A Panorama of Design

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This article is part of our Design special section about water as a source of creativity.


After a 1,500-year dry spell, the Baths of Caracalla in Rome are being restored to their full aquatic splendor. Built in the early third century during the reigns of the emperor Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla, and inagurated in 216, they hosted as many as 8,000 visitors daily until the source of their water was destroyed by the Visigoths in the sixth century.

The renewal of the 25-acre site is a 10-year project overseen by Daniela Porro, the special superintendent of Rome, and Mirella Serlorenzi, the monument’s director. Last month, the first completed phase — the introduction of a 137-by-105-foot shallow reflecting pool known as the Water Mirror, designed by the architects Hannes Peer and Paolo Bornello — opened to the public.

In an email, Mr. Peer described being inspired by the Natatio, an Olympic-size pool in the ancient bath complex. The Water Mirror includes 20 submerged water jets fitted with reflectors that send up delicate, light-infused geysers. A stage that sits nearly flush with the pool’s surface is intended for theatrical performances, lectures and concerts.

Mr. Peer is also involved in redesigning the entrances to the monument, to bring back its connection to the urban fabric, and in adding a botanical garden, refreshment areas and other amenities. The buildings that surrounded the baths, whose walls, colonnades and large open spaces provided inspiration for the former Pennsylvania Station, among other architectural showstoppers, will be restored. “Caracalla,” he said, “is a very comprehensive and complex project.” rome.net/baths-caracalla. — ARLENE HIRST

For their room in this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House, Ann Pyne, the president of the interior design firm McMillen, and Elizabeth Pyne Singer, a partner in the firm (and Ms. Pyne’s daughter), took their inspiration from Blair House, the presidential guest house across from the White House. They began with a reproduction of a storied chinoiserie wallpaper that was used in a 1964 restoration of the Lee Drawing Room.

But the women didn’t want to simply recreate the space, designed by Eleanor McMillen Brown, McMillen’s founder. They tweaked the 18th-century style by, for instance, commissioning a textured white-and-metallic mantle from the Brooklyn ceramic artist Peter Lane.

“It’s a matter of having challenging objects with the conservative idea of the wallpaper and Blair House,” Ms. Pyne said. The obvious mantle choice, she added, would have been from the Federal period.

Some of the colors used in the room, including the acid green in the 1950s Italian armchair, amp up the neutral palette favored by Jacqueline Kennedy, who supervised the restoration of Blair House in its early stages, when she was the first lady. According to John S. Botello, a designer who wrote his master’s thesis about Blair House, Mrs. Kennedy thought a suggestion by a decorator to use chartreuse, fuchsia and other zinging colors was inappropriate for a traditional house. Until May 28 at 125 East 65th Street; kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org. — STEPHEN TREFFINGER

No flower, no matter how brilliantly hued or outlandishly petaled, much interests the Polish artist Marcin Rusak until it desiccates. Then the staff at his Warsaw studio embeds it in plastic and metal to form vessels and furniture with drooping and bulging contours, as if the vegetation were still trying to grow.

Through May 24, Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Midtown Manhattan is displaying 10 of his new works in an exhibition, “Vas Florum: Resina Botanica.” On his milky resin vases (priced from $20,000 to $30,000 each), petrified blooms and fronds overlap, as if cast aside by jilted brides or adrift in streams. Amoeba-shaped tables made of resin and bronze (from $90,000 to $120,000 each), with flowers strewn against rust and dark green backgrounds, resemble rocks full of fossils.

Mr. Rusak said that he is particularly interested in how the flower industry has manipulated plants to maximize marketability, whether breeding stems to reduce thorns or dyeing petals in fluorescent colors. When an artificially colored blossom undergoes his embedding processes, pigment streaks can burst from the petals, as if the plant is eagerly shedding its artificial disguise. “It’s a very weird scenario,” Mr. Rusak said; carpentersworkshopgallery.com.EVE M. KAHN

Relocating to New York can mean an endless real estate slog. For Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe, the owners of the Los Angeles design studio and home boutique Nickey Kehoe, who were looking to set up their first Manhattan store, the process was remarkably frictionless.

“We were only beginning our search when we stumbled upon it,” said Ms. Kehoe about the mid-19th-century Italianate brownstone in the West Village where they are renting two floors. (The artist Jackson Pollock also resided there early in his career.)

The pair developed a large trade clientele over the years in the New York City area, so it made sense to have a presence there, they said. The shop offers the duo’s branded designs, vintage pieces, globally sourced items and works by other craftspeople — much as in Los Angeles. “We’ve always had an East Coast and a European sensibility,” Mr. Nickey said. Even their California emporium was inspired by 1990s hardware and design shops in New York, where they met.

The upper floor, called the Salon, is dedicated to furniture, lighting, textiles and bespoke objects. The Household section downstairs features more basic items for the pantry, laundry room and garden.

Nickey Kehoe is at 49 East 10th Street, between Broadway and University Place; nickeykehoe.com. — STEPHEN TREFFINGER

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