Interior Design For Today’s Luxury Home Takes Cues from The Past

Here in the suburbs of Philadelphia, even my most discerning interior design clients will sometimes say in our early conversations, “I don’t like antiques.” OR – “I’m not into traditional…I’m more Pottery Barn.”  It’s a familiar tune that I hear.  So one day,  If I can get up the nerve, I may answer back with my own toe-tapping refrain, “That’s what you think.” Some back story –

Recently I had a great time at an insightful presentation by HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND. This is a historic preservation society devoted entirely to preserving the architectural and design past so that it may inform the present. HNE buildings and landscapes across New England are complimented by the largest collection of New England decorative arts and artifacts in the nation….more than 110,000 objects representing the necessitates and luxuries of life. (photod right:  a 19th century inspired pedestal tile…which you can see today in various re-inventions at a range of retail price points on up to the finest to-the-trade furnishings.  Eliminate the gold leaf and the inlay and change the finish color….and I’m smelling a Restoration Hardware offering…you?)

The point of the presentation was not to walk my interior design colleagues and I through photos of parlor after parlor. (OK – We did do some of that…And it was great!) No – instead the conversation was about how we in the interior design community can look ahead to the clean lines people strive for today…by taking cues from the past as we seek to design great interiors. (You know…the past… where all those antiques and traditional lines hail from that you don’t like….yet you are actually purchasing their great-grandchildren at Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Ethan Allen, Hickory Chair…)

(Pictured above – both the bench seat and wall paper take their design cue from an earlier time…but look so right…in the right interior…today.)

Here are some suggestion for adding luxury to interior design from interior design central in the County of Bucks…Interiors by Donna Hoffman…as we ring in with some suggestions.  Follow these to give your interiors great bones; great bottom notes – their charm & character. All great design in some way – takes cues from the past.  Here are just a few ideas that savvy interior designers use to make your rooms and homes look fabulous.  Because yes – you can indeed look to the past to find the here and now.

Mixing Elements from past and present creates a marvelous tension in a room.

And it also keeps things interesting. Gone are the days of strict adherence to one style.  Eclectic is the word of the day for a fresh current look.  And yes, my history-haters….put that Philip Stark Ghost chair photoed right (a Louis XV inspired silhouette done in acrylic) next to your inherited desk from Aunt Marge.  Add a custom seat cushion in a trend-right color which will appear to float mid-air.  Do this and Aunt Marge’s desk will look ever so hip and relevant. Look to today’s top designers – Vicente Wolfe is a current master of mixing the old with the new…so is Noel Jeffrey. So am I. (pat-pat on my own back!) Tour historic properties in your area! Go to them to look for inspirations in fabric, pattern, silhouettes and even accessories. Some treasures you’d see at a historic property would mix into a current Restoration Hardware interior like a design dream. Mix, mix, mix.

Take something from the past and recreate it for today. Re-upholster something from the past in a forward-thinking fabric and the effect is dynamite.  Hate your grandmother’s china cabinet? Spare the landfill and your guilt – and don’t scrap it. Instead- paint it a marvelous (perhaps bold) color…even a shade deeper than the wall in front of which it sits. Her cabinet’s historically inspired lines…and they are…will jump into a new orbit with this painted move.  For the bold and daring – do so in a high gloss and unexpected color and create a WOW in the room and a ‘new’ favorite piece.

Updated Kitchen Trend…From the Early 20th Century. Know all those great looking fresh kitchens that show a marked lack of upper cabinetry? Attention ‘antique haters’ – this is a look that hails from your hated-historic past.  These are the “current fresh kitchens” that opt for open shelves with beautifully stacked dishes instead of beautiful wall-to-wall Clive Christianson cabinetry. This is not new “news.” This is an ‘antique look’ from days of old…from the time before the retro-fit cabinet hit the scene in the 1920’s-30’s. And it’s current and fresh today.

Pop 1 Antique into an otherwise Contemporary Room and watch the room go steadily upscale. Antiques ground a room and add a fresh, unexpected note at the same time. True – you must watch your LINES. To do this move successfully – for the alleged interior referenced above…that antique should be dark and rich in color – with simple to moderately embellished lines.  Also….you can mix cultural influences in this scenario for great effect too.

The wrap-up on this topic is this:  We want our rooms to float – to feel fresh – to be warm and in turn to wrap us in ‘something.’ Don’t take the narrow view of history for great design ideas. Instead, do a broad general sweep. Take in a period room – whether in a museum or historic property. Use the past to pepper the present with fresh inspiration and innovation. After all, as that old song goes…”Everything old is new again.”