“In design, traditional elements are loaded with the meanings they have accumulated over time. The iconography that accompanies neoclassicism, for example, has always spoken to power and those who would seize it. Greek, Roman, Napoleonic, Federal, Fascist: their not coincidentally shared imagery is meant to convey strength and mastery. The dynastic decor of the caesars, the sinister visual domination of a mammoth monolith in the era of Mussolini, the suggestion of solidity and security in the decorations of a Federal Bank in the American Midwest—traditional cues can function as tropes that help invest a space with a thought, a sensibility, or a hope, their meaning immediately identifiable to a passing glance.”
“Modernity and its manifestations in the physical world—what is considered “modern”—can be easily misunderstood. Modernity is not about minimalism or everything being white and reductive. When this happens—and the pendulum often swings in that direction—modernity falls into a style or, worse, a cult.
It then has the potential to become tyrannical and intolerant, unaware of all the potent and fascinating forces in design that brought the modern world, as we think of it, into being. True modernity in design can reference the past and allude to the future, but it always exhibits a confidence and resolution that is completely understood in the here and now.”
“A vintage modern piece features ideas that become layers in the DNA of a design that materializes at a later date. It’s how something of the 1920s can have echoes of eighteenth century France, which borrows from Greek or Egyptian antiquity. It’s how intriguing it is to play with that heredity in the choice of a material, the colors and the proportions of a room or a piece of furniture, when designing for the time of now. It’s how the same forms get reinvented over and over, because they work the best.
I’m interested in the ways that history adds this depth and grounding to newer things. It’s the collective memory that makes even the most chic interiors feel familiar and accessible; it’s literally the reason we are all, instinctively, born collectors. This is a continuum that I try to bring to what I design: adding the vintage—as a lineage and a classicism—to new things being made today. And this is the bridge I cross with each of my clients. Everyone needs his or her own particular connection between past and present.”
“I believe the first consideration with any project should be to establish the hierarchy of spaces, which is generally based on the function each space serves; this runs the gamut from the initial approach and entry through the shared communal spaces to the most intimate and private realms beyond. Of course, this can be accomplished in a relentlessly clinical manner—think of Louis Sullivan’s oft-repeated edict “Form follows function.”
Alternately, if one chooses, there are opportunities to create interesting, useful diversions or delightful distractions along the way without compromising efficiency and functionality. For instance, when creating a place to pause along a passageway by recessing a console table loaded with curious, eye-pleasing objects into an alcove and useful items, you add immeasurably to the experience of trudging from point A to point B with little or no added expense.
To further illustrate the subtle importance of this perspective, consider experiences we’ve all had when arriving at and moving through a house or apartment we’ve never been to. The most successful experiences are those that begin by being intuitively guided from the street, sidewalk, or parking lot to a welcoming front entry, ideally through a garden, forecourt, or intimate public lobby. Along the way, one may have encountered a place to pause, and though we seldom do so, the very idea of it is intriguing and thought-provoking. Moments such as these might evoke memories of peace, tranquility, or security—not a bad thing for an otherwise eventless transitional space.
When we perceive that an otherwise unremarkable approach has been transformed through skilled planning into an exceptional experience, we feel that something special lies in store, something akin to an adventure. If all goes well, the same effort undertaken to provide a nuanced and welcoming sense of arrival will be revealed throughout the rest of the home.”
Maugham. Elkins. Parish. Castaing. de Wolfe. Draper. Brown. These are the names that typically appear in any list of great women decorators of the 20th century. In fact, it would be hard to consider yourself well versed in the decorative arts without an intimate knowledge of their collective work.
But within the new book How They Decorated by P. Gaye Tapp, to be released April 11th by Rizzoli New York, we meet 16 other high-culture women who forged their own remarkable aesthetic in the residences they decorated and occupied…