Would someone please explain to me guys' infatuation with big-screen TVs? It's truly a weakness no man can resist. I've seen grown men reduced to blubbering, giddy mush at first glance of their new gazillion-inch screen. When it comes to guys and their TVs, size really does matter!
But what brings such joy to some can be a source of real anguish for designers. Such was the case with my clients Susan and Drew, who had just moved from a small downtown condo to a larger mid-town house. Although the basement would have been the perfect room to create a shrine to the tube, their new TV was just too big (to get through the door, that is!) so their solution was to ask me to make a home for it somewhere in the combined living and dining room space. There was no arguing with them, for not only were my clients TV and movie connoisseurs, they were also audiophiles!
As far as furniture went, the couple had inherited a funky, mid-century white-vinyl sectional sofa from one very modern grandma. It was perfect in their old condo but it was impossible to configure into their new space. So starting with my client's contemporary dining table and artwork and enough audio and video equipment to stage a rock concert, I was off and running.
One of my biggest challenges was trying to capture my clients' personal styles. The front part of the house was very traditional in its architecture, and furnished with Susan and Drew's traditional furniture and antiques. But the combined living and dining room addition stood in direct contrast -- a modern, vaulted-ceiling space sporting contemporary furniture and art pieces.
My solution to this divergent design sensibility was to create a living and dining interior that was eclectic and not reflective of any one particular style direction. A diverse approach is one of my most favourite ways of designing a space because it offers interest, flexibility and longevity. Unfortunately, it's also is one of the hardest to do well, as eclectic can easily veer off into eccentric, and that's not the look I want!
One key to the success of the eclectic look is to bring together pieces that are at least two design periods apart, so that there is an obvious contrast in styles. In my client's dining area for example, I paired their contemporary artisan table with a 1930s Art Deco sideboard, an 18th century carved Venetian mirror and a delicate French wire chandelier. This wasn't your typical matching dining room set consisting of a table, chairs and buffet. To the contrary -- nothing matched. This approach relies heavily on the age-old theory that opposites attract.
It's not only the contrast of styles that makes for successful eclectic interiors, it's also a contrast of material and finishes. I housed all of the media equipment in a cabinetry system that visually unified all the electronic chaos. In direct contrast to all this high-tech modernity, I introduced a tailored, chocolate-brown leather sofa and an oversized ottoman upholstered in two-toned cowhide. I then anchored the whole grouping with an antique Persian carpet. A wooden desk functioned as a sofa table for tall Lucite table lamps that brought light to the area and helped separate the media area from the dining space.
Another example of the eclectic mixing of materials is evident in the furnishings I chose for the sunken area that leads out to the garden: two red leather Art Deco chairs beside a transparent Lucite credenza, a round marble-topped Biedermeier table topped with charming chrome accessories, and the whole ensemble grounded by a cowhide underneath. The contrast and combination of wood, Lucite, leather, chrome and fur, makes your eye dance in search of more of the unexpected!
Not only did this style satisfy both the traditional and modern palettes of my clients, it also is a scheme that is flexible and allows for them to grow and express their own personality and style. Try bringing a new "foreign" piece into a perfectly matched dining room or bedroom suite and you'll soon realize that it just doesn't seem to fit. Susan and Drew will never have to worry about that, and over the years they can acquire new pieces and be virtually guaranteed that they will find a home in their wonderfully eclectic living and dining space.
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