Saturday, May 12, 2012


I guess I have a thing for nailheads. This is the second time I've focused on them. We're in the process of working on some new furniture pieces and adding nailheads as a detail seems to always seep into our design conversation. Nailheads are hot right now. They're a functional and decorative element that has been around for over 450 years. They are best known with the introduction of the Os de Mouton chair during the reign of Louis XIII. Those Louis' had some pretty strong influences on home decoration. The aspect of design most associated with them is for their over-indulgence and all that Louey-Schmooey stuff, but the introduction of the nailhead was less artifice and more functional utilitarianism.
Today the nailhead can go both ways and thanks to President Obama so can many of us. We last highlighted the nailhead in a post we did on a display table we made for our atelier. This showed off the decorative side of the nailhead. You can purchase nailheads in two different formats.
The nailheads here are called nailhead trim. You best use these decoratively. They come on a roll with a packet of actual tacks. About every fifth fake nailhead has a hole in it where you nail in an actual head and that holds the line of nailheads in place. This is a hell of a lot easier than the traditional method of nailheading.
This means you can go nuts with nailheading. Kara Paslay has taken this to the height of insanity. All I can conjure up is Michelangelo laying on his back painting the Sistine Chapel. Kara created a paper pattern for her dining room ceiling. The effect is beautiful but the thought of the medical bills I'd incur for back and neck realignment would make me stop and think before I started this project.
Real nailheads are the ones you use when you need a means of holding fabric or leather in place in furniture upholstery. This was, of course, before the hot glue gun came into popularity.
You can see how these nailheads actually hold the fabric in place along the edge of this Os de Mouton chair.
The same holds true here for this more contemporary chair where the line of nailheads follows the welt that traces the soft curves on the edge of the chair.
This beautiful paisley leather door uses nailheads to finish off the edge of the door. It is helps to protect the leather from direct contact with the thousands of hands that have pushed up against it swinging the door back and forth.
The bottom cut out apron on this chair uses nailheads as both a securing devise and as a decorative boarder that helps to ground the piece. It points out how you can incorporate nailheads into a design helping to define the lines of a piece of furniture.
In this Hollywood Regency wing back dining chair a nailhead cross pattern breaks up the massive back adding an element of intrigue to the chair.
Architects an designers have also used nailheads to enhance their work by using nailheads as architectural details. The designer, Jeffrey Bilhuber, is famous for using nailheads to outline architectural details within many of his interior design projects. Here he has added a line of nailheads to the Gothic arches in this entryway. It may seem like a small detail but they help to reinforce the beautifully peaked forms and lines of the vaulted ceiling.
In this room he has used nailheads the way other designers use moldings to define shape. If forms additional cornices, chair rails and baseboards to this traditional living room.
There are times when nailheads become an intrinsic part of the design. This four-drawer chest has an intricate pattern of squares and circles transforming a flat fa├žade into an amazing piece of art.
The size of the tacks is also important to the overall effect of nailhead design. These entry doors demanded a larger than normal nailhead. Their size implies security fortifying the entry into this magnificent home.
I'm usually not attracted to the overly ornate but this settee is exquisitely proportioned and beautifully detailed. The line of tiny nailheads running along the bottom of the upholstered cushion draws a visual line that adds depth to the front of the settee.
The nailheads on this table do double duty holding the metal rim in place and then adding a rustic get out your lance and tear apart some rotisseried chicken with your bare hands kinda feel. I love the masculine quality of this table and I obviously love nailheads toos.

Art can be made from many kinds of media. The adage, "One man's trash is another man's treasure" holds no truer than in the art world. Creativity comes from inspiration and innovation. The artist, Andrew Woolery has taken the common thumbtack and push-pin and turned them into his version of oil paint. He pushes the pins and tacks into a hard-surfaced canvas using the coated color surfaces of the pins to paint portraits of black cultural icons.
It mimics the poinitillistic techniques of Seurat and Signac, and on this historic week I can think of no other figure more worthy of his work than President Obama. Who know I could tack interior design, nailheads, thumbtack art and human generosity all together in one post this week. Who knew?

Two Men Dancing at a Drag Ball in New York City, 1970
Diane Arbus, photographer
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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