The Pursuit of Timeless Design

 This project of ours was completed in 2009 and is still one of our favorites!  Photo by Chip Pankey.

This project of ours was completed in 2009 and is still one of our favorites!  Photo by Chip Pankey.

If you follow style trends you know the routine: concepts enter the scene, there are early adopters, and over time they become mainstream. Soon anyone who is building, remodeling, or decorating is selecting similar items (after all, it's the products and colors being offered by all the vendors!). Recently I've noticed the curve is even more aggressive. Social media propagates style tendencies at a fast and furious pace. As a designer, I see trends early and I tire of them fast. For this reason, I am on a mission to provide timeless design; to find unique solutions that feel current, but also elevated. There is no off-the-shelf recipe for how to accomplish this. If there were it would be achieved more frequently. It's a skill that separates great design from good design. It's a subtlety recognized by mature design lovers and achieved by only the most talented. It's a quality that is not easily described with words, but when it's right, you just know it.

Having said that, there are certainly some strategies you can follow in pursuit of a timeless interior. Here are a few of them:

1.Take your time. Ever bought a whole room all at once? Yah, me too – in college. It's a surefire way to a one-dimensional space, and you’ll tire of it fast. The idea is propagated by stores like Rooms to Go and IKEA, who advertise ‘easy design’. Don't get me wrong – these stores have their market. They simplify the process of buying furniture for people who want to get it over with fast or economically, but this is not a path to an elevated space. Fine design is curated and takes time.

2. Incorporate one or two unique pieces. Include something special that speaks to you, like an old family chair, or an antique rug or mirror. Yes – even in a contemporary space. You just have to go about it carefully and selectively. Doing so will add richness and keep it personal and interesting. It’s a direct expression of you and your family, and no one else will have your exact solution.

 This antique rug in our Spicewood Contemporary project adds warmth and character in an otherwise stark white kitchen. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

This antique rug in our Spicewood Contemporary project adds warmth and character in an otherwise stark white kitchen. Photo by An Indoor Lady.

3. Selectively Splurge. Whether you are building, remodeling, or just refining your home over time, choose an area to stretch your budget and introduce a high-end element. It can be a lamp, a sculpture, anything. I have a thing for tile, and when remodeling our kitchen awhile back I fell in love with a beautiful backsplash tile from Walker Zanger. It seemed like a hefty price tag at the time, but I only needed 18 sqft.! And the results were well worth it. Now it adds a special touch to our kitchen, and each morning when I’m sipping my coffee it makes me smile. Priceless!

 This is my Walker Zanger backsplash. I love it so much! Photo by An Indoor Lady.

This is my Walker Zanger backsplash. I love it so much! Photo by An Indoor Lady.

4. Learn from history. In particular I like to look back to classic interiors from design icons, furniture designers, and legendary architects. Here’s an example: recently I was discussing the use of marble and brass with a client. She said to me "I think of the federal buildings - if it was good enough for past presidents it is good enough for me!". Shortly after that I was in D.C. and paid special attention to the details in those buildings. She was right! Materials and finishes will go through cycles of popularity, but if a strategy has been used for many years it is likely a timeless one. Finding inspiration from historically good design is a way to avoid short term trends. 

 This marble and brass staircase in the Supreme Court Building is a stunning example of timeless design. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

This marble and brass staircase in the Supreme Court Building is a stunning example of timeless design. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

5. Faux is just that : false. Ever seen something fake that you liked as good as the original? Me neither. Good design is real and purposeful, and it doesn’t have to pretend to be something it’s not. The “architecture snob” in me comes out when I see a column supporting nothing, or a painted sheetrock wall pretending to be plaster. Please don’t do it! I had an old friend from architecture school who would cringe at this stuff. He would joke about fake shutters tacked on suburban homes, and corbels that were purely for decoration. Whenever I comment on such things my husband says “you sound like Andy”, and I say “well… he was right”.

6. Nature never goes out of style - incorporating natural textures such as wood and stone adds richness to an interior. For a timeless approach, try finding slabs and materials that are less commonly used. Also, anywhere a view can be appreciated - play that up. A touch of nature elevates any space.

 These slabs of Red Onyx, used by architect Mies Van Der Rohe in the Barcelona Pavilion in 1929, are a gorgeous example of nature in design.

These slabs of Red Onyx, used by architect Mies Van Der Rohe in the Barcelona Pavilion in 1929, are a gorgeous example of nature in design.

7. If everyone has it maybe you shouldn't. Enough said.

8. A little goes a long way when it comes to color. The color fad cycle is even tighter than that of materials, finishes, and furniture. I’ll admit that if you look at our LBI interiors you might conclude we’re pretty neutral. It’s not out of fear to be bold – it’s an awareness that in pursuit of timeless design it’s a decision you’ll regret faster than any other. Tile, cabinets, expensive furnishings – these features have a cost attached that make them less inclined to be swapped out often, so you’d better like them for the long haul. Paint, pillows, art – these are much easier to change, and for that reason I am more inclined to embrace color in these areas.

9. Most importantly - choose things because YOU love them, not because they are in style. Let's remember that the ultimate goal of "timelessness" is having a home you will love for years to come. If you stay true to who you are, then your choices will continue to reflect your personality regardless of what everyone else is doing.

In summary, style trends will come and go. When it comes to your home, pursue quality first, then lean toward personal expression rather than popular fads for an interior that will stand the test of time.