Thursday, January 28, 2016

Balancing Contemporary and Traditional Spaces

Interior Interests

Pairing our Anichini upholstered headboard and bed clothes with our new, contemporary, but somewhat featureless, apartment.

We recently sold our traditional, detail-dripping townhouse in Park Slope and now temporarily live in a modern Brooklyn Heights penthouse.  What a difference! While I miss our large, rambling, stately home -- very close to Prospect Park (below) -- I am enjoying our full-service building, complete with porters, doormen, and basement-level parking -- all within walking distance to our daughter's school.






When we first took on this move, I worried about the marriage -- of our mostly graceful, neoclassical furnishings to a contemporary, blunt apartment, more suited to mid-century modern. Surprisingly, however, the relationship was stronger than I had anticipated -- everyone gets along swimmingly!

The parlor level of our Park Slope home in Brooklyn


Right now, my thoughts on interiors seem to be somewhat scattered -- I am nostalgic about our past homes with all their charm and splendor, I am pleasantly comfortable enjoying our current modern space with its full-service perks, and I am becoming engrossed in the planning and  renovation of our future Brooklyn Heights townhouse (we just signed contracts). In all this, I keep finding myself thinking about the origins of my interest in design, of what motivates my schematics, and why some people, more than others, have a punctilious eye.

Without realizing it at the time, from a young age, I have always had a bend toward interior design.  But, being raised in upstate New York (way upstate), there wasn't anyone to mentor me or anything to inspire; well, aside from the idyllic and breathtaking Adirondack Mountains, or perhaps Lake Placid's rustic but upscale establishments. Oh, and of course, there were all those Anglo, Federal style churches -- surely there was some influence there!


But, the influences were nothing compared to the exposure a young person has when living close to a major metropolitan area. So, when I was 14 years old, I took it upon myself to be inspired with what I had on hand -- my childhood home. It was not uncommon for my parents to come home from work to find their living room completely rearranged, or the rugs shifted across the house, or pictures taken down and rehung, or the dining table silver centerpiece polished, buffed and repositioned somewhere else entirely.  Actually, it is still not uncommon for me to rearrange items in my house, or, better yet, if spending time with friends, in their houses too!

I am constantly rearranging our "knick-knacks," in this case, our Simon Pearce blown glass.

Strangely, fashion wasn't the path that I took professionally, After college, I darted to New York City and fell into a fairly successful career in advertising.  As I approached 40, our daughter was born, and I decided to dedicate all my energy to raising a well adjusted child.  Unfortunately, the results of those efforts won't be in for another good 20 years.


I adore color, an element missing from modern design, of late. 

I am about to undertake another house renovation and I have been taking notes, on the benefits and pitfalls of living in a newer space. For me, the biggest issue when moving from a classic, urban townhouse into a contemporary space is dealing with the "open floor plan." I don't like open floor plans! Both our current penthouse and our future townhouse have open floor plans on the parlor level. I will need to deal with this. Unless I am at an airy beach house, I prefer individually stylized, comfortable rooms over jumbled open living. Everyday life is better suited to compartmentalization -- we weren't meant to dine in the same space that our bills are paid, or worse, where we watch TV.

Fresh flowers -- always a suitable design element!

Another challenge of contemporary spaces is the seeming lack of color. As clearly shown in the photos in this post, I adore rich colors -- strong hues of gold are always attractive to my eye. Did you notice that  there is something gold in nearly all of today's pictures!




I purchased bolts of these bold, rich fabrics at a Brunschwig and Fils sale a few years back and look forward to using them in our new Brooklyn Heights townhouse.


The good news is that color and tradition and classic lines work well with modern spaces. In fact, they may even work better, since they aren't competing with overt existing detail. While traditional interiors may favor stronger patters, more texture and richer colors, so do contemporary spaces. Living in a contemporary space has taught me that the clean lines associated with modern, open spaces help traditional pieces to pop, to sing, and sometime to even jump. So, if a renovation is in your future, go ahead, blur the lines, create your own style, mix it up!

 In the coming months, as I transform our new space, making it shine as originally intended over 100 years ago,  I look forward to sharing our progress here on The Natty Dad, and hopefully, I'll be able to pass along some useful tips along the way.


Cozying up to one of my plush, golden, tasseled, velvet pillows.