Archive for May, 2012

I couldn’t resist using this photo for my lead-off as it’s title – The Warm Side of Modern – says it all. Let’s say the look of my previous post is not to your taste – too bare, too white, too stark, too new. What to do then? Try treating your Asian pieces as another element in the mix – layering is the key here. Combine items from all different periods and places and be sure to include color, particularly on the walls to warm the space. Tablescaping, collections and details are important too. Throwing in iconographic modern pieces like these Saarinen Executive chairs doesn’t hurt either.

This bedroom, with its Venetian plaster wallpaper, a Murano glass lamp atop a Chinese bedside table, an antique Bessarabian kilim under a 1960s rope-and-rosewood chair from Brazilian designer Jean Gillon, demonstrates just the kind of eclectic mix I am talking about.

This glamorous room by Mary McDonald escapes being called traditional through its single color upholstery, strong graphic lines and large modern art, from the Chinese lacquer cabinet to the French antique chair.

In another view of the same room, the unexpected high gloss leather on that Louis chair adds a modern note to an antique piece – mixing materials is another great strategy to keep antiques from looking old-fashioned in any way.

Every room in Candia Fisher‘s New York apartment is blog-worthy so I can’t stop featuring it, this study being no exception. The surprise of a Chinese table in blue lacquer hits the same note as the patent leather on the Louis chair above. Be sure to note the great Chinese art deco rug on the floor.

Mixing in ethnic textiles and combining global accessories from different cultures is another way to create a fresh warm look. Here Kathryn Ireland puts a Chinese table in with suzani style fabric and a Moroccan lantern.

This bedroom features a similar combination with its Chinese bench, suzani as bedcover and another Moroccan lantern. A surefire formula!

Next in the series will feature styling accessories and collections! Send me photos if you have some you’d like to share!

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What if your style is prevailing modern, but while you lived in Japan (or China or Indonesia or India or Europe or anywhere else) you managed to acquire an antique cabinet or tansu or table that you are not sure fits into your spare aesthetic? One strategy that tends to be successful in contemporary interiors is to treat the item as an objet d’arte – to set it off on its own punctuated by only a few accessories and gallery style white walls. A small bit of punchy bright color will also lighten the mood, or as in the case of the antique Chinese wedding cabinet below, quite a bit of color. Also note the single graphic note struck by the antique Japanese spinning wheel placed on top.

In this stunning room a pair of Chinese lacquered chests crowned by a collection of bird cages functions in a similar fashion. The purple on the chair and the green on the trunk coffee table provide color in the otherwise neutral space. I love how the height of the birdcage topped cabinets lines up with the graphic dark window mullions.

In a glamorous Manhattan loft Chinese pieces mix with modern icons like the Barcelona couch by Mies van der Rohe. A similar lacquered cabinet to the ones in the photo above is topped with a single decorative object, while a red lacquer bench provides a note of color. Walls of mirror further reflect the light and seem to double the size of the space, making it seem as if there is a pair of cabinets in this photo too.

This home in the Pacific Northwest is punctuated by not one but two pawlonia wood and iron strap tansu and a wild chartreuse sofa. I love the open plan space but I am not as hot on the sofa. An exciting detail in this photo is the Japanese silkworm tray basket hung on the wall above the larger tansu. A favorite item of mine for decorating, I have never seen one used in an interior photographed for any magazine or other interior design press.

Low slung modern beds are a perfect match for sword tansu in bedrooms, here anchoring a gallery wall…

…and here at the foot of the bed.

Is this your style? If not, coming soon - Sayonara Series…Antique Furniture in Warm Modern Spaces.

For many more photos of tansu in modern and traditional interiors, check out my previous posts Where Do You Tansu? and Where Do You Tansu? Part II.

Image credits: 1 & 4. Metropolitan Home April 2009, photo credit: Erik Johnson, 2. credit unknown, via American Gypsy Living, 3. Elle Decor September 2005, photo credit: William Waldron, 5. Elle Decor March 2012, photo credit: William Waldron, 6. Metropolitan Home April 2009, photo credit: John Ellis

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This time of year, like always, is bittersweet. It is sayonara season in Tokyo as the school year comes to a close and people get ready to leave, some just for the summer but others forever. Jobs get reassigned back in the US or other home countries, or sometimes there are new assignments, new adventures in store for folks. I have had a flurry of new clients recently who want help sorting out what else they should rush to purchase and pack into their containers and more importantly, how to deploy it all when they get home. Many have entire households of furniture back in the States in a totally different style while others have filled their homes here with tons of Japanese and Chinese pieces that need some space inserted between them to feel fresh. I wonder if the word fusion is too trite to use these days – it is actually quite apropos – and honestly what this blog is so often about, but there is truly a need to fuse their items together to make a cohesive decorative whole.

As a result I am launching a new regular sayonara series, not meant to be comprehensive, but instead to a focus on an idea, a decorative item or answer a question from a reader specifically about integrating their old life into their new one. Since I attended a sayonara party last night – a “college graduation” party – that required me to dress as I did in college, which for me was an Indian print skirt (who else remembers Putumayo?) and Birkenstocks (which I have had to borrow as I forced my self to graduate from them years ago), I decided to focus on the mix of Chinese and Japanese antiques with Indian block prints and other South East Asian textiles to lighten them up. It doesn’t hurt that I have some of this mix going on in my TV room project at the beach house too.

This Chinese cabinet in an older version of Windsor Smith‘s bedroom is just the kind of piece that people living in Asia have purchased. Functional in any room, I love it in the bedroom where all the soft furnishings and fabrics can lighten its dark heaviness. The ruffled bed valence and mix of Indian block print textiles – in indigo no less – link through their shared exoticism to form a pleasing contrast. Vintage luggage junkie me loves the travel reference too that all the Louis Vuitton makes piled on top of the armoire. The graphic modern rug, which looks to be Madeline Weinrib, keeps the space grounded but is much fresher than a Persian.

Here’s the mix again in bedroom designed by Amelia T. Handegan for her South Carolina bungalow. The Chinese table (doesn’t everyone here have one?) and mirror play off the soft paisley of the bedding. The graphic black and white striped rug keeps the space modern and casual. Actually, Handegan’s entire cottage is an exercise in just the kind of mixing I adore and well worth scrolling through on the great new Architectural Digest website. She even repurposes an old Chinese table as a bathroom vanity.

For me personally, I have just scooped up a nice sized remnant of Michael Smith’s Devonshire for Jasper fabric, thinking the tiny print and deeply stained background will make nice pillows to add to the textile mix in the back TV room.

So send me your conundrums – include photos is if you can – and let’s start a conversation about how to integrate our wonderful finds into our larger decorative life. Cheers!


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