Great design transcends time – Modern Meets Traditional

Great design transcends time – Modern Meets Traditional

  |   Tips, Tricks and Insights

Written for Art, Antiques and Design (By Gail Green)

History proves that trends come and go; what’s trendy one moment becomes passe the next. But, great design transcends the barriers of time and place. The qualities that rise above the shabby-chic or super minimalist modern are those of attention to detail and quality workmanship. These two attributes expressed through the eye of the professional create timeless, classic masterpieces that defy the age into which they were born. This is not to imply that a Deco or 18th Century interior could not be identified as such, but that if placed in a space in any century, it would look as though it perfectly belonged there.

In an age where niche marketing is the song of the brand professional, great design defies any compartmentalization. As Cole Porter writes, “Anything Goes,” that is, whether a room is modern or traditional or both, the Renaissance approach is best. It is, if you will, a more holistic tendency to harmoniously blend all elements into one synesthetic experience. It is a fulfilling composition because the scale, proportion, and ratio of the parts are happily married. Was it not Da Vinci’s perspective that many different points of view encompassed a more humanistic approach, thereby making man, a thinking man, one whose boundaries are endless? Like so with design where, when done to a degree of excellence, the imagination soars and poetry presides.


Robert Adam, the 18th Century Architect, Designer, and Decorator was one such creator, designing houses, furniture, and accessories all in symbiotic relationship to each other. The 19th Century poet, architect, artist, wallpaper designer, etc. William Morris had a similar vision, as did Charles Rene Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier. These visionaries were not compartmentalists. They envisioned their craft as a confluence of harmonious elements. Like a bespoke suit, when one walks into their spaces, all seams disappear and spaces flow.

Effortlessly Blending together

So, here we are in the 21st century, where specialization reigns. In truth, whether modern or traditional, the elements of great design breaks these barriers. In the pictured traditional room, attention to detail is sublimely subtle and quality craftsmanship is superior in these rooms. It is difficult to tell when one surface material drops off and another begins, all is so effortlessly blended together. It is as though this room was created in one century and stayed at home for several more.

In more moderne spaces, attention to detail is also pre-eminent. Workmanship is beautifully crafted, no one element takes reign over another. Here, too, the elements are successfully married. In this Renaissance approach, the exterior architecture meets the interior design with an inner calm. The decoration, that is, the furnishings, are also sewn together to create a painted whole. And, while the materials may be stainless steel or cast glass, modern to say the least, they fit into their natural landscape with grace and ease. Even with the use of an historical color palate painted upon flying beams and glass block, the spaces fit, inside and out. It is not niche driven; rather it is all encompassing. An apartment designed thirty years ago, looks new and maintains its integrity.


As Michael Simon, the Designer, so succinctly notes, “Great design does transcend time and style. We are all familiar with famous rooms that have been repeatedly published in books and magazines. These rooms traverse many different tastes and time periods, yet they are always fresh. There’s a reason certain rooms resonate and it has nothing to do with the latest fad or what is considered to be fashionable. There isn’t a new idea under the sun. Everything has been done at one point or another. Technology changes, but ideas do not. People tire of any expression that reaches the point of saturation. That’s why the pendulum always swings. There must be a reaction to a point of view once it trickles down to the most common denominator. Since construction and decorating are so expensive, clients would be better off trusting their instincts and personal taste rather than following the crowd. Those who follow the crowd get lost in it and there’s no fun in that!”

“Scale, proportion, line, rhythm and counterpoint are the underpinnings that separate good work from mediocrity,” Michael notes. “Style is almost incidental. Those foundational elements are necessary in any art form, whether it be music, dance, literature, cuisine, or design. In addition, everything has historic precedent. Rooms that are of our time, but draw on the past, last because they have soul. Soulless interiors cannot last, they fade into the forgotten landscape of bad design. ”

And, so it goes…”Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut.


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