Rienzi’s foyer has been a subject on the minds of the curatorial department for much of this year, with several renovations underway since January.
Filled with natural sunlight from the motor court, the room creates a lovely entryway for Rienzi’s guests -- but up until recently it has been quite unwelcoming to its artwork. Balancing the two has been something of a challenge for us.
The passageway we refer to as the foyer, was part of the 1972 addition to the original Masterson home connecting the dining room to the newer ballroom; it is also another entrance into the building, lined in two large windows and a glass door. The space is designed to be a gallery as well as a hallway, featuring paintings, fine furniture and objects of art, all of which are sensitive to sunlight. The museum recently underwent a large-scale renovation of the foyer to bring down the level of natural light that saturates the room. While wanted to make the space safe for our treasures, we did not want to dampen this cheerful entry hall -- a careful balance would have to be met.
The first step was to cover the skylights, an inevitable decision that would allow us to control the lighting of the space. The museum’s Design department devised imbedded lighting to run across the ceiling, with each unit able to rotate in order to spotlight specific areas of the room. The glass windows and door posed another challenge. One option would be to add exterior awnings or screens, but this would dramatically change the look of the house. The alternative, which we ultimately decided upon, was to darken the room from the inside by adding film to the windows.
While the level of sunlight decreased, the walls were brightened by a vibrant new paint color. Curators selected a rich yellow, a period color that matches those shown in the interiors of English country houses from the mid-eighteenth century. (If you are interested in period rooms, some paint companies offer lines of “historic paint colors” many of which would be beautiful in a contemporary home.) After months of adjustments and countless readings, the room was declared safe to house paintings and other works of art.
Follow up with the next post for more on the next phase of design, the foyer’s interior space...