Two Aspire Archetypes Weave The Thread Of The Visual Importance Of Quilts

For the recently released aspire design and home magazine we chatted with celebrated designer Mark Cunningham and renowned quilter Denyse Schmidt about how quilts lend a welcome dash of artistic color, pattern and texture to any space. See the conversation below, and take a look at some of Mark and Denyse’s favorite quilts.

Gwen Donovan: How are you familiar with each other’s work?
Mark Cunningham: We met at a New York City design fair, and I was drawn to Denyse’s quilts immediately. I’ve been using her quilts for a number of years; she is always my first go-to, based on her patterns and the quality of her work.

Denyse Schmidt: Mark has reached out many times over the years to propose my work for client projects; I’m always thrilled when all the stars align and we are able to work together. I knew my quilts would be compatible with Mark’s warm, textured, livable designs.

GD: What are your favorite ways to display quilts?
MC: Folded on a sofa or a daybed, or hanging as art — quilts are very flexible, depending upon where you need a graphic pattern or color. Quilts are both functional and artful, and lend another dimension to a room. I used one of Denyse’s quilts to upholster a large ottoman, and I’m working on a place in Upstate New York, where we’re hanging a quilt on the wall.

DS: I design all my quilts to be used on a bed, and that’s still my favorite way to display them, but a smaller throw-size looks great draped over a sofa as Mark used mine in the showhouse. When hanging a quilt on the wall, I like a simple, invisible system that allows the quilt to hang about an inch from the wall.

GD: Are you drawn to certain quilt patterns or designs?
MC: I like the graphic quality, the craftsmanship and the detail of quilts. The antique and contemporary quilts here all show the graphic quality I am drawn to. Bold shapes and bold colors combined with visible stitching tell a story about the craftsmanship.

DS: I tend to love the more minimal designs – they are deceptively harder to execute – and I love how they juxtapose a sense of the past with a modern aesthetic.

Log Cabin Streak of Lightning
“Streak of Lightning” – “The strong graphic pattern here with bold yellow across a strong blue feels very modern to me, but how interesting to know it is from the 1920s.” – Mark Cunningham

“Available in any color combination you can think of! I originally designed this quilt for a project for the Philip Johnson Glass House, and it is inspired by the library shelves in the guest house there.” – Denyse Schmidt

Yellow Diamonds
“When we planned the scheme and colors for the Galerie HOUSE OF ART & DESIGN living room, we shared them with Denyse, and it was kismet that she was experimenting with her large-format stitching techniques. She played around with patterns, and this just worked perfectly; the vivid yellow pattern was just what we needed.” – Mark Cunningham

Snake Charmer
“I love how modern and organic this design feels.” – Denyse Schmidt

Jean, Cotton and Linen Patchwork
“This ‘Jean’ quilt [by Meg Callahan] looks more like a painting than a blanket. I love the workmanship and detail.” – Mark Cunningham

Sonic Blue Deep Blue
“This is one of a series I created with dead-stock vintage fabric details, purchased from one of those venerable local fabric shops before they closed their doors. I designed the series to get the most mileage from prints and set them in color-block grounds.” – Denyse Schmidt

Anchor of the Soul from Schmidt’s Mount Lebanon Series
“The tonal and textural quality in this design is really impactful; it’s quietly elegant but also unforgettable.” – Mark Cunningham

Streak of Lightning
“Another traditional design. I love it in this ‘John Deere’ coloring, featuring my Five + Ten fabrics.” – Denyse Schmidt

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