From Nantucket to Ghana, Cannon Frank is a design studio celebrated for turning visions into real settings.
CANNON FRANK’S work has been featured in books and magazines and honored with awards like Chicago’s Interior Design Firm of the Year by LUXE Interiors + Design and the Design Center at the Merchandise Mart, as well as being named one of the world’s Top 40 interior designers by the Robb Report. However, the biggest thrill for designer and principal John Cannon is still his clients’ reactions.
“Lovely things being said to me are wonderful,” he says. “It’s like the applause an actor receives after a grand performance.”
Cannon knows just when all the visioning, designing and customizing have hit the mark.
Cannon has been designing since the mid-’70s, and he and principal Cary Frank found a niche for Cannon Frank when they founded the firm in 1980: designing from construction to completion.
“We work best in situations where someone is building a home from the ground up,” Cannon says. “That is our preference. That way, we can influence all the stone, tile, lighting, millwork, staircase and the look and functionality of the house.”
The concept of design-forward construction started with a hotel project and the principals’ entrepreneurial spirit.
“I did a project in Montreal in 1976, and it was a hotel/discotheque and that got me going into the construction end,” Cannon says. “I realized we could do that quite easily with my training, so we formed the partnership. I have worked for some wonderful interior designers. We were doing a lot of custom homes, a lot of construction. I was very much into that aspect, and I wanted to have more input into the overall concept of the home.”
Being part of the construction process proved to be more gratifying than simply designing an existing space, Cannon says.
“A lot of times, architects build homes for the architecture,” he says. “We respect that, but I would prefer to take that architecture and custom-tailor it to a client’s needs. That is where we come in. It is always directed at the client. We fulfill their wish lists.”
When a client needs a piece that does not exist, Cannon offers custom options. One example is a one-of-a-kind, astrology- themed, carved glass table with a constellation to represent each family member. Another is a set of narrow coffee tables with three drawers to display an Asian art collection.
“That came about because our client had an art collection he did not know what to do with,” Cannon says. “They were thinking of selling. What we do is always client-driven, but we like to take those clients into an area that they have never really quite experienced or might not have dreamed of.”
When it comes to finishing touches ? or even built-in elements ? Cannon says he always looks for something to talk about.
“I always prefer a little drama in the look,” he says. “There is no reason you cannot have function and glamour. Why forfeit or sacrifice or suffer the loss of anything? Why not have it all? That is what we like.”
The construction focus meets the needs of today’s custom homebuyers ? more so than in the past.
“I think people are looking for longevity,” Cannon says. “A lot of people are not putting so much into furnishings and decor as much as they are putting into the house. The house itself really has to be classic. It has to last for a long time. It has to be serviceableand functional.”
To get an overall feel and cohesive plan, Cannon says clients’ lifestyles come into play for each section of a home.
“Years ago, I remember it was very avant-garde to think of having two dishwashers, he says. “Now, it is not only two dishwashers but two steam ovens, two or three washer-and-dryer sets ? all those things which almost anybody is going to want. We go beyond that. We talk about entertainment systems. We talk about security, all the high-tech industry offerings, outdoor cooking, outdoor dining ? all of those.”
The firm knows how to handle any special request or consideration. For those clients who need ideas, Cannon says he works with clients to understand their preferences and tastes, even when it means playing devil’s advocate.
“We talk to them about doing something, and they may say, ‘Oh, yes, but ...’” Cannon says. “That may send us in a different direction. At the same time, we try to still fulfill the look of glamour and function and use the pieces they want. Do they entertain huge or not at all? We make sure that all fits into a nice, functional little ball but it has to be attractive.”