Finding “Modern” Furnishings

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finding “modern” furnishings that are not from the Jetsons

Q. I’ve moved here from the west coast after traveling in Europe for a few years. My husband and I planned to design a modern house, but changed our minds before we broke ground because we became convinced that resale could be a problem since the market is still sluggish and European styles are selling best.

Additionally, when we shopped for what we thought of as modern, we found only minimalist George Jetson looking chairs which are too small in general and too short for rooms with tall ceilings. The home we are building has cleaner lines than those in the subdivision, but it blends well. We are not willing to consider French or Southern swirls, florals, and patterns. We don’t want cold chrome and glass either. What style would you suggest for our home considering these requirements?—B.F.

A. The term modern has shifted in meaning in the last few years generally not meaning modern at all but “retro,” which describes space age designs of the 60’s and op art colorations of the 70’s. Global travelers always have a different perspective than that of the local community which usually requires shopping outside city limits.
Blending organic with clean lines is the leading contemporary trend in the United States and is acceptable in this area. I suggest beginning with those two parameters and then evaluating how much color and pattern you would like to have so that you arrive at a unique expression that pleases you. Hand crafted furnishings of any kind are desirable (even among other trends) while relics of the industrial age or ancient cultures as well as obvious organic materials are favorite elements within the trend.
Have fun including a few pieces reminiscent of Europe to tie in your past and link to the more traditional subdivision around you. Shapes which are simply curved or Oriental in origin also blend with this look. These images show key furniture pieces and the beginnings of color pallettes which may prove useful. Don’t be afraid to use chartreuse, lemon, orange, or other colors to offset earthy furnishings. Keep the color in broad areas or in unique focal places. Don’t pepper a room with any bright color, or your eye will dart around from item to item taking away from the clean presentation you desire.
It may be helpful to remember a resort environment you have enjoyed and replicate some aspects.

less expensive window treatments

Q. I have two arched windows on either side of my fireplace. I want a pretty window treatment that helps block the light and looks formal. I’ve seen a drawing you have done for a pie shaped window that is very elaborate. It looks expensive. Can I do something similar that goes across my glass to block light but doesn’t cost too much? My fireplace trim also cuts into the trim on the windows on both sides, so you can’t put a long drape there. There is plenty of room on the other side. I do have window film to reduce glare and heat, so I am only looking for something decorative. What would you suggest?—D.W.

A. My two story asymmetrical design is intended for a pair of windows, so it is easily adapted to your pair. The easiest way to cut cost is to eliminate the long panels completely which saves 13 yards of fabric and lining plus labor. Without the panels, the jabots need to be changed to be long enough to be in proportion with the overall height and to be balanced with each other.

The swag changes to the new shape of the half circle instead of the quarter circle. The swags can go on blocks instead of expensive pole sets, and trim can be sewn on only the slanted edges of the jabots rather than the whole treatment. All these things combined will reduce the overall cost by almost 40%! Next, I will transfer the proportions of the drawing to the workroom and make a new pattern just for you!


planning for new furniture

Q. Please help me plan for new furniture. My room seems impossible: it is very long and and has a fireplace and doors to work around. There are only 10 feet between my dining table and chairs to the other wall. I guess I need two sitting areas. What do you think?—G.H.

altA. You are so right—this is a tricky room. Three walls have major interruptions, and the area by the fireplace is awkward. I would build in book shelves near the fireplace to have continuity and a place for the television. As you said, it is not possible to place furniture in the one side of the room without blocking doors.

When something is this impossible, I  just accept it and move on. I have chosen a curved small sofa that can be moved slightly to gain access to one of the doors when needed. Next, I will use a designer trick and place two pretty chairs (a curved back is best) against each other facing the two separate areas.  This also gives us some furniture relating to the long wall.

altThe television will be to the right of the fireplace. Here, you can choose a normal sized sofa or a small sectional (with chaise facing the television). Either way, you get comfortable seating and good function. The only sacrifice we have made is the loss of the use of the double French door. All in all, I think you will have a very attractive and highly functioning room with the use of the smaller door.

Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Answers provided by Tanna Espy Miller, who has operated her award winning interior design practice for 23 years. You may also contact Tanna at 615/ 601-0552.

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