Interior Design

1981 - 1982

This design phase occurred during early construction.  Most of the interior finishes had already been specified as integral parts of the architectural design.  Walls were standard European clay tile finished with plaster, wood paneling, or ceramic tile.  Floors were Portuguese marble or clay tile in public areas, and carpet in office areas.  Ceilings were concrete vaults in most areas and suspended metal-panel ceilings in corridors.

Several areas incorporated historic Portuguese Azulejo tile murals.  These murals are created by painting a large glazed pictorial design across a field of tiles before they are fired.  The waiting area in the Chancery lobby was decorated with an historic Azulejo mural relocated from a crumbling wall in the existing chapel, and another existing mural was restored on the manor house porch.

In this phase we selected carpets, furnishings, and artwork, with the FBO interior designer, Vivian Woofter.  We had furnishing layouts in mind when most of the spaces were planned, and Woofter proposed furnishings and artwork from FBO’s approved sources which were first-class products that complemented the architecture.  I combined a construction trip with an opportunity to meet her in Lisbon to select Portuguese antique furniture and commission custom hand-woven Arraiolos rugs for the Ambassador’s office and other special locations.

Eventually we had to find a pendant light to use for critical office task lighting.  Most lights we found were inappropriate in style or quality, until we found the Danish Nordisk Solar P376 pendant lamp in a Seattle design store.  We ordered samples to test in our office and found them to be perfect, and several of us stil have the samples in our homes.

I created an interiors presentation for review by the FBO Panel, including boards mounted with hand-colored plans and renderings of key areas of the buildings and photos of proposed furnishings.  I was finishing on a Sunday afternoon before leaving for DC the next day.  Bassetti had been out of town, but I recognized his footsteps coming down the stairs to the studio.  I knew he would start drawing on the pristine presentation with a big marker, so I rolled up the plans and bolted out of the other side of the office.  He never questioned the design.

By the time of the interior design presentation to FBO in 1982, post-modernism was in vogue, with its trendy, whimsically-decorated buildings.  A new member of the FBO panel questioned our basic building design with its modern, rational exposed structure, but it was too late for major changes.  Fortunately post-modernism was no more enduring than disco.

Bassetti designed a nice coffee table for the ambassador’s office - his personal contribution to the project.  It was a heavy glass top on an ebony and rosewood base, with every edge heavily chamfered in his usual style.  I was tasked with having it made, but the chosen craftsman was unavailable and unfortunately the table was never created.