Saturday, February 13, 2010

Go Bold or Go Home

Joni of Cote de Texas has admitted to a carrying around the Dec / Jan 2010 House Beautiful for the lovely rooms on the cover. I too have been carrying it around, but for a different article than the rooms of Jill Sharp Brinson. These are very inspiring rooms!
Truly, there are several inspiring spreads in that edition. But the one that hit me right between the eyes for an awesome solution to a design problem I have been turning over and over in my head, was the piece on Mary McDonald's interiors in LA. You see, we have a new design dilemma, what to do to update a room to suit a young lady whose room hasn't changed much since she was thirteen. This room happens to have a red wall very similar to the red in the McDonald dining room.

Recently, my older daughter graduated from The University of Oklahoma, and moved home with an internship and further preparations ahead for law school. Which brings us to our design dilemma. What to do to make a room, originally created for a young teenager, appealing to a young adult?

A few years ago, not long after we moved into our house, we painted her room Ralph Lauren's Devonshire, with an accent wall of Hunting Coat Red. These paint chips don't quite depict the color as brilliantly as it exists in reality. The hunting coat red is very vibrant, both colors are less blue than they appear here.

That's pretty much where we stopped, a few pieces of artwork were hung, a few pieces of furniture were purchased, to replace the small chest we bought for her as a baby, but no drapes or window treatments, beyond providing privacy, were ever added.

Slowly, as the collections that are inevitable with middle school and high school and college gather in one's life, the room took on a look that was comfortable, but less sophisticated than she would like.

Now we are needing some drapes to up the sophistication factor.

This leads to our next style dilemma: The Mid-Century Madness

Oh, one other thing, lately, owing much to the Series Mad Men she had become especially fond of, as she put it, all things mid-century. If we change any furniture, she wants them to have some comfort factor. Think more Eero Saarinen, far left, less Bertoia, near left.

Now this is a style which surrounded me when I was younger, much younger. We called it Danish Modern when I was living it. The term Mid-Century is more recent and appears to have been coined for Cara Greenburg's book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. My mother was a Colonial (for the den and some of the bedrooms) and French Provincial (for the Formal living room) decorator rather than a Danish, International Style or any other kind of Modern decorator. In our mid-century suburban ranch house, we lived the mid-century style: it was around us, both in the homes of friends and sprinkled in to ours. We had an Atomic Starburst clock and the candle sconces that usually came with said clock, comfortably ensconced in the same room as the colonial highback couch, some onion bulb lamps, nestled near the French Provincial furniture and an atomic TV light. Ours was orange, and melted on one side from the time it fell over! The country club, where my father was golf pro, had Danish modern chairs. When the club remodeled with a more Ralph Lauren / East Coast "Country Club Style" and less California / Palm Springs / Rat Pack / Danish modern style, they were cast off in favor of heavier stuff. While we are examining Mid-Century, let's not forget the influence of television shows. The Dick Van Dyke show, set in a very modern, very California style suburban house placed in New Rochelle, New York, oozed Mid-Century style. I've checked it on, Rob and Laura Petrie's house can't be found in New Rochelle! The picture below is from The Babuk Report.

So now we have two problems.

First, what to do to add window treatments to a red wall, that won't diminish it, since we don't want to repaint it just yet. Second, how to update the style to add some mid-century style without a total redo and lacking those off-white linen drapes that we left back in that ranch.

Achieving a Mid Century look is not so easy when the room has a British Colonial decor. Lacking, as my daughters' like to say, the fundage to completely redo the room in mid-century modern, we started to ask some questions. Could we keep the British Colonial furniture, yet still create some mid-century sensibility by adding some accents, say drapes, lamps and artwork simultaneously upping the sophistication? Can we infuse the room with the Rat Pack / Mad Men feel?

Draperies being the first addition brought to mind another problem with Mid-Century design, purist Modernists generally lack window treatments. The architecture was stunning, if there were drapes at all, the windows were a wall of beige, slubby beige. The sense of the time was that the architecture, the view, and furniture were the stars. Everything was the star except the window treatments. It was as if the designers, dare I say it, just stopped designing at the windows.

We turned again to the article on Mary McDonald, and a clue emerged in the very first question of the article, a reference to "channeling Tony Duqette". So, we channeled, actually we surfed. This Duquette designed house in Bel Air, CA, seems to have the right mix of drama and serenity, modernity and traditionalism. Though it is a bit more Hollywood kitsch then suits my daughter. And the drapes, if taken completely literally, would be red. Tough to match and to find. So, on to the next consideration.

Now, slubby linen is wonderful and would make a definite Mid Century statement, but we have that aforementioned red wall, which we had no desire to repaint, we have that British Colonial feel already going on in much of the room and that fundage issue, slubby linen ain't cheap, especially now that it's popular.

So we stared at the wall and moved our heads this way and that, to better see the possibilities. We visualized it empty, not tough as it already was. We visualized it draped in damask and visualized it draped in ikat. We considered whether to go, as McDonald had with a dramatic, patterned fabric; considering this fabric and that fabric.
Were we going to have to go custom? Would these fabrics, though graphic, push push the look forever out of reach of the Mid-Century modern that she craved?

Then, it hit us. Considering all we knew about Mid-Century Design its origins in the thirties, the shared references to International Style and to Streamlined Art Deco, we realized that what we needed was the industrial inspiration that these designers embraced and transformed. What makes something industrial? Especially, how do you get the look of the mid twentieth century? What was the embodiment of post World War II industrialism? Steel.

Steel colored drapes, cool, out-of-the-machine-shop steel colored rodding, This says industrial. Silken fabric, a nice curve to the finial marries it to the existing look in the room. To complete the look, a white down comforter replaces the country-style snow man flannel comforter and future additions are planned for an upholstered headboard, a Danish modern bedside table and desk chair and a Lamp with Modern sensibilities. But for now a black steel bookshelf replaces the american painted end table. (I know, on what planet is that British Colonial?)

Here's is the mood board.

The pictures of "The Look, So Far" aren't turning too hot. Seems I need to learn how not to breathe, even with antishake, I shake. Here are a before and two afters:

Be sure to head back to Susan's for more Metamorphosis Monday transformations!

BTW, was anyone else out there taught to spell dilemma dilemna as I was?