Thursday, October 15, 2009

" .... thy fearsome symmetry."

This week by chance is slanted towards the 1980s. To see what one liked or was impressed by nearly thirty years ago and find that it still speaks is both edifying and slightly terrifying.

The photo above from an article in a 1983 Architectural Digest about a place John Saladino designed - the first time I ever saw his work or saw his name - and I was as impressed as all get out. At the time I was living in the Netherlands, feeling culturally and aesthetically marooned on the edge of the English-speaking world and seeing John Saladino's work triggered, and I remember it well, such an upwelling of home-sickness I was blinded to the value of my new life.

What particularly struck me about Mr Saladino's work was the amalgam of modernism, classicism, history, lighting and, above all, space. I pored over the photos - antithesis to my then situation: living in cramped quarters in a country whose aesthetic seemed so limited, whose language was opaque to me (that all changed eventually, of course) and where the richness of the British and American interior design was unavailable except in sporadically imported magazines.

So, back to the photo above with its wonderful mix of Biedermeier, the ultimate must-have antique furniture of the 1980s, modern upholstery, 20th century lighting, and symmetry. The room could be of today except for the strong lighting effects, the plants and the style of the photography.

A curious thing about 1980s interior design photography is that stylists used plants, often the newly fashionable tropicals, as foreground to the picture - something not seen in today's photography of interiors - occasionally to the point where one wondered what was the subject of the picture was. Also, there was a clear division between which plant was considered suitable for modernism and which for traditional interiors.


  1. Beautiful Blake symmetry. Yikes, the lighting is dated, isn't it? But agree with you about the Biedermeier, and I like Saladino.

  2. Columnist, thank you for your comment and I agree about the lighting but I remember seeing that hanging spotlight used again recently. Lighting in the 80s got very dramatic and hard-edged making, to me, places seem very chilly - a feeling that the air-conditioning was cranked up, as maybe it was. Saladino has been a stayer. Have you read his book "Saladino Villa"?

  3. Love the Biedermeier, even love how it got its name and Saladino's book is rock solid. I don't own any Biedermeier, but I always take the time to genuflect, to pay my respects for the way this furniture looks timeless and sculptural. Elegant yet very approachable...except for its price these days.