Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I wish ...

.. I had the direct decorating taste my mother had. She simply went to the wallpaper seller, chose three patterns, not necessarily coordinating: one for the walls, one for the ceiling, and the third for the chimney breast - the standard for choosing being that she liked them. All was finished off with a dainty (the highest accolade a pattern or ornament could have from her) border and it all sat unquietly with the riot of pattern in the carpet and on the upholstery. She didn't like pictures on the walls because she liked what she'd created and didn't want, as she would have said "to muck it up."

Would that life or decorating in this house were so simple. May it was, I think, when I first indicated on the blog that we were in for a bout of redecoration: we wanted to upgrade, put a few ideas into effect, replace, reupholster and refinish. 

We have reached an impasse, and I'm not sure where we go from here. The situation is classic: two individuals who over the years have rubbed the all the sharp edges off each other except for one, and in our case that fiercely sharp edge is decoration. Its basically all we argue about any more.  Simply put, we have very dissimilar tastes in dress and decoration. 

Give me a Brooks Brothers website and I'll order up an outfit or two and thats it. That's how I want to decorate for myself: classic khakis, browns, blues, whites, pinks as the basics but enlivened with flashes of color and jewelry. Nothing too obvious, nothing too flash - just sober, background type of decor, comfortable, not cognizant of fad or design, easy on the eye and on the back. 

My other half has never seen a lily he didn't want to gild. I don't criticize when I say this because he dresses superbly well and has great taste.  He can do the sober and the reticent but it doesn't last long - always the peacock is ready to flash that tail and display. 

In the photo directly above you see an attempt to blend our tastes and it has completely flummoxed me. I think I have seen and brought home every memo, sample, wing that Kravet, Lee Jofa and Ainsworth Noah have to offer and we're still no further along. 

Basically what we have to work with are tones of brown and beige. This situation has been created by accident, by choice and by whim over the years. The Barbara Barry sofa is in dark brown Jacques Garcia mohair velvet, the armchairs are in Suzanne Rheinstein buff paisley, the stone-colored rug is a Kravet silk and wool Tibetan. 

What we both want to do is blend the classic with the modern, in this case the white Poliform cabinet below (ours will be in a high-gloss mushroom tone) topped with both the Atollo lamp from the 70s and our Directoire clock. By that cabinet we will place the lovely 19th century Rococo chair covered in a fabric from the 1980s that depicts hand-drawn naked women. On the wall opposite the sofa and above the cabinet will hang the drawings and photos shown below, in pretty much the same arrangement. The blend of old and new, classic and modern, reticent but with a little showiness is really what this room is groping towards. I won't use the word "eclectic" as that sounds too unconsidered to me. 

So what has brought us to this impasse? Actually, another armchair and curtains. That's all. An armchair and curtains! 

I want blue, he wants orange. I want linen, he wants silk taffeta. I want subdued, he wants a "pop". I want matte, he wants sheen. And so it goes. What we both need is to get it done and move on, because the master bedroom and master closets are next in line and should begin next week. 

Painting by Eric Ravilious.


  1. Doctors have doctors. Lawyers have lawyers. But designers don't have designers?

  2. Oh it's lovely though, I like the contrast between your preferences and his - they make each more beautiful. Don't fight it - you obviously have a system that works (albeit with fights, but you don't want to get along ALL the time -how boring would that be?)
    I think I have to agree with Terry, sometimes it's best to get a 3rd eye - get the opinion and help of a trusted friend whom you trust and admire!

  3. A devil of a predicament. Obvious compromise isn't always the answer such as linen drapes with a taffeta leading edge! I suggest rock, paper, stone and good luck. By the way, the part about your mother's decorating sensibilities is quite splendid.

  4. Thank you all. I am grateful for your advice and want to tell you I went again to the showrooms this morning for what I hope is the last time for this room. My back is against the wall and its time to come out with both guns firing. I've had my whine and its time ....