Question: I am confused about furniture arranging. My mother-in-law has everything in twos in her living room (except the sofa): two club chairs, two side tables, two lamps, all matching, even twin cubes for the cocktail table. Is this the right way to go? Seems so formal.
Answer: Symmetrical balance is classic, ergo, it feels more formal than an asymmetrical furniture arrangement. However, formality is not necessarily a by-product of symmetry, as you can gather from the photo we show here. Nearly every element in this room is counter-balanced by its alter-ego (or a close look-alike), but still, the overall mood is lively, fresh and totally "today," thanks to designer Jonathan Adler.
A potter gone slightly mad -- in the most joyous sense of the word -- Jonathan moved from wheel-throwing clay in his parents' New Jersey basement as a young teen to an international chain of 20-plus stores now filled with his furniture, fabrics and fun accessories, brightly influenced by mid-century modern style and colors (jonathanadler.com).
This room, with its vigorous mix of patterns and interplay of colors, is formally balanced, yes, but formal, it's definitely not.
By the way, Jonathan is also an author of upbeat books like "My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living," and a designer of news-making interiors, among them, Mattel's Barbie TM Dream House, celebrating you-know-whose 50th Anniversary in 2009.
Jonathan isn't the only designer with a prescription for "Anti-Depressive Living." The recent Furniture Market in High Point fairly vibrated with color and innovative ideas for putting more fun under your roof.
The Madcap Cottage duo, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, cheerfully "banished the beige and the boring" in the breakfast room they designed for the sprawling l930s-vintage show house mounted during Market by the Junior League of Greensboro. No ordinary "cottage" ever saw the likes of their upscaled wallflowers and fabrics, purple furniture and vintage paneling painted exuberant turquoise.
No surprise that John and Jason Oliver cite effusive decorators Rose Cumming and Dorothy Draper among their influences. They also adore Doris Day, whose l959-hit movie, "Pillow Talk," segues neatly into their Madcap Cottage collection of personality pillows for C.R. Laine. Expensive, yes, at $186 to $250, but, as John points out, "Buy a pillow, change your entire room." Not such madcap thinking, after all (www.madcapcottage.com).
We had the same reaction when we happened upon an enterprise called Primitive Twig during the Furniture Market. Sculptors Bill Finks and wife Marcia travel the globe exhuming oddments like old dolls heads and limbs, tin toys and vintage lamp parts to reassemble into unsettling -- and undeniably original -- artworks that have been featured in such chi-chi stores as Bergdorf Goodman, NYC. Take a look at primitivetwig.com.
Another oldie is a goodie again: famed fashion house Scalamandre has revived the glam "Le Zebre" collection first designed in l945 by Flora Scalamandre and famously installed in the New York Italian restaurant, Gino of Capri. Prancing across a brilliant red background, its black-and-white zebras have made cameo appearances in movies like "Mighty Aphrodite" and "The Royal Tennenbaums." Now they're back and rarin' to dramatize the homes of the brave (scalamandre.easternaccents.com).
Even a formally balanced furniture arrangement does not a 'formal' room make when the decor's a bit OTT. Photo: Courtesy Jonathan Adler.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design.