Interior designer Alessandra Branca shared her tips for creating her signiture look (comfortably classic) with WilliamsSonoma.com. Read on for helpful hints that are easy to apply and equally rewarding!
Reinvent history. The more you study and read, you’ll see there are certain forms that have transcended time. Everything at one point was the new, new thing, but there are certain items we’ve taken along with us throughout history, like Greek Klismos chairs or Chinese ginger jars. I like to reinterpret tradition in a new way, like doing a porcelain garden seat in a wild color. This not only makes a piece more interesting and more personal, but keeps you moving forward and prevents you from yawning.
Dress up. Think about classicism in terms of your wardrobe and the things you reach for and can recreate year after year. Certain housewares act similarly, like a beautiful, sculptural porcelain lamp or a very simple round mirror. I love rush matting too–a sisal rug works anywhere, and you can always layer an antique carpet over it to change the look. I like to mix different styles and silhouettes and play with high and low–like pairing jeans with a Chanel jacket.
Think ahead. I don’t do period rooms. Some people may want a strict colonial style and that’s fine but that’s not what suits me. Unless you’re in a museum it’s not practical for our time. We live differently now. When you’re looking at an image for inspiration, understand what you like about it and close the book on it. Think about what works for you and how to make it yours, rather than simply reproducing something that’s already been done. Don’t fall into the trap of what’s of the moment either. If you focus on building a thoughtful foundation of pieces you love, your space will grow with you.
Simplify your spending. It’s better to have few but beautiful things. When I’m shopping for furniture, I look for the cleanest and most classical forms, not the gooped up stuff. A square backed Louis Seize chair is a wonderful thing to buy. When you’re upholstering, remember the biggest items in a room, or the ones you really invest in, should be the most neutral. For fabrics I like natural materials and find linen velvet very long lasting. Accessories can be more elaborate or busy. It’s easier and less expensive to take risks with smaller items, like a bench or chair in a pop accent.
Age gracefully. When selecting finishes, remember that distressed paints are going to retain their look better over time than something really pristine. Items that have been stained, buffed, and waxed are more forgiving. Glossy French polishes are beautiful but require more upkeep and discipline. If you have kids, lacquered surfaces aren’t practical. Be realistic about the choices you make to find pieces that are going to accept your life.
Separate twins. Symmetry is a timeless design principle, and a wonderful way to create balance, which is inherently pleasing and soothing. It doesn’t, however, mean you need to buy everything in pairs. If you’re decorating around a fireplace, it’s perfectly fine to use a settee on one side and a banquette on the other. Think more broadly about drawing out similarities in height, function, and concept. There’s nothing wrong with mixing styles either–it’s nice to create some visual tension.
Forget fluorescents. Certain palettes are promoted more than others at certain times, at which point I won’t use them as much. Teal and eggplant feel very 80′s to me, and hunter and burgundy are similarly tough. I take my color cues from Renaissance paintings, and also from nature. I love colors that look like they withstood time: taupe and grey-beige, reds, blues, mossy green. Anything day-glo or too strong isn’t going to last.
My favorite items at WSH (William Sonoma Home). The Kate slipper chair is a sure shot. It’s comfortable, has great proportions, and since it’s a smaller piece you could get away with doing it in zebra or persimmon. The Beverly sofa has that classic English chesterfield form, and would be so chic in dark grey velvet. The Mason desk could also be used behind a sofa, or in a small apartment, you could even dine on it. The loft standing lamp is attractive in brass, and it has an urban edge that could work in any interior. And you can never have too many cashmere throws, especially monogrammed in a contrasting color.
-Alessandra Branca, Branca Interiors