Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016

1.15.2009

Modern Art, Trad Setting



I'm on record as saying this is my all-time favorite Michael Smith-designed room. My mom and longtime friends can attest to that as I've talked about it for years. No one else seems to love it as much as I do (it received a tepid response when I posted it in 2007) but one of my designer friends does admit that the room is, "a really fresh take on a classic look." We both think the juxtaposition of Conrad Marca-Relli's painting with refined antiques makes it. (Not to mention what Aesthete describes as, "the funkily unexpected hydrangea print" on the loveseat.)

Marca-Relli was an American artist closely associated with Abstract Expressionism. During the Great Depression he was one of many artists who found work through the WPA Federal Art Project, and later in the 1950s he began experimenting with collage. Historians cite Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning as major influences. The Marca-Relli collages that are celebrated today were often created using fragments of canvas or linen overpainted with bold strokes. Personally, I'm drawn to the calligraphic nature of the brushstrokes. (Visit Hollis Taggart Galleries to learn more.)

Above, an iconic Slim Aarons photograph is propped nonchalantly. Smith is known for weaving together lush color and pattern, as well as multi-cultural influences. Details follow below.



Apart from being a personal favorite, this room is such a great example of what gallery owner Emily Amy discussed last week -- using modern or contemporary art with traditional furniture. In case you're curious, this was the living room of Lori Laughlin and Mossimo Giannulli. Margaret Russell produced the story for Elle Décor (circa 2000?).

When I was working on last year's "See How They Wrap" tastemakers' holiday series, I asked Kelly Robson about her plans. She said, "Oh, all I'm doing this December is black grosgrain on brown kraft paper." Turns out Michael Smith feels that's the only way to go (from the Needleman interview). Image via domino.




























































33 comments:

Karena said...

A favorite of mine is to do exactly this, as it creates so much interest. Designing a room around a wonderful abstract or contempoary work of art. It stand out and you will love it forever!

Style Court said...

Karen -- thought you might appreciate this one!

Dianne said...

As an artist I have been telling clients and friends this for years. Modern art, traditional furnishing...perfection. Mrs. Blandings has done this very thing suberbly. It's so fresh and highlights the art wonderfully.

Style Court said...

Hi Diane -- I agree, Patricia's living room is a superb example.

Grant K. Gibson "the blog" said...

I struggle so hard with my personal space with putting modern art with traditional rooms. My place is very traditional and I would love to mix it up and put some modern art in or a parsons table or a little mid century something- but in a way I am afraid! I have friends that are designers and can mix things so well- I guess I should keep trying- as every time I see modern and traditional in a room done well I just swoon.

Style Court said...

Sorry I misspelled your name Dianne!

Style Court said...

Well Grant, I do love your interiors just as they are. I think you are a master at using silver trophies :)

An Aesthete's Lament said...

What makes it, for me, is the funkily unexpected hydrangea print on the chair. Like a granny heirloom somehow snuck into the room from its previous home in Palm Beach.

Style Court said...

Aesthete, I agree and wish I'd said that!

It's integral to the whole look and feel. Thanks as always.

Anonymous said...

One of my all time favorite rooms too... I've got it tabbed in my copy of Michael's book and find myself looking at it all the time. It's been an incredible inspiration as I decorate my own living room.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is a beautiful example of Smith's work. The mix of contemporary art and traditional furniture, gorgeous drapery treatment as well as the hydrangea print on the settee are terrific. A room to be studied.
Marion from Kentucky

Style Court said...

Marion and Anon -- so nice to hear from others who like this room too!

It is a room to study over and over.

The Peak of Chic said...

Courtney- To me, this room seems a little lighter in feel than some of his other interiors. It's also got an old-fashioned formality to it that I like.

Style Court said...

Jennifer -- good observation! Maybe the old fashioned aspect draws me in.

MIMILEE said...

Courtney, I do love contemporary art mixed with antiques! It creates a such chic ambiance to me! I have a wonderful friend who is a designer and I noticed her doing this many years ago and since then I have loved it! Great post, Courtney and I am anxiously awaiting to see what Michael does for the Obamas.....I know it will be fabulous!! I think Michele made an excellent choice!!

Pigtown-Design said...

I have a friend with an early 1800's house... very traditional, except she's got a huge Georgia O'Keefe in the dining room. It's just perfect in scale and colour and really makes the space sing.

katiedid said...

Micheal Smith is one of my all time favorite designers. I must say that having grown up in a home with contemporary art in a mostly traditional setting, it has stayed with me as the sort of design that I like the best. I agree it creates a much more interesting dynamic. And in reverse, I like traditonal art in a contemporary setting.
Thanks Coutrney!

Decorno said...

Wow. First two photos were heart-stopping. I can't believe you got a lukewarm response to this room initially. That's traditional the I could live with.

Style Court said...

D --

Finally someone who finds it heart-stopping!

Style Court said...

Mimi -- thanks! And I agree, Michael has the right blend of respect for the past and fresh perspective. Don't know how much they plan to change, but I can't help but be curious. Maybe he'll be really resourceful.

Style Court said...

Meg -- sounds lovely.

Style Court said...

Katie -- a choice we can get excited about :)

Mrs. Blandings said...

Michael Smith is one of the few who can make me love a white wall.

Mike said...

I actually got into an argument about Michael Smith yesterday! It takes a fine eye to completely embrace his brilliance. Sure, there are those who admire his work, but to completey appreciate his talent takes a a fine eye. Of course, your eye is just the refined eye needed to capture the nuance of his interiors, Courtney.

I've had the opportunity to visit this home, and it is just beautifully executed; in fact, it made me wish to change professions altogether, and I still have a few personal photos tucked away of it in a safe place. I feel so honored to have had the chance to experience Michael's work in person. His hand is a deft one, indeed, and I adore the way he is able to create a pleasurable amount of tension into a traditional room. He is, to be honest, humbling.

I would have been so very happy to have had a Bunny take on the White House, a Mary take on the White House, or a Bilhuber take on the White House, but Smith's vision will be utterly and uniquely sublime.

J.S. said...

I hadn't seen this room (I dont have his book) and I agree with many of you its very pretty! In a sort of old fashioned way that I must admit is also particularly to my taste. That shade of green in the curtains against all the creamy painted paneling is so polite, classic in that 1920s or 30s way. As are those Waterford style big sconces- I wonder if they are original to the room and are they old? That touch of old fashioned chintz on a period settee is indeed the perfect touch of that "family piece" look and mixed with a dignified modern painting it really balances the whole mix. Its all making me very excited about the White House but some how I think it wont be this old school at all.... or maybe it will? Mr. Smith is certainly the only decorator since Kennedy era where the question of what he might do is totally intriguing!

Style Court said...

Hi Mike -- what a treat to visit his house. Really a privilege.

I wish a magazine could simulate all the various designer fantasy's for the WH -- all the ones we've discussed the past year in addition to Mr. Smith: Mary M, Miles, Sheila Bridges, Nate, Daryl Carter, Suzanne Rheinstein!

Style Court said...

JS -- love your input. Thanks! The sconces, I've read, were not there when the couple bought the house.

Visual Vamp said...

Mod and trad my two favorite pairings, but very tricky to get just right.
Mr. Smith going to Washington will give us all a lift, don't you think?!
xo xo

Cote de Texas said...

Ive always love those curtains, with the linings - gorgeous!!!!! I am so pumped about Smith - did you see him on tv - Paloma has it on her blog.

columnist said...

To me this is the ultimate of good design - mixing traditional with modern, (either through furniture, or through art). I think it overcomes the museum-like qualities if you make an entire scheme traditional, (and all modern is uninteresting too).

This black and white picture is hugely dramatic and creates a terrific contrast to the more traditional furnishings.

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Gorgeous post today! Thanks!

Laura said...

I think this is quite well done, and the modern art takes it out of the realm of "too old fashioned". I'll be honest, it's not necessarily my style, but that doesn't mean he hasn't done a beautiful job. It simply means that (aside from the art) I don't necessarily want to live in this room. But if he can do what he's done in this room with the White House, I think we all have quite a bit to be excited about as a nation.

Michael Henderson said...

Mixing abstract art with traditional or antique furniture is something that a lot of people do not consider. I realized the value of it when I moved to Venice, Italy. Venice is a grand mixture of the ancient and the modern, and has a very lively abstract art market. It really works.