Designer has eye for all the angles

In making photographs, buying tapestries or grand mantels, Darryl Savage sets a mood

December 05, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Darryl Savage shoots photographs from peculiar angles.

While riding a ferris wheel in Paris, he snapped a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Then in Nice, he held his Nikon camera out the window and took pictures of trees as he drove by.

"I try to take photographs from angles no one else sees," Savage said.

Savage took his hobby to the next level when he opened his first show - an exhibit of about 50 photographs that depict New York City and Europe - at the 49 West Coffeehouse in Annapolis.

Although it's his inaugural show, Savage, 54, is right at home in the art arena. After spending more than a decade working in hotel management, designing lobbies and finding perfect pieces to accent public areas, he opened DHS Designs Inc., an antique and design business, on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis.

"I love taking a room with everything new in it, and interjecting a piece to give the room character and warmth," he said.

His business started with a focus on American pieces that he bought at local antique shows, he said. Eventually he traveled abroad and developed contacts in Europe.

He imported large French limestone mantels from the Loire Valley, where the king's court had summer homes in France, he said. Master artisans were hired to create the mantels, some of which are 13 feet high and cost as much as $115,000.

"The mantels are not highly regarded in France," he said. "The people there treat them like we would a wooden mantel. They have lived with them for hundreds of years."

But in the United States, they have become very popular, he said. Recently he shipped one of the mantels to the home of the country music couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, he said.

"An architect who works with them contacted me to get the mantel," Savage said. "He never used their names, but the address he gave me was the home of Hill and McGraw, in Nashville, Tenn."

In 1996, he started participating in antique shows, such as the Park Avenue Armory and the New York Botanical Garden Show. "People like the Rockefellers walk through these shows," he said.

Over the years, he has worked with some high profile people, he said. One of them was designer Donna Karan.

While thumbing through a copy of Architectural Digest, he saw a table she had in a room in her house in the Hamptons, he said. It had been hand painted. He purchased a table just like it and had it painted the same way.

"I painted it white like the one in the magazine article," he said. "Then I took it to a show that I knew she often attended. Sure enough, when she saw the table, she purchased it."

He outgrew the space on Maryland Avenue and moved his business to a 7,000-square-foot building in Queenstown. Maryland Avenue wasn't the right venue for the mantels, he said.

He continued to purchase European antiques, including tapestries. He recently purchased a tapestry that The Louvre museum in Paris wants to feature in its magazine, he said.

The 17th Century Flemish tapestry is 12 feet wide and 9.5 feet high, and depicts a scene from the "Eclogues," 10 poems written between 42 and 39 B.C., by Virgil, a Roman poet.

The tapestry was originally part of a 60-foot-long tapestry that was made into three sections, Savage said. It hung in the Tuileries Palace, the residence of the king of France, Savage said. When a fire destroyed the palace in the late 1800s, two of the three panels were lost.

The Louvre contacted Savage through the auction house where he purchased the tapestry. He said it is being cleaned and restored.

Once the restoration work is completed, he said he plans to mount it in a museum-quality frame.

"If I had a wall for it, it would be in my home," he said.

In the meantime, Louvre officials told Savage they wanted to feature the tapestry in an article for the spring issue of the Louvre magazine. They learned of the piece through the previous owner, who was a direct descendant of Marie Antoinette, he said.

The Aubusson Tapestry Museum in France also is interested in borrowing the tapestry for an upcoming exhibition, he said.

He added photography to his repertoire about 18 months ago.

"Photographs are a wonderful way to get affordable art," he said. "I can't paint, and rather than taking a year to come up with the same message, I decided to take pictures."

He took along a camera on a European trip and started snapping candid photographs, he said.

"Europe is a visual treat. ... total eye candy," he said. "And that's what draws my attention."

When he returned, people saw his photographs and liked the work.

Savage's work is whimsical, said Kathy Heefner, of Annapolis, as she walked through the 49 West exhibit.

"His photographs are stunning," she said, as she looked at a photo taken in Venice. "They transport you."

He thinks that composition and angles are his strengths.

He was asked recently to take a photograph of the State House in Annapolis, and shot the photo from one corner of the building looking almost straight up.

"I take photographs of places that are often shot," he said. "But I look for an angle that no one else sees. Something that is striking, or foreboding, or dark ... just something that adds a new perspective."

He captures a different perspective of the places he photographs, said Steve Selden, a retired corporate lawyer.

"I have been to many of the places he photographed in France," said Selden, 63. "His depictions of the places are striking and riveting. He captures places perfectly, through their architecture."

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