18 Aug 2009

‘All Stars No Chorus Line’

Something a very talented and wise designer told me. She elaborated by saying that a truly great room was a mix of the important and the less important; a room where the ‘chorus’ complimented and enhanced the ‘stars’ of the room. She felt that a room overloaded with pedigree art and priceless furnishings would never have the ‘zing’ factor that a room with a combination of the serious and the not so serious would.

‘All stars and no chorus line’ has never been a problem that I have faced simply because I don’t like an interior that screams, provenance, provenance, provenance. The more I see and learn about interiors the more I realize that my designer friend was right. It is the whimsy, the eclectic and the unexpected that makes a room sing. The beautiful 17th century commode looks even more stunning with a modern unknown artist hung above. The 18th century screen is highlighted by the mad industrial coffee table placed in front of the shabby chic sofas and arm chairs. The paperback fictions lined up against leather tomes become a folly in the neo-classical bookcase. These descriptions are the interiors of my imagination but they are also the kinds of ideas that I seek out in magazines and design books. This is what I dream of replicating in my own home – rooms that visually delight, that express character, that surprise a little and that brim over with personality. It takes courage to mix it up like this and bravery to defy convention.

The same ‘all stars no chorus line’ wisdom applies for fabrics – Fortuny is fabulous and Percheron is phenomenal but even more so if they are in the company of the more humble linens, hessians or cottons; exquisite French fauteuils radiate chic if they are upholstered in these poor relations. Stools, sofas and armchairs – slip covered or not – don’t need a $$$$ dollar a metre material to look du jour and sophisticated, the addition of cushions from the more thoroughbred lines will achieve that. Inexpensive curtains can hold their own alongside the most prestigious of company as long as they are generous in width and length. Passementerie – braided trimmings, fringes and tassels – are a clever designer’s signature. An adroit use of trim can really turn the plainest girl in the chorus into the most striking of stars. Even though I am an admirer of the contemporary interior I often lament the lack of trimmings in the quest for the clean and the simple. A bit of the messy never hurts…

A star will always be a star but it is the ever changing chorus line that carries the show, xv.

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Bravo Vicki. True pedigree for me lies in the eclectic mix of different character pieces all mixed in together, both important and the not so. You are so right when you say inexpensive curtains can hold their own alongside the more prestigious as long as they are generous in width and length especially when made of natural fibre. I think the placement of furniture and various pieces makes all the difference too. Great post Vicki


Hi Vicki–so beautifully stated! I'm in complete agreement: the same can be said for people and most of life. It is the off note that draws me in and makes me notice the rest of the room. A bit of frou-frou, a shock of unexpected color. The perfect with the slightly crusty. But Jones (my huge poodle) is absolute perfection and he knows it! Have a great week.

down and out chic

this is a wonderful quote and definitely resonates w/my love of eclectic spaces and style. life is a mix of the illustrious and the mundane- why shouldn't our style reflect this?


What a brilliant post Vicki….and oh, so true…..I remember someone telling me that if you can't afford expensive fabric, but a lot of a cheap one !!
I'm actually, not always a fan of sumptuous and expensive interiors. If they are not done correctly, they can look gaudy and, English expression, 'footballers wives' !!!
It's also all to do with having a great eye, isn't it ?
Here's to 'All Stars No Chorus Line'


I just started following your blog.i love your photos.
I am in the design industry (www.fabricealberti.com) and I truly enjoyed your post today.I share your philosophy!I invite you to visit my blog about my previous life in France featuring letters between me & my daughter who has gone off to London to work in the fashion industry.

Rebecca@Harmony and Home

And this, my dear, is why you get paid to write! I am awestruck by this post! The choice of your message, the poetry and rhythm of your words and your command of the English language. I am humbled by your talent! (can you pass a little of that genius my way?) :)


Great Post Vicki, a really enjoyable read!! I too love my decorating books, mags and blogs, but tend to wonder why I sometimes can't get the look that I see in them…. I need to cut back the 'zing'! Have a great week!


So very true yet you have to know how to do this…I seem to lack the talent of adorning rooms…sigh! I so need to get help. What a great post Dear Vicki!


Diane Costanza

I agree, If everything is of the same time period and quality it all fights with each other and your eye doesn't know which way to look first. A few stars and a whimsical chorus line of accessories is the way to go.

Fabulous Finds Gal

That was so beautifully written. I do so agree that a juxtaposition in a room makes it "sing". I'm still learning very slowly. But, I do love to just throw in a cowhide rug into a glitzy room. A little new mixed with a little old just works and brings life to the room. I don't enjoy when room looks like it was just purchased that day from the same store. I know I sure have enjoy the thrill of the hunt and experimenting as my education marches on…


Love this phrase!

The whole time I was reading your post, I was thinking of a recent post on Bunny Williams. Know she's considered a great designer .. . but, all I could think of was that she needed to learn to EDIT.

Just way too much stuff demanding your attention . . …

I also felt the same way when viewing the photos of Yves St. Laurent's homes. Knew it was all remarkable , but my eyes were longing for a place to rest.

Less is more.
Elegance is refusal.
God is in the details.

Ingrid Mida

Give me whimsy and eclectic any day! That is what makes a room feel like home instead of a designer showcase. And yes please support unknown artists!

Laura [What I Like]

You have put this idea so eloquently. I've always had a sense that I don't like "overdone" interiors, but I thought it was because they seemed flashy and insecure somehow. But you're right, it is instead because there's no contrast and therefore no interest!

Vicki Lane

Ha! I have a paper maiche pterodactyl (made by my son in Arts Camp about 20 years ago) perched high atop a rather formal Chippendale type secretary. Every time I think it's time to take it down, I realize that it still makes me smile and I leave it be.


Vicki, from the photos I've seen of your beautiful home interior, I'd say you have achieved this philosophy marvelously. It is my philosophy too, though I didn't know it until you verbalized it in your post today, so thank you.


A timely post Vicky. I am painting the living/dining room of the cottage for a fresh outlook and am inspired by your post to search for an element of surprise! hmmm, you've got me thinking….
xo Roberta


yes, i agree that personality and whimsy are more important than an array of museum-quality pieces or design icons. i love interiors, and the objects within them, to have integrity, to be useful and beautiful or have meaning to their owner. i love the way the french often mix the antique, vintage, cheap-and-cheerful practical and exotic.


I have no idea how to make a room "sing", but I would have LOVED to have been in the Rockettes even once!

Josephine Tale Peddler

Incredible post! Bravo Vicki! There is so much to inspire in that philosophy. I believe it carries through into fashion as well. I love to see people mix up fashion with high and low. Thank you very much for leaving such a kind and generous comment on Belette's Blog for me. I was so intimidated when she first invited me to post as I thought I would have to come straight behind you! Now there's the star and the chorus girl for you! xx

Angie Muresan

I agree with you! Although, honestly I am not a designer, it makes perfect sense. You are a wise woman who always manages to get me to thinking about things I normally wouldn't. The result is that after I read your blog, I look around my place and try to implement your advice.


Makes perfect sense to me Vicki. Fabrics lend themselves so well to this theory – simple black & white cotton ticking & creamy calico are great examples of the 'poor' relations standing their own with their 'richer' cousins. And yes, passementerie is so under-utilized, using the right piece can totally transform the ordinary into the extraordinary! A lovely, thoughtful post.
Millie ^_^


Interesting post Vicki.

I agree with a "bit of messy". I tend to seek that with old leather, faded fabrics and imperfect wood.

Not a big fan of the "crowded house" syndrome. Give me air, plants and a few cushions instead.


Less is more. Vicki, I should imagine whatever you do would have that touch of class and messy here and there looks lived in at least and inviting.

Make Do Style

What a great line – I think I might use that a lot! The rest of the advice is invaluable and best way to justify one item of extravagance.


Oh thank you Vicki for posting this. I really enjoyed your perspective and how right you are.
What you have said for rooms can also relate to personal style.
Let us all be stars!
Have a great day
x Suzi


I think I have a new favorite saying!

I couldn't agree more- when things are all of the same pedigree, or all of one style/age/etc it's not nearly as interesting or fun as what you get with a mix. One's personality comes though so much more with a mix an a bit of the messy!


I, too, admire the clean lines of contemporary, but I must have my things about me, just like Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man. My nest of things, I call it.


Hi Vicki,

I think a room should reflect one's interests, taste and character, and that invariably involves a mix. The art is making everything look good, even if it is cheap and cheerful! A show home interior can look so often look manufactured and unreal.


This is a post after my own heart, Vicki, and I love your designer friend's saying! While I love a lot of different interiors, my favorite ones, the ones I can see myself living in and that most resemble my own home, are those that mix styles, ages and price points. xo


I totally agree! Some interiors mags feature home styled by interior designer's where everything 'matches' and is harmoniously designed, but with no soul. I love a bit of history and personality in a home. Beautiful post!

Junque Couture

oooh. Do you know of any neighboring homes for sale? I have just spent time perusing your blog and am more convinced then ever…I belong in France. I do, I really do!

My Notting Hill

What a great analogy. It really describes why a furniture show room, high end or not, leaves you wanting. Either it's all stars or all chorus. Now you've got me thinking of my rooms & anyway I can upgrade a chorus item to a star.


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