celebrated architecture and design firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero selects the most captivating pieces from the upcoming Classic Design auction, including a Lalique service, a Buccellati silver lobster and several Queen Anne period pieces.

A dam Charlap Hyman was raised in an artistic milieu: he is the son of two artists residing in a community of people with a veritable passion for art. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied furniture and developed “a love of environments,” he cofounded the architecture and design firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero.

Named to Architectural Digest’s top 100 most talented architecture and design firms every year since 2021, the firm has made an impact in the worlds of art and design. They’ve designed exhibition spaces for Salon 94 and Nina Johnson galleries, and bespoke retail spaces for Aesop, MZ Wallace and UNDEFEATED. A recent rendering of their Missoula Innovation District in Montana reveals an impressive undertaking: its massive wooden beams evoke a swathe of references, from the region’s timber and mining industries to the surprisingly sensuous materialism of Brutalist architecture. Since it was unveiled this month, the life science and technology hub has captivated designers across social media.

A rendering of Charlap Hyman & Herrero’s forthcoming Missoula Innovation District

One methodology underpinning the firm’s success is their winsome practice of anachronism. In his designs, Charlap Hyman undulates between antiques and contemporary pieces, marrying works across time yet striking a charming, asynchronous balance. The secret is his meticulous erudition of the nature of objects – his deep knowledge of how classic objects functioned then and how they can function anew today. Charlap Hyman explains his practice as a “language of dissonance: colors, textures, the histories of pieces. My favorite thing is when objects from different times and different places have a relationship that’s formal, pictorial or material. It creates echoes throughout a room.”

In advance of Sotheby’s upcoming Classic Design auction, Charlap Hyman previewed hundreds of objects slated for sale and selected his favorites. Below, he explains his perspective on the significance of these pieces and how they can elevate a space.

Adam’s Picks

Delft Polychrome Vase

“This vase has incredible scale and gravitas. A clay piece this size is technically very difficult to create. It reminds me of a collection of ridged blue and white vases photographed in the studio of the artist Cy Twombly. The ridges on this piece catch the light in such a nice way, creating an illusion of vibration and movement. The motifs dance across the form with a dynamism that is incredibly pleasing to the eye.”

A Silver Lobster by Mario Buccalleti

“I know Buccellati as the creator of precious, whimsical, sometimes even surreal objects for the tabletop and home. I will always retain the fascination and wonder I had as a kid discovering my grandmother’s Buccellati boxes, figurative salt shakers and centerpieces. To me, the marine objects harness the power of a high-low combination of the natural, humble and strange beauty that things from the sea have, rendered in finely worked silver. I’m drawn to the majesty of the lobster’s presence: it transforms any room into a grotto, recalling grand rooms from the past where tables were adorned with all sorts of precious things.”

René Lalique’s ‘Algues Noir’ Dinner Service

“René Lalique is such an important figure in the histories of design and glass, and this dinnerware set presents a side of his work that is extremely striking and unusual. Rendered in black glass, they have a surprising look and feel for Lalique, who when not working in clear glass more often gravitated towards colors. They are weighty, precious and have something ancient-feeling about them. I can imagine the partial dinner service on a wood table with a white tablecloth used to serve red berries topped with whipped cream looking totally divine.”

A Queen Anne Child’s Wardrobe

“This Queen Anne child’s wardrobe is such a surreal and wonderful object that I could imagine in a living room or dining room as a functional sculpture. Such a piece from 1709 would now normally be observed in a museum. One of my favorite details is the real glass windows that allow you to look through them! The paint is beautiful and there’s a signature on the back of the wardrobe in a distinctive cursive. Early 18th-century large doll houses and architectural models like this are rare.”

George III Architect’s Table

“Any piece from the 18th century with a mechanical or transforming element is rare. This Architect’s table unfolds like a Jacob’s Ladder into something magnificent, while retaining the sober elegance and graceful lines of George III period cabinetry and furniture. I could imagine it in a living room or a more intimate space, like a library with a rare book or artwork propped on the adjustable top and little silver candlesticks on the swivel holders. It is a wonderful vehicle to display something special.”

Rouge Marble Urn

“This urn suggests a cabinet of curiosities, a collector’s study and the kind of spaces where extraordinary objects are displayed. It exudes a dignity and grandness even though it is not monumental in scale. It is timeless. I have seen similar stone urns in an Art Deco wood-paneled room with an incredible painting by Brice Marden – these elements are unified by a quality of craftsmanship and excellence that feels harder and harder to come by… it is electrifying.”

Queen Anne Gilt Mirror

“This sublime mirror has a weightlessness to it, despite its richness of carving and form. The old gilt picks up light in a wonderful way and the Queen Anne lines are so fresh to me right now – lighter than a Baroque or Rococo gilt mirror, but no less spectacular.”

Revolving Fauteuil de Bureau

“Directoire is a French neoclassical style, more restrained than the subsequent Empire style. Its graceful, ordered, architectural richness is compacted into this small chair, which could be at home in any space that has classicizing design or architectural elements. This chair has so much personality and it swivels, which is kind of fabulous. It reminds me of the kind of furniture Emilio Terry and Christian Bérard were drawn to.”

Meiji-Period Japanese Vases

“The Meiji period in decorative arts is a wild moment when Victorian European aesthetics are being fused in really interesting ways with traditional Japanese crafts, textiles and materials. These vases would be really beautiful on either side of a console or you could take the pair and put them close to each other and put them on one side of a fireplace. Pairs of things are the most useful tool when putting together a room.”

Classic Design

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