Thursday, July 08, 2010

Oscar Worthy Design

Remember when I posted that the glamour days of home theaters peaked, oh, seventy years ago? And that home theaters today tend to lack pizazz? That these bijoux aren't really bijou anymore?

Well, I was a tad hasty. And it took designer
Ray W. Clarke to set me straight. (Thank you, Ray.) Ray- he of Cleveland, Ohio and Palm Beach- had the vision to design a theater in an Ohio home that is truly like an Art Deco masterpiece on a smaller scale. No, that's not it at top. That is Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra, that served as the inspiration for Ray's jewel box creation.

Severance Hall was built in 1931 and is still considered to be one of the most beautiful concert halls in America. Designed by architects Walker & Weeks, the interior is a mélange of Art Deco, Modernism, Egyptian Revival, and Classical design. And by the looks of the photo above, I can understand why the hall is revered by musicians and fans alike.

So what does Ray's interpretation look like? Just look below. Is this theater gorgeous or what? There are grand elements to it- namely the ornate, German silver leafed trim on the walls and ceiling- but the size of the space keeps things intimate and elegant. I adore the velvet curtains, the Deco sconces and ceiling fixture, that upholstered door. And what about those upholstered cinema seats? It really is like a 1930s movie theater!

If I were a guest in the theater, I would feel like I should dress for the movie. Perhaps I shouldn't say "feel" because I would want to dress well for such glamorous surroundings. I only hope that the homeowners include movies like "Dinner at Eight" or especially "The Women" in their repertoire. This theater is made for those movies. Bravo, Ray!

Home theater images courtesy of Ray W. Clarke, ASID. Photo of Severance Hall, copyright Hedrich Blessing.


  1. What a spectacular home theater. I've seen many but nothing that compares to this. Mr. Clarke took the soul & beauty of the grand theaters of past (& boy were there magnificent ones) & brought it to Ohio. Truly fortunate home owners, not only to own this incredible space but to have found Mr. Clarke to create it for them. Thanks for posting Jennifer!

  2. Why was it called Severance? Anything to do with the Depression? Seems an odd name to commemorate.

    1. I just happened to see your comment about my theater. The home of the Cleveland Orchestra, known as Severance Hall was named after its donor, John Severance, a wealthy man and prominent patron of the arts in Cleveland.

  3. Columnist- Just researched the name. The Severances (husband and wife) donated most of the funds to build the hall back in the 1920s.

  4. Great lounging couches here!! The tones and fabrics are wonderful.

  5. Anonymous10:52 AM

    What a wonderful post! That home theater is really quite charming. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. How fun to open up your email this morning and find a photo of Severance Hall. I work at David M. Schwarz Architects and we were the design architects for the most recent renovation and addition to Severance Hall. It's a project we are very proud of and we love hearing that others like it too.

    Just a quick housekeeping note: the photograph of Severance Hall was taken by Hedrich Blessing and is under copyright. If you could edit your post to include credit to them, that would be great.

    For the record, much of what you see in this photo, including the proscenium and the shell on the stage, are part of the renovation and are new!! The organ at the rear of the stage is original but had been hidden in an earlier renovation in 1958 The latest renovation brought the organ back into a place of honor in the hall.

  7. Awesome! You find the best stuff! and I love the eras you post on. So inspirational.

  8. Well, I certainly wouldn't be eating popcorn in that theater. It's so glam. Love it.

  9. Anonymous9:15 PM

    Know what I really love about this theatre? Not the velvet and gilt moldings - although I do love that old-time bling.

    I love the attitude behind this room. Entertainment as an event, not just an activity. I'll bet these homeowners eat in the dining room, on china, on Wednesdays. Because dining is an event, not just an activity.

    In the busy, frantic world we live in, "events" are so vitally important. They help ground us, giving us an emotional breather so-to-speak.

    I applaude the home owners for understanding that life is for experiencing, and the designer for creating a space that purely experiential.

  10. I love Severance Hall, and it's great to see it without a lot of people cluttering up the view, but even places this beautiful can't survive as museums, and audiences--even audiences in shorts & flip-flops, audiences talking & texting on cell phones--are what keep them in business, so those of us who go to see or hear the show just have to suck it up & ignore the no-manners crowd.

    That's why skilled photographers like Hedrich-Blessing are so important:: these days, with digital cameras, just about anybody can take a shot that's in focus & decently lit, but there's a lot more to a good photo than that. Great photographers can not only show us things we may not be able to see in person--we can't all go to Cleveland--they can make it look better than it ever does in real life, anyway, and for a simple reason: they capture what we were meant by the architects & designers to experience, rather than what we merely see. If, to do that, the phographer needs to manipulate "reality"--like (I'm guessing) the uplights on those box seats--so what? It's the old facts-vs-Truth argument. Give me Truth (and H-B) any day.

    I never heard of Ray Clarke before, but he's obviously talented, and this intimate, handsomely detailed theater is very nice. In the wrong hands, of course, a pastiche in a historic style can be either ponderous & pedantic or thin & silly, but when it's done well, as it is here, it can be a delight.

    But, now, after seeing the exquisite lighting in that HB photo above, what I'd really like to see is a better shot of Mr. Clarke's theater, one with less overall illumination & more moody glamour, one that that better captures the elegance & romance that used to be normal parts of a night at the theater. Mr. Clarke has clearly worked hard to recreate the physical surroundings, and it would be nice if these photos could be as artful as the room they document. Maybe it's time to call in Hedrich- Blessing.

  11. movie star quality home theaters for certain.

  12. Anonymous6:06 PM


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