Like fashion, interior design is subject to trends. In with the leopard, out with the leopard. In with ostrich feathers, out with ostrich feathers. Tartan, neon, fringe, magenta and Chartreuse – all trends that come and go. I accept and even embrace these trends – admittedly in somewhat conservative ways. Here a pillow, there a pillow, everywhere a pillow, pillow. They are so easy to introduce, and to say good-bye to, that they are, to my mind, the perfect way to be in vogue.
When asked how I define my style I get a little stuck. Some would define it as “transitional” that’s a newfangled way of saying modern/traditional – a contradiction in terms, but when you see it, you know it. That’s the style in which I designed The Manse, my sister’s 1789 house on Cape Cod. A fresh take on traditional, which includes lighter colors, less fussy forms, patterns that have room to breathe. Yes there are antiques thrown in, and hand carved decoys, and original art, that all has one foot in yesterday. That’s not my all the time style though, but it felt right for The Manse.
Each house is a little different, not because my style changes that much from home to home, but because each home has a slightly different architectural style that seems to dictate its interior. A classic brownstone loaded with architectural detail and ceilings that are brag worthily tall just begs for excess. A chandelier dripping in crystals, a gilded mirror, billowy curtains – you get the picture. A federal style workers cottage or muse as the English would refer to them, is stripped of the architectural adornments that you’ll find in parlor level brownstones, and the interior should follow suit. While it’s true you can add in the detail, it should be done in proportion to the setting. Too much molding or base in a space with low ceilings will feel contrived – not natural. While there are no rules per se regarding the use of moldings, casing and/or base, they are applied for practical aesthetic reasons. That is to say, they hide the gaps between the rough finished floor and wall, and hide the raw edge of the window. Now it’s true that you can do away with these architectural elements all together. Before you start counting all the money you saved by not buying base, I can assure you that it will cost you much more to achieve a clean reveal (that’s a gap in the surface of the wall that provides a visual break from wall to floor. Modern architects call for this type of detail all the time. It’s incredibly difficult to achieve and to make look nice, but when it’s done properly it really does look pretty. Trust me, getting it to look pretty is expensive, thus the practically of base and casing comes in. Making these decisions will in fact define a style – whether or not it’s your style is yet to be determined, but we learn.
So shouldn’t I know by now? Well, maybe but style evolves and part of this journey of flipping ten is to discover. Sure I want to discover if it’s possible to flip 10 and make a million, but I also want to discover what exactly is my style, and to name it. In order to do that, I cull through thousands of pages of magazines. I take pictures of houses that I visit, places that I love, materials, and shapes, and colors, and then I try to figure out exactly what it it’s about those things that make me like them. It’s important to know why, because you can’t mix too many styles together and have it be a success. I use story boards or inspiration boards to help me hone in on the look that I’m after. See if you can detect the patterns and themes that I keep revisiting. A fashion designer once told me when I asked how I would know what my style was: “when you’ve bought nearly the same thing three or four times in a row – that’s your style”. Makes sense right.