Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Decor and Interior Design Influences: English Style

This is the first coffee table decor book
I bought back in 1991 - dog eared and beloved

These are my book shelves now

This was my NYC city apartment
decorated in "English Style"

This is a LR from the book English Style
Do you see why I thought I needed alot of stuff?

Mixed chintz, leopard print, a couple of stuffed crows,
Chinese export ware, butterfly specimens,
art work hung to the ceiling...

A room by Mario Buatta, my hero
and mentor on all things English in America
I could not afford any of this, so I made-do

Low NYC brownstone tin ceilings seemed
very English cottage in the city to me

Another LR from English Style
I used many of the elements in this photo... the bookcase, the mixed chintz, flowers, botanical prints,
unmatched lamps, plates & ceramics, piles of books -
I even had a pair of Staffordshire dogs

From the book English Style

What makes us decorate the way we do? Why do we buy the and collect the things that we fill our rooms with? Are the first things we love always a part of us, and do we continue to use those early elements as our style evolves?
Travel formed my point of view for my adult decorating. As a young person, my influences were my grandmother, my mother, and the movies. The first furniture I bought was Hollywood deco.
I did the post art school tour to Europe, and continued going back over the years.
The romance countries: England, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal were the formation of my decorating point of view .
Everything in Europe was so layered, so dense with objects.
Decorating magazines were not on my horizon so to speak. I picked one up now and then, but I was not the mag junkie I am now. Coffee table books caught my attention as my salaries increased and I could afford to buy them.
Then I started my design business, and would buy decor and art and photography books as a source of reference and inspiration.
I think space often dictates decor. When the landlord opened the door to the ground floor brownstone apartment he was showing for rent, something came immediately to my mind: English cottage.
The apartment had it's own entrance from the street with a sweet little iron fenced garden in front of the only window (there were three more and another door in the back of the apartment). The ceilings were low (this would have originally been the kitchen floor when the house was used by the one family is was built for); there were marble fireplaces, arched doorways, wood floors, and a garden out back that was as large as the apartment itself (a modest one bedroom floor through) covered with overgrown ivy and rambling pink roses.
I took it on the spot, even though the rent was high.
I knew I wanted to make it look like an English cottage, something I had seen in my travels. But how? Whenever faced with a problem, I would turn to books. You can learn everything from a book. So first to the library, and then to the bookstores. I found the book English Style, and loved it. It is filled with rooms of real people, and photographed without mannerisms. I poured over it for hours, days, weeks, years.
And so I began. Wallpaper was the first thing. Three patterns from Waverly: A green stripe for the LR, a green bamboo diagonal lattice for the DR, and green ivy for the BR.
I am showing you photos from that NYC apartment. I only have a few. Back then we didn't take pictures of our decor, we took pictures of friends and family who just happen to be in our decorated rooms. So please forgive the distraction of people in the photos. Also I have very few photos to show you, as the movers lost an entire box filled with all my family photos, and a wardrobe filled with my designer label clothes, when I moved from NYC to California. I found a handful of photos stashed between the pages of my books.
More tales of English Style to come later...


plangal said...

Love the shoulder pads!!!

I love the layeredness of English style--and the feeling that there's history there. New, old, it all works. But, somehow, when I try to do layered, it just looks messy. You did it well! My first apartment was a pre-war DC-area apartment, which was "charming" (i.e. didn't have a/c, but did have a breezy porch and lots of cutesy old details). I couldn't afford it at the time (even without a/c or laundry or any conveniences) but I had to have it, so I know what you mean. I tended toward a sort of English country, though I had no money (it was all going to rent). I did have a lot of Waverly fabric dotted around. Ah, memories!

Pigtown-Design said...

I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's brother's castle in Wales. It was over-the-top English decor. Layers and layers of history and beautiful things.

visual vamp said...

OMG those shoulder pads!!! But look how powerful the gals look LOL! My humble English sstyle certainly is not castle like, but it is OTT in the layer dept. aka as CLUTTER!!!

Cote de Texas said...

I adore these pictures - your apt. was to die for!!!! I think it would still look great today. You have the bestest tastest eva.

Design Junkie said...

I had that book (damn you Katrina) and loved it. My apartment was not nearly as fabu as yours...that ceiling was fantastic, but I used that book as justification for cramming all the stuff into a studio I could...for years that book and the magazine spread on Miles Redd's railroad apartment was my inspiration...then I went all shabby, and painted it all white and distressed, and slowly removed a piece here and there. But I still love it, and chintz is back, baby. God, I miss shoulder pads, big hair, and dramatic makeup...where is Alexis Carrington Colby Colby Dexter when we need her?