To illustrate Vogue's second essential ingredient found in a well-mannered, harmonious home -- sincerity -- I've chosen some preview images from Michael S. Smith Houses. For years the designer has been on my short list of most admired, and when I briefly met Smith in person he seemed relaxed with a great sense of humor.
This humor, and Smith's true voice, really come through in his latest book. I treasure my signed copy of his first title, but the second edition has a soulful edge. He spends more time exploring his passion for cross-cultural design and the style to which he has always been true -- a sexy, laid-back take on English country.
And although Smith is known for using high-end fabrics and fine antiques, his interiors are enduring, flexible, and never need to be "updated." So, in a way, there is something frugal and very real about them.
In a few weeks when I put together my list of book picks for holiday giving, I'll share more on Smith Houses. (You will flip for the bedrooms and textiles.) For now here are some guidelines for sincerity as described in Vogue's Book of Etiquette, 1969. To me they echo Smith's approach.
"Sincerity in a house is simply the look of belonging so completely to its occupants that they are familiar and at home with everything in it. It is a true sense of values and a lack of serious pretense in any form."
The most beautiful antique is made to be used as well as admired.
Ornaments are collected because of genuine interest and delight rather than current popularity.
Vogue says avoid displaying photographs of famous people you barely know; no decorative name-dropping; nothing solely for impressing others.
Choose everyday china that is "as pretty as your purse permits..."
Have fresh flowers even when guests are not expected.
Reproductions are fine when they are honest and not trying too hard; avoid the grandiose.
In the right hands a little obvious pretense can be light-hearted and fun: the frankly fake fur rug, enormous paper flowers. But in the wrong hands these things can "cheapen a whole room."
A sincere interior comes in all styles -- modern, minimal, layered. The point is that it feels real for the occupant.
"A wise client will never allow a decorator to tempt her into choosing any object, color, or pattern that has no meaning for her, or into discarding any possession she loves."
Image three is from Elle Decor
All others are ©Michael S. Smith Houses by Michael Smith and Christine Pittel, Rizzoli New York, 2008.
The top two images, again from the book, are renderings by Mark Matusak.