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Top Tips! Modern Luxe

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Minimalism’s long run as home decor’s default style is far from over but decorative design is making a very definite COVID-related comeback. Imogen Clyde outlines the look

PHOTOS COURTESY OF Pexels

Moving into 2022, our homes are becoming, for want of a better word, decorative. It seems our dreams of a Spartan, Zen-like future really were just that. Having spent so much time at home – confined to our homes – these past couple of years, we are finding that what we want from them has changed. We want colour, comfort and let’s face it, a touch of glam – cold, clean minimalism has lost a lot of its appeal. The best COVID-lifestyle homes are designed to provide a much-needed escape from bleak reality.

Homemakers have always depended on decoration to bring a sense of warmth and individuality to their living spaces. Right now, we want our home comforts, and we also want a taste of old-world luxury. There’s a collective feeling of nostalgia and a need for just a little excess.

The last time this happened was in the war-torn 1940s when modernist philosophy met classicism, and a distinctively ornamental style, classical modernism, came into being. It seems that beset by harsh economic and political realities, we look to interior design to cushion the blow. Just as hemlines go up when world economies prosper, interior design gets dressy and just a little bit decadent when times are bad.

Then as now, the decorative look pays homage to the classical past, with designers taking a fresh look at what came before, while celebrating the novel and the new. Modern need not mean minimalist, nor does it demand a rejection of history.

SET THE STAGE
Defined as modern luxe, classical modernism’s latest incarnation is sumptuous and multi-layered without being fussy or over the top. In creating this look, the challenge is to balance comfort with constraint, old with new, the practical with the desirable. Modern luxe celebrates the minimal, the modern and the pure. At the same time, it delights in the beauty, charm and integrity that informed the furnishings of the classical past.

The trick is to combine an eclectic mix of classically inspired or antique furniture, within a pared-back setting. The feel remains contemporary, since only a few key pieces are used to shape the scheme and ornamentation is carefully controlled.

As an arbiter of timeless good taste, English society decorator Nicky Haslam has perfected the modernluxe look. His style is unabashedly opulent; it’s all about craving high-end luxury and old-world glamour, without ostentation. “I think traditional is the best,” Haslam says. “I like to create utterly comfortable places that make life feel good. The Louis XVI world got it perfectly right.”

Within this type of scheme, a pastiche of different historical styles typically lives together in one room, creating a sense of worldly sophistication and individuality. The idea is to look to the past to bring a new and original slant to the conventional, which is perceived as ordinary and run of the mill. As a result, a state-of-the-art item, like a wall-hung television, may feature in a modern luxe room but due to the surrounding colour scheme, furnishings and/ or rich use of texture, the overall look remains classic and luxurious. Past and present find shared principles and the result is a harmonious and extremely liveable whole.

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BE BOLD WITH COLOUR
Colour is a key component of modern luxe design, found at the walls and floors as well as in the furnishings. In breaking away from the white-on-white minimalist palette, a whole world of colour opens up with decorators tending to favour rich ‘heritage hues’ taken from defining moments in history, whether Georgian, Victorian or Art Deco. Bold colours like these can work as well in modern homes as they do in older ones, assuming their use is carefully controlled – the racing-green paintwork on a statement wall might, for instance, be carried through to the patterns in the surrounding soft furnishings.

Strong colours make powerful accents, and they pair well with gentle, neutral shades. Remember that the look you are going for is elegant and contemporary – avoid trying to cram all the colours of the rainbow into one open-plan living space.

Of course, vibrant colour-use is not a requirement. Tone-on-tone neutrals can be layered to create an appropriately luxurious feel, and you can up the ante with a few pops of black or dark brown. If you’re going the monochromatic route, rich texture is your friend whether introduced in the soft furnishings or accessories.

KEY COMPONENTS:
A MINIMAL BACKDROP
CLASSICALLY INSPIRED
FURNISHINGS
BOLD USE OF COLOUR
AND TEXTURE
KEY COMPONENTS: A MINIMAL BACKDROP CLASSICALLY INSPIRED FURNISHINGS BOLD USE OF COLOUR AND TEXTURE

GET THE LOOK

By daring to be decorative, modern luxe advocates are redefining what is considered contemporary. Super-comfortable, classic pieces (from oversized,padded ottomans to elegant, wing-back chairs) are making a comeback. Seating, whether reproduction or antique, is, for the most part, luxuriously upholstered and extravagantly cushioned. Silk velvet is currently hot, as is herring-bone tweed. Premier pieces exude quality and simplicity, while adding a touch of glamour. Accents shimmer.

Big brands are driving the trend by producing elegant reproductions that are big on antique details. Even in stores like IKEA or G.O.D., you’ll spot smart little classically informed pieces, featuring a turned wood leg here, a Chesterfield stud there. The latest launches are big on pattern (timeless florals and stripes) and general prettiness.

Period crystal chandeliers, interior conversation pieces since the 17th century, are officially hip. The trend is for larger lighting fixtures that take possession of a room rather than serving as an unseen architectural element. If your budget won’t stretch to an antique, or a high-end, trad-mod design by Swarovski or Baccarat, rely on decorative, artisan-made lamps to introduce the wow factor. Look out for reinterpreted classics in bewitching black crystal, glass mosaic, or brilliantly hued Perspex and aluminium.

VESSEL, A CHIC HAMMOCK BATHTUB BY SPLINTER WORKS
VESSEL, A CHIC HAMMOCK BATHTUB BY SPLINTER WORKS

Modern luxe champions decadence and whimsy, drama and individuality and nowhere is this felt more strongly than in the latest bathroom designs. Take Vessel, the carbon-black hammock bathtub by splinter Works, pictured above. It pushes the boundaries since it is reminiscent of a classic, claw-footed Victorian tub but at the same time, it looks totally state-of-the-art. Set against a pared back, minimal backdrop, this technologically advanced tub makes a cool modern statement, while referring directly to the classical past.

When it comes down to it, modern luxe is theatrical, showy and more than a little camp. It’s decadent and historically derived – pure Christian Lacroix. And it isn’t the preserve of huge rooms in historic houses, it works wonderfully in constrained living spaces, even right here in little old Lantau.

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