Interior design tips and lighting ideas for today's home! Providing professional interior design advice, home decor ideas and inspiration.
Ask our team of design experts
LAMPS PLUS Blog Policies
Jeff Andrews: Kitchen + Bath Design
It's that time of year again when interior designers and product designers submit their best projects for California Home+Design's annual awards. The award categories include residential projects, commercial projects, kitchen + bath design, showhouse design, sustainable architecture, landscape design, and sustainable and new product design.
The big winner this year was celebrity interior designer Jeff Andrews (known for designing the homes of Ryan Secrest and Khloe Kardashian). He took home two awards - residential interior design (more than 3,000 sq. ft.) and kitchen + bath design. His stunning kitchen design is on the cover of this month's issue. Check out the light fixtures in the Jeff Andrews kitchen design! I love the new trend of using modern pendant lights and chandeliers in kitchens.
Jeff Andrews: Residential Interior Design (more than 3,000 sq. ft.)
San Francisco interior designer, Jeff Jeffers, took home the Residential Interior Design (less than 3,000 sq. ft.) award. I can definitely see why his style is a favorite. I love his eclectic mix of artwork in the dining room (featured below) that creates a cozy space for entertaining guests.
Jay Jeffers: Residential Interior Design (less than 3,000 sq. ft.)
Residential architecture was one of the categories of the California Home+Design's awards. The very talented Zoltan Pali, who is known for designing large modern homes in the Hollywood Hills, won the Residential Architecture (more than 3,000 sq. ft.) award. I remembered this particular project (featured below) from a past AIA home tour. I personally toured the home and can tell you that it is pretty amazing in person!
Zoltan Pali: Residential Architecture (more than 3,000 sq. ft.)
Want to see even more winners from this year's California Home+ Design awards? Head over to California Home+Design to see the complete list of this year's winners.
Images: Grey Crawford, Tim Street-Porter, Joe Fletcher, Bruce Damonte
Betsy Burnham, principal of Burnham Design, is a modern day interior design icon. Known for her sophisticated and inviting design style that skillfully layers pattern, texture, color, and periods, her signature look has been coined an “unapologetic mix” that has been imitated by many but mastered by few. I chatted with the oh-so-stylish Betsy about her trademark design aesthetic, her innovative e-design services, and a few of her favorite things.
LAMPS PLUS: Couture, thrift, and vintage pieces mesh beautifully in your designs. What is your favorite design style? Is that how your home is decorated? BETSY BURNHAM: For me, it really is about the mix: clean, simple building elements and classic furniture pieces mixed with touches of Asian, and even a little Mid-Century inspiration. I’m drawn to pattern and color and really appreciate it when I get a sense of a homeowner’s personality through their design. My own home, which is actually traditional in style and sort of 1920’s Mediterranean, is really layered with all sorts of high/low pieces I've collected over the years.
LAMPS PLUS: What or who has most influenced your own design aesthetic? BETSY BURNHAM: I studied fine art in college, along with a lot of art history and I think that’s where I got a sense of scale and proportion. My love of color and appreciation of fine textiles came later, from working in the fashion industry. In addition, I've always loved street style and understanding what’s current - that’s also certainly an influence.
LAMPS PLUS: Your background is in fashion and clearly your knowledge and experience from the fashion world has been influential in your design business. What other training or experience prepared you for running your own firm and how did you decide to take the leap from fashion to interiors? BETSY BURNHAM: I got some interior design training at UCLA, but mostly I’ve learned by doing the job. The creative part of interior design has come naturally and grown more or less organically; the business side, however, has taken a long time to get right. I’ve just learned to make sure I ask experts for advice and that I always have a strong support team.
LAMPS PLUS: What designers do you most admire? BETSY BURNHAM: Joe Nye, Peter Dunham & Max Humphrey (my senior project manager)
LAMPS PLUS: What do you see as the next design trend? BETSY BURNHAM: Anything done online. The whole concept of “e-decorating” has only just begun.
LAMPS PLUS: What is one “trick of the trade” that you implement in your designs? BETSY BURNHAM: I never push furniture up against the walls of the room. By pulling your seating arrangement in (even if you only have a few inches), you instantly warm up a space and create flow.
LAMPS PLUS: What is the best design advice you ever received? BETSY BURNHAM: Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two (because you can’t have all three). This originally applied to building and construction, but I've found it can apply to just about every part of the design process!
LAMPS PLUS: When decorating, what items should you invest or splurge on? BETSY BURNHAM: Buy solid, well made upholstery. Some of the stuff out there right now is tempting because it looks cool and costs next to nothing…but it won’t last. If you invest in your upholstered pieces, you’ll be able to balance your budget with inexpensive, stylish accessories and side pieces. Also, it’s never too soon to start collecting original artwork. Keep your eyes open for new, upcoming artists - there are even great online sites & auctions.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite guilty pleasure that might surprise people? BETSY BURNHAM: I’m a big Madonna fan.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite thing at home that you didn't design? BETSY BURNHAM: My son’s drum set is in a corner of our living room. Originally, we thought this was going to be temporary, but I’ve come to love it in there. Adds a little edge.
LAMPS PLUS: What would be your dream project? BETSY BURNHAM: A collaboration with The Rug Company, and/or Lamps Plus.
LAMPS PLUS: Who are your style icons? BETSY BURNHAM: Diane von Furstenberg, Jenna Lyons, and Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite luxury in life? BETSY BURNHAM: High quality bedding.
LAMPS PLUS: What do you consider your must-have classic design books? BETSY BURNHAM: Time-Saver Standards for Interior Design and Space Planning and Elle Décor’s So Chic.
LAMPS PLUS: Your instant/space program – do-it-yourself custom designed spaces – is incredibly innovative and a huge success. It has been featured in publications like Domino magazine, Lonny magazine, O at Home magazine, and the New York Times, as well as on some of the better known decorating blogs like Decor8, Design*Sponge, and Apartment Therapy. You were one of the first designers to offer an e-design service for clients who don't have the budget for full-service design treatment, who don't live near your office, or who prefer to implement the design themselves with your expert guidance. How did instant/space get started and how did it change the way you do business?
BETSY BURNHAM: Instant/space began when I first started Burnham Design and was building the business, I found I was having to turn down small projects - clients who only wanted one or two rooms done (in favor of full house jobs). It was frustrating because these were valid clients who appreciated my design sensibility and to whom I hated to say no to. I developed instant/space as a way to accommodate them and it grew and grew from there. It’s changed the way I do business not only because of the way it’s expanded my client base, but also because it keeps me on my design toes. We do so many rooms through instant/space, so quickly, that my skills have really been sharpened. I can lay out a furniture plan, select a palette, and make decisions about furniture pieces more quickly and efficiently than ever. LAMPS PLUS: Can you tell us about any projects in the works that you are excited about? BETSY BURNHAM: I’m working on the next phase/generation of instant/space. It won’t be realized for awhile, but I think I have a really great idea.
LAMPS PLUS: How important is lighting to your design? BETSY BURNHAM: Lighting is hugely important to me. Every night, I walk around my own house adjusting lighting in every room. It makes my family crazy. I work hard with clients to find the right mix of ambient lighting for each of their spaces. LAMPS PLUS: What are you obsessed with right now? BETSY BURNHAM: Contemporary art collections, fur throws, Uncle Eddie’s vegan cookies, and Pinterest.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your go to paint color?
BETSY BURNHAM: Dunn Edwards’ Silver Spoon, a very pale blue/grey that looks terrific in both kitchens and bedrooms.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite furniture piece and why? BETSY BURNHAM: It may sound obvious, but I absolutely love parsons tables. As dining tables, coffee tables, desks, consoles…it’s a clean, timeless shape that can be dressed up or down and looks right in any decor.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite design accessory? BETSY BURNHAM: I can’t possibly only pick one. I love trays - from simple silver ones bedside to my favorite python tray that serves as an inbox on my desk. I also love baskets, Asian pottery, and I'm crazy about strands of old tribal beads.
LAMPS PLUS: What Lamps Plus products have been catching your eye?
BETSY BURNHAM: I love this porcelain crackle lamp, Chinoiserie chair, and set of whimsical oversize decorative jacks.
For more information about Betsy and her interior design services, please visit Burnham Design and Instant/Space.
Images courtesy of Burnham Design
Style Illuminated reader Beth and her husband Scott are newlyweds who just bought their first home - and are overwhelmed by the abundance of design choices that now face them. The main floor of their new abode is particularly challenging, since it's an open floor plan with the living room, dining room, and kitchen all visually flowing together. The house has great design elements to work with - glossy dark hardwood floors, light walls, and a gorgeous transitional kitchen, but the space definitely needs some color and a few design suggestions for it to really feel like home.
Beth's biggest dilemma is choosing a paint color for the main floor. "As you can see from the pictures," she says, "we need to paint the whole floor the same color. But the color must look good with the cabinets and be light to contrast the floor."
As the house is now, the cool white living room walls don't flow well into the warm off-white tones of the kitchen - so a yellow-toned neutral paint will help bring everything together and allow the spaces to flow seamlessly into one another for a spacious and open look. My suggestion is to use the gorgeous tumbled marble kitchen backsplash as inspiration for the paint color, since it ties in many of the colors found in the house. Select the lightest-colored tile and use that as color reference when selecting paint swatches.
Here are a few more designer tips to make this new house really feel like home:
Lower the chandelier above the dining table. A chandelier should ideally be hung 30" to 36" above the table. Dining room lighting is commonly hung too high - don't be afraid to lower your chandelier to create a more intimate atmosphere.
Add a slender sideboard or bar below the mirror on the dining room wall. A dining room storage piece will not only help provide a beautiful feature on the blank wall, but it will also create much-needed storage for dishware or barware.
Install under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. An overhead fluorescent light does nothing to highlight the beautiful cabinetry and glossy granite counters! Simple under -cabinet lights will not only provide functional lighting for preparing meals, but will also create ambiance and feature the home's gorgeous finishes.
Readers - what color would you paint the walls if this was your home? Do you have any design tips for Beth and Scott to help them transition into their new space?
Image credits: Behr, Beth and Scott
In a world dominated by tablets and electronic books it’s a miracle that people even want to have bookshelves in their homes, let alone use them as a focal point. Thankfully they do and even more exciting is that designers are finding clever and handsome ways to adorn and light them. Lighting in the home library has never been more exciting and several trends are creeping into just about every shelter magazine and blog around. Besides the obvious use for books, I think books create wonderful texture in a room and add an unmatched warmth. Depending upon your needs, the new look in libraries today are decorative wall sconces and seductive picture lights.
This room is covering all bases. This warm library enhances its bookcase with a handsome sconce, non-direct light from a picture light as well as the cozy fire and candles. Even without the warm glow of the candles, soft lighting and cloth shades bathe this room in a golden hue.
This traditional yet funky library combines study with play. Playful colors keep the room from appearing stuffy. I’m crazy about the shell-shaped wall light that has been used to highlight the books.
This masculine wall sconce in a faux ostrich leather evokes everything glamorous about a traditional library. Mounted between bookcases, this sconce would add much needed light and style.
This neoclassical space functions both as a hall as well as library requiring less direct light to the cases. Bronze-finished wall lights adorn the wall above the shelves to cover double duty: lighting the overall space and offering some downward glow to the shelves.
This country library uses a similar design when it comes to highlighting their bookcases. Bronze finished picture lights are hung not only as functional sources of light, but to create a soft evening glow when the room is used for entertaining.
This unexpected bronze-finished swing-arm light could add just the right amount of traditional charm to your library cabinetry or even over the bed for reading.
Here is a brighter version of the wall mounted lamp. This polished chrome swing-arm lamp not only would look great in a library, but would be smashing in a white kitchen over the sink, desk or over cabinetry if you have the space.
I love how they have matched the picture light finish to the curtain rod and smaller accessories.
If you don’t have room for mounting picture lights, the classic track light still looks good. If you feel your tracks are outdated, there are plenty of updated versions to use.
Spot lights in the ceiling are also another great idea if you don’t have enough wall space above your shelves. Don’t be nervous to mix contemporary lighting with a traditional interior. This room pulls it off.
Other contemporary ideas for lighting bookcases include pin lights used on every shelf as well as interior shelf rope lighting that creates an illuminated glow on every shelf. The highlight of every library is that you highlight what’s important to you, be it books, photos or collectibles.
Images: Belgian Pearls, House and Home
*******UPDATE 1/7/13******** Little Brown Pen is now called Obvious State.
Today Style Illuminated welcomes photographer Nichole Robertson of Little Brown Pen (now Obvious State) as our guest blogger. After moving to Paris in 2009, what began as photography for Nichole's daily blog posts blossomed into a three-year project photographing the city of light. This spring, Chronicle Books is publishing a collection of her photography entitled Paris in Color. Welcome, Nichole
I moved to Paris in the winter of 2009. January was cold and gray, but neither the temperature nor the relentless clouds kept me from exploring my new neighborhood. One of the first things I noticed was how color - any color - popped against the neutral gray palette created by the wintry sky and white Haussmann buildings. I believe red was the first color I shot. I noticed an awning, a chair and a bike in a similar shade of red within a block of each other and retraced my steps to take photos. It didn't take long for me to become obsessed and the Paris Color Project was born. I spent three years photographing Paris this way and what I've learned is that focusing on a color or type of object allows you to discover things you may have otherwise overlooked. It's easy to zone out when you're walking from point a to point b or to put your camera away as you walk between monuments and tourist destinations. But I think the good stuff is what catches your eye and makes you happy on the side streets and narrow alleys, whether that's peeling paint, an old door or a stack of fruit crates.
Here area few of my favorite yellow objects:
And here a few of my favorite yellow table lamps:
Thanks Nichole! You can find Nichole and her photography on Twitter, Etsy or her new site Obvious State (formerly known as Little Brown Pen).
I know it’s not quite time for spring cleaning, but there are easy ways to lighten the look of a room without clearing out and without the hassle of a time consuming yard sale. Incorporating lucite accent furniture, like a lucite console table, in a room will instantly create the sense of more space while not sacrificing storage or seating. Lucite offers a weightless elegance and functionality.
This eclectic living room is a wild ride of furniture styles and mixed within this wide array is a small lucite stool on casters. Whether you want to use it as extra seating or a surface for a drink, a portable piece of furniture like this is just right.
Another great seating option is this retro 1970s style stool. Used as a desk chair, vanity stool or small side table, it’s an unexpected addition to an original design scheme.
Speaking of unexpected, these incredible lucite counter stools don’t overpower the large center island of this contemporary kitchen. Wisely, they are upholstered for comfort and on casters for easy movement. Lucite is a great option for the kitchen as they can easily be wiped down for easy cleaning.
From stools to sophisticated seating. This highly stylized living room introduces a curved lucite side chair for a touch of glamour and balances it by placing a geometric lucite table lamp on the adjacent side table.
Even an antique-filled bedroom can sport a little pop culture. This bubble chair disappears but still manages to offer womb-like seating.
Ghost chairs are a timeless look. I love the juxtaposition of the rough stone and weathered table with the slick clear plastic. The clear ceiling light balances the chairs beautifully.
Lucite can also be a chic base for lamps and accessories as this image displays. There is a lightness and glow to Lucite that seems at odds with its strength. Thankfully, they work in harmony.
Lucite can take on just about any shape, so it’s no surprise that lucite furniture can be curved or formed to take on a neoclassical style like this table which is the same as in the first image above.
Any size or style dining room can benefit from the use of a lucite side table. It visually doesn’t take up much room and offers surface and serving space for entertaining.
I love this bedroom. It’s soft, comfortable and stylish. Like the other rooms, there is a great mix of antiques and lucite. The lucite nightstand is totally functional, but also has an ethereal quality that compliments the pale creams and pinks in the room. Lucite is a clear winner.
Photos courtesy of Eclectic Revisited, Rue Mag, The NeoTraditionalist
Karen and Guy Vidal run the design team Design Vidal, which is known for renovating and restoring historical homes and properties around Los Angeles. They have become the go-to expert for homeowners looking to restore their older beauty and apartment dwellers looking for a stylish and historically significant rental home.
There is definitely something special about living in an older home with lots of charm and character. Purchasing a home that needs a little TLC to return it to its original glory can seem like an overwhelming challenge. Therefore, I was so excited to meet Karen and Guy Vidal and get their expert advice on the biggest challenges and considerations when remodeling historical homes.
LAMPS PLUS: What are a few practical considerations you should pay attention to when purchasing an older property?
DESIGN VIDAL: It's important to do a thorough inspection so you have a good understanding of the condition of the systems (i.e. plumbing, electrical, roof, and foundation). Updating decrepit systems can quickly dwindle your budget, leaving less dollars for visual improvements.
LAMPS PLUS: What is a common mistake people make when restoring older homes?
DESIGN VIDAL: Doing too aggressive a remodel when a contractor that doesn't understand the charm and intricacies of an older home and who has no regard for the architectural value is a common mistake people make when restoring an older home. Many contractors we have worked with are looking for the easy way to do things. It's easier to replace old, ornate but damnaged base molding with new base molding. It's harder for them to repair the old molding. It's easier to replace old wood windows with new vinyl windows. But what's easier for the contractor, is not cheaper for the homeowner. It's often many times cheaper to do the repairs. Contractors often call us for referrals to people who can fix old up-and-down windows or for the name of a shop that sells vintage door hardware. All this effort will also yield a much more beautiful restored look. It is also about recycling old material and being environmentally conscious. We only partner with contractors who understand design.
LAMPS PLUS: What are the biggest challenges when renovating historical homes?
DESIGN VIDAL: A home that's been designated "historical" by a municipality or the state may have restrictions as to remodeling. The demands are often counter intuitive. For example, when replacing an exterior door the owner will want to match the others to preserve the historical look of the home. However, when we remodeled Groucho Marx's former 1936 bungalow in Santa Monica, the city insisted that the new door look markedly different than the rest of the house, to ensure that future generations can distinguish the vintage from the reproduction.
LAMPS PLUS: What is your favorite type of historical home to restore?
DESIGN VIDAL: I can honestly say that I like working in all styles of homes. When we started, we remodeled and designed quite a few California Bungalows, so I have a soft spot for those. Our own home is modern; coming from the East Coast and when I was growing up, you didn't see anything modern. When I moved to Los Angeles, I felt like that was the style I wanted to experience. I started collecting eclectic Mid-Century pieces - the quirkier the better. When Guy and I designed our own house, we did an interpretation of modern with retro details, but livable and functional for our family. I love the challenge of working in so many styles; often I might be doing a Spanish, Craftsman, and modern all at the same time! It can make shopping for smalls kind of confusing because you're pulled in so many directions, but overall it's exciting. It is like playing dress up!
LAMPS PLUS: In general, what paint colors work best in Spanish and Craftsman homes?
DESIGN VIDAL: I love color and I feel like paint is one of the easiest changes to enact with the most immediate impact. I work primarily with Benjamin Moore paint and I'm lucky to have a great local paint store - Jill's Paint in Atwater. Having people who know what they are doing and care about the results makes a huge difference in the whole painting process.
There is a color deck called "Affinity Colors" that is right on. I have favorites that I mix in, more based on my client's preferences and what mood we are trying to create more than whether a home is Spanish or Craftsman. If you go into Jill's Paint and ask for a gallon of "Mascarpone," they will probably ask if you are working with me! That's my go-to white. It manages to be both creamy and bright, which is hard to pull off. Especially in older homes, a white that is too stark is jarring. In Spanish homes, especially if they have the old casement windows and they have been painted (often white), it would be cost prohibitive to try and strip them and sometimes you need to do repairs that would show if you tried to stain the windows. I fake a dark wood trim by painting them brown. It makes a huge difference in the overall vibe in trying to pull out the character. People are afraid of painting brown because it is an easy color to get wrong - you know what I mean! I like Oxford Brown - it's dark and rich, not too much purple or yellow undertones. In Craftsmans, I like warm earthy tones. Greens are nice and right now I'm pulling towards more blue-green shared rather than the sage greens that were so popular. I like Tranquility and Wind Chime.
LAMPS PLUS: When furnishing a classic home, do you stay consistent with the style of the home or do you mix styles?
DESIGN VIDAL: Furnishings are tricky - no one wants to walk into a period home and feel like they are walking on a set. Plus, it is not really practical because we live differently today and have different expectations of a sofa, for instance. Overall, we are larger than in the 1920s.
My guideline is that anything that is built-in should look seamless with the the house. If we make a new opening, the moulding should match the existing trim, etc. Built-ins should look original. Tile can have a vintage feel in terms of both what tile and how it is installed. Actual furnishings are different; the best look is a mix of vintage and modern pieces. For example, mixing a great sofa that is really comfortable and well made with a vintage coffee table. Family pieces that are handed down that don't necessarily match your style, pieces picked up on a trip, something you found at the side of the road - these are all elements that should be welcomed into any home.
Lighting is a great way to set the tone for your home. In a Spanish or Craftsman home, the lighting styles are so specific, it is nice to add some variation. For example, I remodeled a Craftsman kitchen and we opened up to the dining room and used beautiful school house pendants in the kitchen, but juxtaposed with a Nelson Bubble light pendant over the dining room table. In another Craftsman, we used Mica lights throughout, but incorporated some deco pendants that they had picked up years earlier and had stored in their garage. Also, if I am designing a Spanish, I often like to use an exotic element - a Moorish fixture works nicely.
LAMPS PLUS: How do you approach the lighting scheme when designing a space?
DESIGN VIDAL: Generally I avoid recessed lights, except in a very specific situation, say in the kitchen for task lighting. With lighting, it is about form and function. You want the lighting to look a certain way, but you also need to make sure you have enough light. Dimmers are key, that way you can control the intensity. I also personally like specific control. For example, if I have a bathroom with a center fixture and two sconces by the medicine cabinet, I will have two switches - one for the center light and one to control the scones by the medical cabinet.
I also look at factors like ceiling heights, furniture placement, and functionality. Older homes do not have nearly the amount of lighing that we are accustomed to today, so it is a balancing act to figure out how to add lighting and still stay true to the home. Sconces are more common in older homes and often when we are rewiring we will uncover j-boxes that have been buried in the walls over the years and we will make them live. I also may add sconces, especially in living rooms where you don't necessarily want overhead light and in the bedrooms next to the bed for reading. I like to look for opportunities to add drama with the right fixture - drop a large pendant in an entry or high stairwell or pendants hanging from the ceiling on either side of the bed.
LAMPS PLUS: What are your favorite Lamps Plus ceiling lights?
Casa Seville Collection 23" High Outdoor Hanging Light
Schoolhouse Button 12 3/4" Wide Old Bronze Ceiling Light
Nothing warms up and personalizes your home decorating like a good dose of the unexpected - like hanging chandeliers in unusual places. It offers that little pop of surprise that elevates a room and hints that the person who put it together has taste and sensibility rather than just an eye for codified style. Lighting is one of the easiest ways to introduce the unexpected into your home décor and the right fixture in the unconventional place can be daring, whimsical or even romantic. Take the chandelier, for example. There’s virtually nothing that says tradition and stuffy convention quite like an elaborate crystal or decorative iron fixture hanging from the ceiling - and nothing that gives you quite the same pop when you pry it from its routine context.
A contemporary kitchen with the requisite stainless steel appliances and island bar suddenly takes on a happy touch of old world elegance when lit with a black-beaded chandelier. The unexpected impact is that introducing a touch of elegance somehow warms the space and brings its clean contemporary lines into sharper focus. Who knew?
A hanging crystal chandelier really comes into its own when paired with an graceful standing tub and the crispness of a euro-styled bath. Add a dimmer switch and suddenly all that pristine white and gleaming nickel takes on the soft glow of romance.
A chandelier (hung out of reach) over a baby’s crib? Why not. It’s hard to imagine that a tot wouldn’t be delighted staring at that elegant glitter. One of the things this example points out is how the impact of the hanging fixture is magnified by sympathetic pairings - in this case, a couple of wonderfully rococo chairs. If this baby doesn’t grow up with an appreciation of unconventionally stylish design, it’s certainly not mom or dad’s fault!
A beaded crystal draped chandelier ought to look absurd in a stable’s box stall. . .and yet. This example may be over the top, but it’s rich in what it suggests about the chandelier’s power to imply a certain formal beauty and a sense of humor.
If there was ever a stunning example of just how versatile an elaborately traditional chandelier can be, it’s this public art piece by Werner Reiterer with a sly sense of humor. Let’s face it, wouldn’t all our streets be better and more romantically evocative places to stroll and daydream if they were lit with such fixtures? Here’s to the romantic flexibility of formal chandeliers once freed from the foyer or dining room.
Photo credits: Dominio Magazine, Nate Berkus decor, Annie Schlechter "Room for Children" Rizzoli, ChandiDesign, Werner Reiterer
If you’re the sort of person whose idea of a perfect Sunday morning includes café au lait, flakey croissants, French jam, a thick newspaper and Bach on the radio, then maybe you’re secretly longing for a touch of Baroque in your life. It’s a style that’s unfairly taken on a dismissive reputation in the decades since Modernism burst on the scene, especially since many people tend to confuse it with the excesses of the Rocco period that came afterward. The Baroque used an accumulation of expressive and beautiful detail to convey a sense of joyful exuberance and grandeur. To pull it off, however, requires a kind of lovely compositional tension. Just remember, harmony and counterpoint were what set Bach’s wonderful music apart from the polyphony that had gone before.
There’s a magnificent Italian and wonderful Middle European Baroque style, but when most of us think of that look, it’s the Paris of Louis XIV that comes to mind. His great palace at Versailles, with its gorgeous chandeliers and crystal candelabras, and his additions and refurbishments to the Louvre are monuments to that dramatic but somehow lovely exuberance that has captivated lovers of formal beauty ever since. The era's key elements can easily be incorporated into a modern setting, as the owner of this Bassett Road flat did in London.
There’s nothing quite like a Baroque gesture to bring a touch of elegant drama into an otherwise formal modern living room or dining room. At the London flat, all it takes is a pair of arm chairs done in the Baroque variation called “empire.” Note how the deep blue of the upholstery and the resonant gold of the wood frame perfectly match that musical ideal - harmony and counterpoint.
Deep color and a splash of gold trim can bring a touch of the Baroque into your intimate spaces, but don’t forget the part that texture has to play. The Baroque is about satin, as in the hanging slippers, ruffles and, even, brocades. Remember, it’s the accumulation of beautiful details that makes the look. The triple vanity mirror in this bedroom is a perfect complimentary touch.
You can introduce a wonderfully evocative hint of the Baroque with nothing more than a few strips of gold-painted stock molding and a deep wash of a green or blue hue. A vintage dress set against such a backdrop suddenly takes on the attributes of art, which is sort of what the Baroque does for everything and everyone it surrounds.
Baroque is fearless of beauty even when it tends to exuberant eccentricity, as in the case of this wonderful corner chair with its applied medallion and shell leg design. The fan and hanging slippers are the perfect counterpoint to the elaborate gold frame and the deep color completes a wonderfully gilded vignette.
Decor photos by 1st Option.
Paris is a city of many moods and its flats and grand apartments reflect that. Think of it this way: When you dress for a changeable climate, you layer. The Paris look does precisely that with décor; it’s a style that suggests layers of time and, more important personal experience. It is a style that elevates the individual eye above any particular look or fashion. For that reason, mixing flea market finds and pieces of fine furniture is common. It’s a design gesture that says, I know what’s beautiful whether the price is high or low. It’s also a look that punctures any pretense and adds a welcome touch of whimsy.
Parisian interiors routinely mix contemporary and vintage art on their walls. Once again, the mixture suggests both the passage of time and an individual taste that stands apart from any particular era. The trick is to choose pieces that either complement one another in size and style—or act as dramatic counterpoints to one another. Anything in the middle risks looking muddled and thrown together. Your art, whether purchased from a gallery or salvaged from some thrift shop bin must look like it was chosen to reflect your taste.
One of the striking things about a Parisian flat often is the way they unselfconsciously blend drama with comfort—a single huge painting, often a portrait, beside comfortable furnishings that invite an afternoon of quiet reading. Side tables and a stack of oversized pillows add dramatic effect.
Don’t forget what an over-the-top chandelier, particularly crystal, can do for a room. It adds instant glitter with a hint of tradition.
Perhaps it’s the lingering influence of Louis XIV’s famous hall of mirrors, but nobody makes better use of mirrors than a Parisian. An oversized mirror can make a small space seem much larger or add an element of glitzy, high-style drama, when elaborately framed. Go the other way and frame simply—either with ebony or gilt—and you’ve got a chic contemporary look that seems to make everything it reflects worthy of contemplation. Add a candle or two and the room will come glowingly to life as the shadows lengthen.
Photos from Elle Decor.