Decorating with Contemporary Style
Q. For a wedding gift, my husband and I are furnishing my daughter and son-in-law’s living room. They have chosen a “row” house near downtown in a trendy area where young people like to live.
The “kids” have given us their colors and a few requests, but my husband and I are selecting the furnishings without them while they work on the wedding. The problem we are having is that they told us they wanted modern furniture, but not too modern. We thought we knew what that meant, until we went shopping! One store has furniture like in the 60’s or The Jetsons. Another has “transitional” where everything is huge and neutral. A third store has vividly patterned chairs which coordinate beautifully, but they seem a little loud. We are looking for dark blue or teal, neutral, and some kind of accent color. What is modern these days? How can we find the right colors?—R.F.
A. Most of us think of modern as the style set by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the cubist artwork of Cezanne, Braque, and Picasso. For the first time in centuries, buildings didn’t reach toward the sky or imply regal stature, they corresponded to the cliff or low land on which they were built.
Long, low rooms with an emphasis on parallel horizontal lines, especially clarestory windows running nearly the length of the space, became the new vogue. Correspondingly, chairs hugged the floor and the body. This is how the modern tub chair began. Sleek legs and arms are simply a stylistic variance.
Like the cubist art, fabrics were about geometric shape, underlying structure, juxtapostion, and sometimes color. The thing is, a century has passed since the modern movement.
Modern should mean what is new today. A couple of decades from now, there will certainly be a term for today that is more descriptive than anything currently used. The first thing to address when considering modern or trendy furniture is scale. Is the room long, low, and tight? If so the Jetson style is perfect. Tub chairs are as small as 33-in. If the room is spacious with 9-ft. ceilings or more, “clean lined” versions of classics are ideal. Even wing chairs with simplistic lines and lack of English ornamentation fit in this category.
The living room shown with soft orange is an example of “modern classic” which easily fits most spaces. Organic materials, hand made items, and themes of the human spirit are hot current trends. Feats of daring color play are a new trend sweeping all styles. Teal has been available in a mid tone for a few years. Deep teal, navy, deep sea, and indigo are new this year and are easiest found in accessories.
I would look for one chair that has a touch of teal and another color (possibly at the store with all the color), make an easy purchase of a neutral sofa, pump teal into draperies, and then finish with rug and pillows to accent teal or the third color as needed.
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 DesignNashville.com for 23 years. You may also contact Tanna at 615/ 601-0552.