The Modern Nomad / by Kelly Cornell

I’m not sure what else I could possibly write this week that has been marked by loss and jarring suicides. As I mentioned in my last post, unfortunately the last twelve months alone have had several instances of colleagues, family and friends that have left the world all too soon. When my sister texted me early on Friday morning to tell me Anthony Bourdain had died, my soul and body simultaneously crumpled. I knew the flood of mourning would be great. He is so widely influential. I don’t know what else I could possibly add to the many voices that have expressed what an influence he was to their lives. My heart aches for his loves; I can only imagine what they are going through. That day, I wrote Anthony Bourdain a letter. It was the only thing I could think to do.

Dear Anthony,

You made me want to be a writer as soon as I read Kitchen Confidential in 2001. I was spellbound by your presence on TV, even in those janky early cable show days. Your voice reading your own words was so evocative it was like being immediately transported. I envied your life. I wanted to age like you-- full of the spirit of adventure and still humble in the presence of the wonders of the world. Was I misguided in my envy? What price did you pay for being a modern nomad? While watching you connect on television was it really the connection you needed and deserved? Was it too fleeting? There’s so much unknown.

In 2015, I took my last residential design studio class at UCLA Extension so I could wrap up my education to ultimately change my career to interior design. I had to choose a fake client and immediately I knew it was going to be you; there was no else in the world I would rather have as a client. And I loved you as a pretend client. Pretend clients are great, they have no opinions.

  My presentation board for his living room and dining area. I suggested a graffiti covered warehouse door, a negra maquina marble wall and concrete floors with metal inlays. I've been trying to get clients to do metal inlays in concrete floors for years.  I did get a client to do the Gabriel Scott Welles chandelier on another project.

My presentation board for his living room and dining area. I suggested a graffiti covered warehouse door, a negra maquina marble wall and concrete floors with metal inlays. I've been trying to get clients to do metal inlays in concrete floors for years.  I did get a client to do the Gabriel Scott Welles chandelier on another project.

I remember building out a space that I felt would fit you. Large open kitchen, a smoking lounge, a library and writing studio, dining table with a pit that opened for open-flame cooking, all with masculine finishes. It was actually edgy and cool when I look back on some of it. It was the first time I attempted to do renderings. I was already working for SFA Design at that point and the guys at the local reprographics place in Beverly Hills knew me. I sent my final project in for printing their whole workshop was abuzz when I went in to pick it up. I asked what was up and they were all excited because they thought SFA was designing your next residence. I guess that was the first time I realized how you transcended so many barriers and that most everyone thought you were cool. It was also one of those times when I knew I was hitting it right with my career change and that maybe I would end up being a good designer. I remember wanting to send you this project but of course my natural shyness and embarrassment kept me from doing it. I thought about how maybe one day I would be designing for you for real. I am sad to think that day will never come now and my ultimate client is gone.

  The Ramones even made it onto this board that shows the kitchen, smoking + scotch lounge and TV lounge.  My first renderings.  They are about as awful as the quality of this photograph.  But that Bec Brittain pendant still slays and I think my use of metal in glass for that smoking lounge wall was pretty dope. 

The Ramones even made it onto this board that shows the kitchen, smoking + scotch lounge and TV lounge.  My first renderings.  They are about as awful as the quality of this photograph.  But that Bec Brittain pendant still slays and I think my use of metal in glass for that smoking lounge wall was pretty dope. 

When I was working on this final project, I actually made a playlist on Spotify as my soundtrack to channel you. So yeah, basically I made you a mix tape. It’s a ton of punk and garage rock, lots of Ramones. I’m listening to it now while I am writing you this letter and the rawness of sound and the frenetic energy suited you. The abruptness in how these songs end suits you now as well. There is so much of that design project I wish I could share with you, especially the first early drafts that were so ironic in how they reflect your end. And the irony in how you would probably never have really enjoyed the residence with your grueling travel schedule.

There is so much about you that made you my ultimate client. I knew exactly what to do and things just flowed more easily than they ever had. What can I say about you that countless others haven’t already expressed? You were so much more than a writer, than a chef, than a TV host. In so many ways, you were like a philosopher or strange shaman.

I will miss you and the generosity of your contributions. Thank you for the lessons I will carry forward. I hope I can retain the driving curiosity and inquisitive character that was just who you naturally were. You made it cool to not know everything in a world where we are expected to constantly be experts and constantly be plugged in and aware through a screen. You were a constant reminder to get out and experience things first hand with all of our senses.

Goodbye to my favorite fake client and one of my few idols.

  More safety glass, leather, negra maquina, weathered metal and crazy lighting installations for the Master Suite and Writing Studio where I designed some sweet bright white lacquered millwork to offset all that masculinity.  Sorry about all the bad photography, I didn't know crap about using my camera back then.  

More safety glass, leather, negra maquina, weathered metal and crazy lighting installations for the Master Suite and Writing Studio where I designed some sweet bright white lacquered millwork to offset all that masculinity.  Sorry about all the bad photography, I didn't know crap about using my camera back then.