I knew I was in the right place when I walked into the theater and saw a picture of an 1833 neoclassic home projected on the screen — boxwood, blue sky, shingles and columns. I ask you, is there anything better?Monday night American designer and decorator Thomas O’Brien spoke at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on what is the new American modern? For O’Brien it’s somewhere between designing bed linens for the masses (Target) and decorating the homes of the elite — Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan to name a few.
As a girl with both feet firmly planted in the traditional style (perhaps even buried up to my waist in it) I was less enthused about the modern aspect of O’Brien’s designs. Until, he explained, that everything is modern in it’s own time. Of course, in every era or period there was/ is a modern movement. If mid-century — the design period most thought of as modern — isn’t your bag, look for what was “modern” from the design periods you love.
For a modern guy there is still plenty of tradition in O’Brien’s new book American Modern. Tradition that’s done clean, fresh and livable. Livable, another theme of the evening — combine the fine with the casual, sit on your furniture and appreciate an antiques’ laugh lines and other signs of age. Most importantly — use and abuse those marble countertops because their patina is the difference between a home and a showroom.
O’Brien says that he hates giving decorating tips; the new currency in this staple gun world of HGTV. No tips because for O’Brien its’ not about decorating — for him it’s all about the home — the total lifestyle. “It’s the stuff, it’s the stuff” the “things you need to start” the basic domestic items — sheets, bowls, plates, silverware — that layer upon layer make your house a home.