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.