Modernizing the interiors of new luxury classical residences

Modernizing the interiors of new luxury classical residences.

Lately, I've been asked, more and more, to modernize certain interior aspects of the classical houses that we've been designing. In order to do this successfully and with little disharmony (if any !), my staff and I will often look to the moderne period of the early twentieth century for inspiration, not for the exteriors but for the interior architecture only. In this period, one often finds a kind-of “stripped-classical” approach to high-style design whereby the interior ornamentation has simply never been added! The result, of course, are very bold and crisply articulated rooms and spaces. As I recall, earlier requests of this type were mostly for bathrooms and kitchens (although we did do a couple of entirely moderne projects early on). Whereas, more current requests can include master bedrooms, stairs, family rooms, pool houses, as well as bathrooms and kitchens.

We've also been designing modern cabinetry for classical or vernacular interiors as well. By inserting modern book-shelving or kitchen cabinets into more traditional spaces, we have easily achieved a modern, fresh appearance in rooms with traditional doors, windows & moldings. I think this approach, in some ways, echoes the European model of renovating (or retrofitting) very old classical buildings or even vernacular farmhouses. Because Europe (and Great Britain) have such a huge abundance of buildings that are centuries old, and because these buildings are beautiful for the most part, their citizens often have seen it to be only natural to retrofit these buildings in more up to date modern ways. I really think that we North Americans have seen this European approach so often in magazines and movies that we now see it as a legitimate design style. That is, we are seeing this and then reinterpreting it as a way to build from the ground up, instead of over time! Of course, this approach gives a kind-of “added-on” and “renovated” appearance to a “beautiful older house”, while in fact, everything is new!!

The lesson I've learned: we Americans crave history and beauty, but we also love modern art and clean lines. What a blessing to have both in a new dwelling !!!!

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