Antiques and Art as Catalyst for Design

joy of nesting


Years ago I did a residential
design project for a wonderful client (a dear friend now) with amazing artworks
and heirloom antiques. The interiors were worked around her Jack Cassinetto and
Chuck Waldman original oils as well as numerous pieces by other talented artists.




Together, we chose furniture,
fabrics, rugs, lighting, wallpaper and other items that would work well with
and update the look of the house and antiques. We didn’t match the artwork
per se, but we did use the paintings as a catalyst for many of our choices. We
hung pictures and decorative shelves, refurbished antiques, reupholstered all
existing seating, placed furniture, and designed window coverings for every

For the bathrooms we designed shower and window curtains. For the
bedrooms we designed custom headboards, window coverings, and bedding. When the
project was completed, the client in true form, gave the artisans who worked on
the project a party. It meant a lot to all of us, to be acknowledged that way.
It was one of my first projects of that caliber and I felt very fortunate to
work with someone so totally savvy and fun.





Fifteen years have passed and
I still remember the details: mahogany balloon chairs, a matching Eastlake settee
and chair, a tuxedo sofa, a trunk turned cocktail table, taupe and sage linen
toile print feather filled sofa, chair and matching Roman shades, Ralph Lauren
wallpapers and fabrics, an oxblood Chinese wedding cabinet… I could go on.




One of my little coups was
finding a butcher block to fit in the tiny kitchen. I was on an out of town
trip and happened to stumble upon the perfect one. Butcher blocks are
notoriously expensive but this one was discounted because it was missing a
part. The repair work was easy and the piece ended up fitting beautifully.

Another coup was some years later when she asked me to update the master
bedroom. Instead of using the existing blue color scheme, we went back to her
favorite, pink. I found the most stunning pearl pink and pale gray wide stripe
wallpaper (a perfect departure from the more common pinks we often see), a
to-die for four poster mahogany rice bed, and French modern dressers.

We hung a
large collection of framed Godey prints in symmetrical fashion. Finished, it’s
closely knit layout looked like one large picture. We kept the heirloom
standing mahogany mirror, one of my very favorite of her pieces. What I loved
about the new bedroom was how it mixed the contemporary wallpaper and dresser
with the traditional bed frame and old fashioned, Victorian era Godey’s.
Unfortunately, I never had it photographed. She has since moved and I’m still
kicking myself.




I thought about the project
above when I recently attended an event with a designer from a large, northern
California city. I was familiar with her work and solid reputation. She began
her firm in 2006 and repeatedly stated throughout the evening that she doesn’t
enjoy working with family heirlooms. She likes to begin each project with a
fresh slate. I was stunned by this and wondered why anyone would want a home
furnished without any sort of history if it was available to them.




In Sacramento’s William Land
Park recently, we worked with some fine antiques including a sweet little
Victorian settee and matching chair. I found a great, cream colored upholstery
fabric with bright coral, velvet dots. I love how the playful fabric totally
changes the pieces.



Above, the late ALBERT HADLEY

In my own home most of the
furniture is vintage or antique. Many pieces have a special meaning or memory.
The little wood rocker in a reading corner of the living room was given to me
by my late mother-in-law at the time of my son’s birth. The brass bed in the
master bedroom was a piece my late husband ferreted out of the attic of his
childhood home. My great grandmother’s antique dresser now sits in my living
room, housing books, extra place mats and a few Christmas decorations. Its
finish has turned slightly orange over the years. I adore the old bird’s eye
maple dresser, also in the master bedroom which has been painted every color
under the sun. Some color choices have been more successful than others.




Antiques and artwork have
provided a solid design direction in some of the grandest homes in the country.
Yes they add history but for me, I love the “look” of mixing old and new
elements in my residential projects.

I especially love the sentimental aspect
of using and reusing things that were special to me… when my son was young and
still living at home. 



Shiree’s Cheat Sheet

  • When furnishing a home with
    antiques, try working in some trendy fabrics and accessories to bring them up
    to date.
  • Mixing traditional and
    contemporary pieces is easier if you find a common denominator such as color
    and fabric styles.
  • The term antique as applied
    to furniture is defined as being at least 100 years old, while vintage is
    defined as at least twenty years old.
  • To collect artwork, research,
    evaluate and buy pieces that attracts your eye. Choose each individual work in
    a way that forms meaningful groupings, also called collecting.
  • Serious collectors agree,
    don’t decorate your home around your artwork and don’t collect artwork around
    your décor.



Hotel Peculier


April 3, 2014

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Antiques and Art as Catalyst for Design

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Antiques and Art as Catalyst for Design