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COVER 54: Spaces

In the Spring issue of COVER we see that for some interiors more is more. In Spaces, Elisabeth Parker demonstrates how a bold rug is perfectly at home in a maximalist interior

Nick Olsen, Kips Bay Decorator Show House.

Nick Olsen, Kips Bay Decorator Show House.

Call it what you will—more is more, maximalism, layered look or cosy chaos—it is a continuing and popular trend, the antithesis of the neutral, monochromatic, and, some might say, boring look of the popular minimalist design movement.

The key ingredients of a successful maximalist interior are texture, vibrant colour, exoticism, pattern and more pattern. This design approach traces its roots to the Baroque and Rococo periods. During the Baroque era (roughly 1600-1750), exotic materials became more accessible and popular as European trade increased with Africa, Asia and South and Central America. Lacquerwork, porcelain, textiles and rare and precious materials all contributed to the excessive and impressive look of a Baroque interior. The Rococo or ‘Late Baroque’ period (1730-1760) was shorter-lived than the Baroque, but introduced a playfulness and light-heartedness that was previously lacking.

There are many designers working today in this exuberant style: Ann Getty, Miles Redd, Nick Olsen, Ken Fulk, Madcap Cottage, Mona Hajj and Justina Blakeney to name just a few. All these designers share in common an adventurous use of vibrant colour on the walls, or occasionally wild or striking wallpaper, in place of a neutral backdrop. They are not afraid to use colours like chartreuse, fuchsia, cobalt, crimson, forest green or gold. Layering textures, both hard and soft, mixing patterns, often with an animal print as an accent, and adding gold, silver or metallic notes, are also key to a successful maximalist interior. Far from discordant, these designers achieve the nearly impossible by imperceptibly creating a link between pieces, colours and pattern.

Anyone can achieve this look—just have confidence in your personality and buy what you love and it should complement each other. A foundation of symmetry can help balance the room as well as a carpet that can keep the whole interior grounded and harmonious.

Adding some fantasy to your life, even if it is just a powder room, bar area or a small vignette on your mantle, has to be good for the soul.

Madcap Cottage

After years of working in magazines, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon teamed up to create Madcap Cottage which has grown and evolved into not only a design firm, but a lifestyle brand that includes fun fabric, bold wallpaper, wicker furniture and much, much more. Deciding they needed a change after 25 years in New York City, they moved to High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capital of America, to focus on new branding and creative opportunities. The move, of course, meant purchasing a 1930s Regency Revival home with great bones, christened ‘House of Bedlam’ where they could really spread their design wings.

Their 2017 book Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints and Patterns (Harry N. Abrams) highlights their home in High Point, including this jewel box of a room. Dubbed the ‘Opium Den’, the colourful 1930s Chinese Art Deco carpet provides punch and a bold pattern that plays off of the teal walls, tassel-fringed lampshades, and global objects sprinkled throughout the room.

Hutton Wilkinson

The undisputed modern king of more is more was Los Angeles-based designer Tony Duquette (1914-1999). A protégé of famed designer Elsie de Wolfe, Duquette designed over-the-top jewellery, costumes, set designs, society parties and interiors. In his home, Dawnridge, in Beverly Hills, Duquette and his wife collaborator, Elizabeth ‘Beegle’ Johnstone, created a fantastical and whimsical environment filled with faux-malachite, Asian antiques, leopard prints and colourful carpets. His true talent was turning the simple into magical and mesmerising decorative objects. For Bay Area socialite Dodie Rosekrans’s Venice Palazzo, he lacquered simple sticks and branches a bright red to mimic coral for a chandelier. His ability to marry texture, pattern, colour and objects into a dramatic, mystical and delightful space is un-paralleled.

Duquette’s legacy is carried on today by Hutton Wilkinson who worked with Duquette for 30 years. He and his wife Ruth purchased Dawnridge from the Estate and after selling many of the antiques and carpets with Christie’s in 2001, they carefully restored the compound to its former splendour and documented it in his recent book Tony Duquette’s Dawnridge.

After Tony and Beegle Duquette’s deaths, and the subsequent sale at Christie’s, Hutton Wilkinson redecorated the main living room using only objects made by them. The striking sapphire-blue Axminster carpet is centred perfectly under the Duquette designed chandelier that is original to the house (circa 1949). Always shopping and looking for treasures, Duquette found this carpet while in Ireland when he was decorating Barretstown Castle, outside of Dublin, for Elizabeth Arden. The carpet is truly the foundation of this room and allows all the splendour to shine, especially the eye-catching work of art on the back wall, A Fragment of a Priestess’ Robe or a Specimen of Rhinestone Disease created by Duquette for his one-man ‘Personal Culture’ exhibit in Los Angeles in 1970.

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