Abstract Art & Period Property - How to Create a Refined Mix

Newly acquired property always feels empty and not lived in when you first move in. It may take months or even years to furnish your home with everything your heart desires: from finding an ideal painting for a drab corner or a light fixture that makes the room come alive. Bearing this in mind, for owners of period properties one further task presents itself: how to add interest and drama in your home that subtly encompasses both tradition and contemporary design aesthetic? How to reference rich cultural heritage whilst creating modern appeal? Is it possible to decorate your home with antique or vintage finds without making it look like your grandmother’s house?

Whilst researching this concept for one of my interior design clients, I came across an article in Architectural Digest Grand Gestures by William Middleton that deals with this particular issue beautifully. The home featured is a Federal-style mansion in Houston that impeccably pairs the contemporary with the bygone. Interior decorator Elissa Cullman, who oversaw the design of the interior, exercised her smart take on tradition to give the house its distinguished look.

To achieve the same, do not hesitate to pair ultra conservative pieces with bold and visually arresting objects and colours. The abstract painting by Simon Hantai is the perfect antidote to the ornately embellished marble top table. The tall and handsome delphiniums add a touch of deep and delicate softness to the white room, which could otherwise appear somewhat austere. 

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Throughout the house the artworks not only lend themselves to be appreciated as striking focal points but also counterbalance the traditional features. The calm and restrained colour palette used for soft and hard finishes, paired with pieces imbued with history against bold art create welcome tension and drama whilst emphasising the polarities of the styles separated by eras but united in their aesthetic appeal.   The stronger the art, the more elegant the antique pieces, the more dramatic the effect. Overall result - a memorable and considered look that is imbued with energy and sophistication that works in any interior, however grand or small.

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The referenced article appeared in Architectural Digest, December 2013. Photography by Bjorn Wallander.

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