A well-designed room is one that blends an intentionally edited mix of subtle contradictions: warm colors with a pop of cool at the center; masculine furniture with a fluff of femininity surrounding it; stately decor with contemporary flair. The balance of the space is from the perfect imbalance of these opposites. And the seamless blend of bright and muted, tailored and ruffled, massed and singled out, creates comprehensive cohesiveness through unexpected combinations. Tory Fitzgibbon of Fitzgibbon Interiors is just the person we wanted to discuss such an interesting subject. With knowledge oozing out of her, an aesthetic that is truly unique and a subtle humor to take the edge out of being too serious–Tory walks us through her thoughts on contrasting combinations within a room.
BACKGROUND: I have been decorating houses since I was 7, at which time I (unasked) rearranged our neighbors living room (it needed it). I officially started my company in 2003. I do not have a website. All of my referrals are word of mouth. I have a great love of design and style and the best clients in town!
Disclaimer: Even though I am not afraid to tell you to tear down a wall, I am a not a trained designer. I am a style-loving, trend-averse, foreign shelter magazine addict. I believe people’s homes should mirror the way they feel in their favorite outfits. Comfort, style and durability (especially for those of us with male children) are key ingredients. Great art and music (choose your own) and scale and lighting (maybe hire a professional) will get you most of the way there. The rest of the way is color, texture and attitude: high and low, new and old, streamlined and ornate, feminine and masculine, exotic and classic. These are the balances you need to play with when creating your space.
Very few homes I have been into are “All One Thing.” I do admire any style that is done well, even French country, but I find it more interesting for homes to be in a mishmash of lacquer and burl, lucite and crystal, beat up and brand new.
I consider mid-century modern pieces (Saarinen, Wegner, Eames, Jacobsen, and Bertoia) as classic as the Queen Anne chair or French Louis chair.
I favor long, lean sofas in rich, solid fabrics — look at Camerich sofas (Avalon, Allison and Moodie are my faves) for an affordable new piece or search eBay for a 1970’s era Milo Baughman sofa to recover.
To be fair, the rooms I love best could best be described as classic and masculine: strong lines, natural fibers, leathers, and wood. But to balance this, you need some sparkle — glass-top table, antiqued mirrors, crystal candlesticks, and silver trays.
Texture is king in a room like this — every thing your hand touches should be sensual. Well, maybe everything is overstating it — but try lush mohairs and velvets for upholstery and pillows, soft thick carpeting underfoot, lush smelling candles, lustrous and matte finishes on tables and frames, while always keeping everything well-edited (what you take out is as important as what you leave in).
The rooms that I am most attracted to have a mix.
Don’t be afraid to mix up chairs around a dining table.
One look I love is taking all different bentwood chairs and painting them black with black upholstery. Check out Sarah Jessica Parker’s dining table — it looks totally fresh and mod due to the clean lines of the Saarinen table and fabulous light fixture over it.
I rarely need to look beyond my window for a color palette to work from. Browns, greens, grays with pops of blue and yellow are a handsome mix.
Spice up your classic room with some worldly touches. African masks and kuba cloth, the perfect velvet cheetah-print fabric, simple art in beautiful frames or chaotic art in simple frames win the day.
Buy art and if you don’t have the money to buy expensive art, buy beautiful old wood frames. Take out whatever is living in it and replace it with a poster you shellac over or a blown-up photograph.
Hang art floor to ceiling. I like clean-lined museum frames sharing a wall with baroque, gilt frames. But when you do this much action on the walls, keep your carpets neutral and your sofa modern, low and clean-lined.
Every so often, you need to have someone you trust and love come over and help refresh a space. And even though I get paid to do this for other people, I still want my mother to validate visions I have for my own home. Sometimes the validation is enough. But most times, she has an idea that kicks it up a level.
- Be a loving potted tree mother – an orange tree or braided ficus will give you pleasure for years.
- Grow elephant ears just so you can harvest them for tall thin vases.
- Ask for art for birthdays and holidays — but pick it out yourself.
- Troll consignment stores — look for beautiful wood tables.
- Tear out pages from shelter magazines and create a file you can reference. It will help a designer/decorator get into your head faster.
- Paint is instant gratification. Indulge in a new color when bored. It is like makeup for your walls.
- Be a “Leg Woman” — Check out the legs of tables and chairs you buy — make that an important criteria in your buying decision.
- Chairs are exclamation points in a room, if you choose the ones with attitude.
- I love big vase massings out of the same flower — even carnations look great massed low with stems cut short.
- And, most of all, edit your rooms. Every so often, take every single thing off every single surface of your public rooms and place it all on your dining table. Then pour a big glass of wine, “shop” from your dining table and re-display your treasures.
Thank you Tory for such an amazing post. Your knowledge is inspiring. For more information about Tory, please read below.
(Images: 1 – Elle Decor; 2 -Southern Accents ; 3 – remodelista.com; 4 – stardustmoderndesigner.com; 5 – shelteriffic.com; 6 – lshapesofa.co.uk; 7 – edyta-and-co.blogspot.com; 8 – Elle Decor; 9 – Domino Mag; 10 – Tory Fitzgibbon; 11 – Elle Decor; 12 – Martha Stewart Living ; 13- Tory Fitzgibbon; 14 – Elle Decor; 15 - Tory Fitzgibbon)
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