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Redefining Classic Design for Today PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rose Bennett Gilbert   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 23:33

Q: I like classic stuff, but over the years, I think my house has become stodgy. (My husband calls it the "fixed-in-amber" style of decorating!) True, I dislike most patterns and hate bright colors, but maybe there are other ways to update my decor without getting dizzy? A: "Classic" means enduring. Also, a standard of excellence, expressed in simple tailored lines that stay in fashion year after year.

"Classics" also resonate of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, which were highly civilized in matters of design and taste -- or so we think a couple of millennia later. Surprise! All those chaste white statues and carved friezes were originally painted in bright colors, so the design legacy we in the 21st century think of as "classic" looked a lot jazzier in its day. But never mind the history lesson.

The classics continue to inspire and inform traditional design at its best. To wit, the serenely elegant room we show here. It's a classic indeed, from the reproduction frieze and the formally symmetrical furniture arrangement to the furniture itself, designed by the French decorator Jacques Garcia for Baker, the American manufacturer of luxe furnishings (

Garcia, who has been known to wear sprigs of rosemary on his lapel, has also designed such iconic places as Le Fouquet's (James Joyce's favorite restaurant) and Oscar Wilde's home in Paris, the Hotel des Beaux-Arts. His style is traditional, yes, but with a nuance that thrills modernists and minimalists alike. This room is all about Garcia's cool hand with timeless classics.

You may think you've seen that marble-and-metal cocktail table before, but, wait, is it a sculpture? A takeoff on a klismos chair? Ditto for the sofa -- simplicity itself, but with a sotte voce curve to its arms and legs. Finally come the ultra contemporary touches -- the skeletal side chair and dance-y little tables -- proving that time need not stand still, even in classic decorating. Bottom line: Good taste and "enduring" style don't mean furnishing a room then "fixing it in amber."

Once you master the mix of traditional and unconventional you can have your timeless classics and be timely, too. Q: Brrrrrr! Even before the polar vortex, we were freezing in our living room. There's a large sliding glass door that we've never curtained because it would make the room too dark. But if this weather continues, we're going to have to make a change. We'd welcome any advice. A: Insulated glass would go far toward solving both your problems.

Available with two, even three layers of glass with air trapped between them, they would block heat loss without blocking the light from your windows. Expensive, yes, but kind to your fuel budget, and possible, I understand, for any fairly handy man to DIY. Easier: Install a wooden rod close to the glass in your chilly window and hang up a thick, colorful blanket or quilt, using decorative clip-on rings. By night, it will look as cozy as it feels, then obligingly slide off to one side to let the daylight come in.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 18:01