Mark Rosenhaus is a kitchen designer with an educational and professional background in both architecture and interior design. Mark’s philosophy is to decorate through innovation. His custom kitchens, bathrooms, and individual pieces of furniture are akin to functional sculptures with an elegance rooted in abstraction. Mark lives in New York City and he is inspired by the city’s many museums as well as nature and Biophilic design.
Mark has traveled extensively throughout his life; in 1980 he hitchhiked through seventeen African nations. These experiences have influenced his creativity and prefers freehand drawing—essentially doodling, at times with a sense of humor—to empower his originality. Mark also adheres to the tenets of the Golden Proportion and Fibonacci Numbers to assure that his projects are masterpieces of art and architecture. Symmetry and rhythm are both central to Mark’s craftsmanship.
Recently, Mark has turned his attention to creating visual art, especially sculptures which he renders using styrofoam, paint, and more. His fine art tends to be abstract but with deeper meanings or secret elements such as hidden faces and playful expressions that peek out when a piece is viewed from a certain angle. Although most of his sculptural work is small, Mark is interested in eventually rendering larger pieces, ideally for public spaces.
Mark recently discussed his creations and future aspirations via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in becoming a designer and how did you break into the industry?
Mark Rosenhaus (MR): I studied architecture at Kent State University for two years, became bored, then transferred to Pratt Institute and earned a BFA in Interior architecture. Each summer I had worked in a commercial interior design firm mostly building scale models. I later took a job at a kitchen showroom. Surprisingly, I overcame my shyness as the owner assured me that I knew more than the customer; and found it more rewarding designing for homeowners than sitting in the back of an office, drafting.
MM: You have traveled the world, so how much of an impact has that had on your creativity?
MR: This is not going to be the answer you expected. When I was 29, my father said I could take over his business. But if I wanted to travel more than the two years I already had, my brother would run it. Travelling was now in my blood – I had to follow my heart and hitchhiked Africa for a year. My motto is to design to the moon then come back to Earth. Swapping travel stories, often with humor, helps reveal personalities getting to their soul producing that eureka moment. Timeless design is from the heart, not a magazine photo. As a side note, people should be encouraged to take a break and try new ventures if their present situation is not all that they envisioned. Time is an ally, especially for the young.
MM: You really focus on Golden Proportion and Fibonacci Numbers so how did you learn about these concepts and why do you make them so central to your creative process?
MR: The Golden Proportion is based on the Fibonacci numbers that are the basis for the geometric patterns found in Nature. It is a sequence that calculates a 62% relationship found in the universe (including the shape of the universe), from the microscopic to telescopic. Our DNA module has this same proportion which guides us in judging beauty. Look at the Nautilus seashell, pineapple, fish, your finger and face, Saturn, even a stair step; as well as masterpieces such as the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, the statue of David, Vermeer and Seurat paintings, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. The Fibonacci numbers can be taught in elementary school as soon as you learn how to divide. I was not aware of it until a new architect friend noticed a glimpse of it in my work. I was so motivated that now I wake up every day like a puppy eager to develop a new pencil sketch.
MM: Why does the relationship between nature and art interest you?
MR: Nature flows, it is varied, surprising, inspiring, relaxing, exciting. Biophilia, the relationship of Nature and humans, has shown that the more we are in touch with nature, the more human we will be. More relaxed, smarter, energetic, happier. That its shapes can be mimicked in art brings home the very essence of our being.
MM: Why do interior designs, especially kitchens and cabinets, appeal to you so much?
MR: As freshmen we were told we could design anything from an ashtray to a city. Gravitating to the smaller scale, I conceive kitchens as being sculpture. The shorter time span of a project allows for more designing than the technical aspect.
MM: You do a lot of custom work so what have been some of the most interesting projects that you’ve completed?
MR: My most interesting projects involve the evolution of implementing the Golden Proportion. My initial showroom display, as a Fibonacci neophyte, combines movement with variety. Cabinets and their visual weight flow to the focal point while adhering to geometry. My mentor never told me specifics, only encouraging me to work on it a little more. A second project was a very narrow two-wall galley kitchen. The sink-side was designed, then after drawing the back wall, the client remarked it looked better than the more important sink wall. Naturally, I had to oblige and the result is an arrangement I have enjoyed for 20 years. A third project is the couple who specifically knew my work. As they and others have said, the swerve and circle are my calling card. This composition, we found out later, is visually similar to the Alexander Calder painting, ‘Equis’. It is heartening to have the same mindset as a master.
MM: How do other artistic mediums like sculpture and dance influence your designs?
MR: I love looking at art books and visiting museums. There are two types of balance: mirror (or axial) symmetry and dynamic symmetry. Mirror symmetry has two equal objects equidistant from the center with no movement. Dynamic Symmetry is created by the weight or mass of varied objects or their unequal distance from the fulcrum. A ballerina in the Arabesque position on one leg with outstretched arms and leg provide balance. Alexander Calder mobiles follow this same concept. Shape and form of objects, and the line created between dancers provides tension. I distain the phrase: seamlessly tying the project together. Contrast provides tension – without it there is no art. Movement in sculpture and dance and computer aided architecture inspires the excitement of my arrangements.
MM: You recently got into creating fine art, specifically 6×6 sculptures. So how different was it for you to switch from creating functional items to purely aesthetics ones?
MR: Abstract, anthropomorphic sculpture’s shapes, forms and lines are an extension of my philosophy. It is like playing with my first building blocks that continued while playing Legos with my children – now with a sophisticated eye. Paul Cezanne referenced the basic shapes in painting. Going from two to three dimensions, then placed on the ground are all the same concept. Sculpture can be more free-spirited and the multiple colors are a bonus kitchens rarely get.
MM: You’ve mentioned an interest in creating large-scale sculptures. How much would your background as a designer help you with that initiative?
MR: Large-scale sculpture is one genre of design applying the same principles. Actually, kitchens are full scale three-dimensional boxes, but essentially flat on a wall. Seeing people interact with objects of various heights, sightlines, openings, shapes, textures, and movement is the culmination of my goal of creating action, as in Matisse’s painting, “The Dancers”.
MM: What has been the highlight of your design and art career so far?
MR: It may surprise you that my greatest satisfaction is helping clients understand themselves artistically. In a cross-town car ride with three women of means they inquired as to the latest in kitchen design. My response: “It’s what is in your heart” drew utter silence. I expected this because most people are afraid of change, have not developed or feel comfortable articulating their true personal identity and default to nearly the identical cabinetry as their friends in order to be accepted. Being intrigued by the tenets of the golden proportions, open-minded clients have a fresh outlook how unique ideas can produce dreams they never knew they could have. A second highlight is developing my program on the geometry of nature and presenting it to designers around the country. The purpose is to give back to my industry and inform designers on how to improve their art.
MM: How do you hope your career evolves and expands from here?
MR: My future plans include easing into semi-retirement, continuing kitchen design, and lecturing. With encouragement – promoting my sculpture as art or as life size playground equipment. If nothing else than to keep my still fertile brain creative. As with kitchen design, I don’t want to plagiarize myself. Picasso said:” Art is to seek, not find. To show what I’ve found, not what I was looking for.”
MM: What events, projects, or other exhibitions are coming up soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
MR: Right now, I am preparing a slide lecture coming September 2021 to interior designers on how the enlightenment of the Golden Proportion’s influence on the masters of the arts leads to innovative ideas. In February 2022 I will reprise my National Kitchen & Bath Association KBIS national conference virtual lecture on improving small and large kitchens
To learn more, visit the official Mark Rosenhaus website.