Is It Classic Furniture Or A Fad I Will Tire Of?

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

This is a real Dear Laurel email I recently received wanting to know how to tell if she’s getting classic furniture or something she’ll need to replace in ten years.

 

Hi Laurel

Ok, so you hate to shop and so do I. But worse than hating to shop, I hate buying things that I stop liking before they are ready for the pick-up truck.

Here’s the current issue I’m having about buying furniture: everything I like has that white wash type of stain. And I’m suddenly in love with french style legs and curves — but just a while ago I was gaga for Asian.

I hate being so fickle. It makes me think my mother was right about me never being able to settle down. I am letting the trend-setters give me an identity complex.

Can you please address whether you should just plan to over-haul every ten years right down to the floor stain OR is there a way to ride the wave of capricious trends and keep your style anchored in the classics?

I have no idea even what classic furniture is at this point!? Can you walk us through keeping steady in the maelstrom and costly mistakes. How do you hold on to the artist in your design?
a fan–

Margaret A.

 

********

 

Well, Margaret is asking a very compelling question about what makes furniture – classic furniture

 

What does that mean exactly?

How do we know what classic is?

Well, first, I think that we need to define classical in terms of history. And that means architecture from whence the term was first used.

For that, we need to go back to the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. And for more info on that, please check out this post which pretty much explains it all.

The Greeks and Romans were all about math, proportion and form. And they identified a precise formula that was most pleasing to the eye. But, you’ll need to read the post above to read more if you don’t already know. No sense in reinventing the Golden Mean!

There was a resurgence of these exquisite proportions in the neo-classical period. That occurred in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Ya know… the time of Thomas Jefferson.

BTW, it also coincided with the classical music period. You know those too: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven amongst others. And since music is math, we can conclude that the perfect harmonies created are related to the aesthetically numerical codes that apply to classical architecture.*

But this formula was not created by these men; that was accomplished by God, or higher power or the universe. Whatever your belief is. But it is inherent in every living thing on this earth.

 

Unfortunately, it is not inherent in every man-made object created.

 

Fair enough. So how do you know if  the piece of furniture you are buying is following the code? Do you get down on your hands and knees and measure every inch of the piece?

I don’t think that’s necessary and we’ll get to why in a sec.

 

Well, can’t we do things differently and still be classical?

 

Sure. Some things, like fabric and finishes, yes. Form and proportion, not very much.

 

Although listen to Mozart’s The Jupiter Symphony #41 (please enjoy this fine version!) and you will hear on occasion, some sounds in the final movement that remind me more of Stravinsky than anything classical. A friend of my son’s who plays the viola says that this was Mozart “just having fun.” I listened to this a lot right after Peaches died and it helped a lot. Too bad Mozart had to die so young.

 

Classic, to me, is like this.

 

Take a classic banana cream pie.

On the bottom we have a delectable, classic graham cracker crust.

And then a layer of sliced, ripe, (but not-too ripe) bananas.

Followed by creamy, rich vanilla custard pudding.

Then, another layer of bananas.

And topped off with mounds of fluffy, sweet (but not too sweet), (real) vanilla flavored (real) whipped cream.

You wash it down with a hot, sweet English tea

 

and a Crestor. ;]

It’s a classic dessert and man, I wish I had a slice of that pie right now!

But then, some idiot misguided soul, who just opened up a bakery with the “latest trends in baking” decides that he needs to use Tabasco sauce instead of vanilla. After-all, it’s the latest thing. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it, he says… It’s AWESOME!

You take a bite and can’t wait to spit it out.

That’s how I feel about much of the furniture manufactured today.

And at this point, I need to mention that I have a standard for any company going in Laurel’s Rolodex. If they go over 25% of their offerings with fake, ersatz, strange, bizarre, absurd in furniture design, they will not appear in my guide. And most sources have little to none.

Although, make no mistake, there is a tremendous variety of styles. You will not, however, see anything like what you are about to see— Tabasco Laced Styling masquerading as traditional classical furniture.

(BTW, just a reminder that there’s an update of Laurel’s Rolodex coming November 1st and then the price of both the rolodex and paint guides are going up on November 13th.)

 

Let’s take a look at what our Tabasco laced banana cream pie looks like in the form of furniture. And we will compare it to the real-deal classical furniture version.

 

Let’s begin with our fake neo-classical column thing that will guarantee you to have nightmares in. They can’t even do a proper acanthus leaf. And this bed is several thousand dollars. The weirdtastic bar thingy might be good for pull-ups, however. (if it’s strong enough)

Or this tabasco laden weirdness in the fake rococo style. Hope that metal thing doesn’t fall on your head. Oh, that footboard. Freak!

Mark D. Sikes

Traditional beds have beautiful, pleasing to the eye ornamentation that makes sense with lovely scale and proportions.

David Flint Wood via Architectural Digest – photo: William Waldron

 

Or this amazing English-colonial-style bed from British Khaki which sadly no longer exists because they went out of business.

All of the beds on this page are classics, IMO. Oh dang. The Serena and Lily bed and linen sale is over but the upholstery sale is still on through the 26th. One of the best deals of the year.

 

But Tabasco laden furniture posing as sweet banana cream pie, exists in all areas of home furnishings.

 

Tabasco upholstered furniture has curves on top of curves and exaggerated forms that have no relation to anything of a classical nature. Don’t you love how they repeat the weird design motif over and over ad nauseum?

And it’s BIG! Overblown. Exaggerated. Disproportionate. Fake.

Or this bizarre contemporary thing about to take flight. There’s a lot of this around. And some of it is even worse.

I know that you guys get it. Even the ones who just landed here, get it. When you see it without some sales person breathing down your neck to place the order already, it is very clear that the emperor is butt neked.

Here are three pieces of classic furniture – Sofas

 

And know that everything I recommend on any of the blog posts or furniture sales pages is classic furniture; be it a traditional classic or a modern classic.

 

Gorgeous Serena and Lily Miramar Sofa - on sale until September 25 2017

The number one style sofa, an English roll-arm or Bridgewater sofa.

This is one of the beauties on sale at Serena and Lily for six more days.

A classic contemporary sofa by Jonathan Adler.

A modern classic sofa by Barclay Butera.

 

(sold on One King’s Lane. OH! They are offering FREE SHIPPING including WHITE GLOVE for free, but ending tonight, they say. promo code: OKLFREESHIP)

 

I could keep going on and on…

 

But what about antique sofas?

 

Sure, you can find antique sofas in lots of places.

  • Antique shops
  • Estate sales
  • Flea markets (occasionally)
  • Consignment shops
  • Auction houses
  • Online.

 

Favorite sources are

Chairish,

Viyet, (OMG, please ignore their home page!!! Bitter irony!)

One King’s Lane,

Etsy

Ruby Lane

and I love 1st Dibs too but find them quite pricey.

I found this unusual French neo-classical (Louis XVI) beauty at Chairish. (sorry, it’s sold)

Oh, and it is not Louis 16. (Thanks to our dear Cynthia Lambert, a bonafide expert for pointing that out!) It is actually Directoire which is the period after L16. The corresponding period in England is Regency.

And a Louis XIII early baroque settee from 1st Dibs.

 

So, how do you keep all of the Louis straight?

 

You don’t. haha.

 

But, I have some tips. ;]

 

Louis XIII was a boy when he became king. The furniture at the time was late Renaissance going into the Baroque era and had Dutch and Flemish influence. I have no idea what is going on here unless those two lasses are trying to straighten him out. ;] Louis XIII was Louis XIV’s daddy.

Big dif between 13 and 14. I have a soft spot in my heart for 14 because the roots of the art of classical ballet* began with him. And no wonder. He had a great, sexy pair of legs and such tiny, delicate feet! Mon Dieu! Très belle quatrième position! Je suis amoreux!


Excusez-moi! The sight of Louis XIV brings out the French in me! :]

This was the era of baroque furniture and you know the saying, “If it ain’t baroque… don’t…” sorry.

A fine example of a heavily decorated and gilded Baroque era fateuil (arm-chair with open arms)

 

Louis XV is associated with the Rococo period in design. Still ornate, but not as much.

 

Another lovely pair of gams! And notice those shoes!  They remind me of pointe shoes!

 

For all of you balletomanes out there. I am obsessed with this incredibly lovely young, Russian ballerina not yet out of the Vaganova Ballet Academy.

Remember this name. Maria Khoreva. She’s the real deal!

Here’s a short clip of her dancing a few months ago.

 

Louis XV Bergeres (closed open chair) had less froo froo but lots of curves.

But these curves are based on organic forms and are in scale with the piece.

I found these at Chairish.

 

Louis XVI – The classical King who unfortunately faced a barbaric end.

 

But, design-wise, 16 gets my vote as he’s the one associated with the neo-classical period which is my favorite. Straight legs. Les ornamentation. Painted.

 

Below, a contemporary interpretation of the neo-classical style in a settee.

Louis XVI style settee by Bling Home

 

So, what is the answer?

 

Did you forget the question?

haha. me too.

oh yeah

 

How do you recognize classic furniture and figure out what you really love?

 

I think that the answer lies in Education + self-reflection

 

Do you have to take a formal course?

 

Well, you could. Most interior design schools have a course on historical styles. But you can also teach yourself.

You could get a book.

Here are a couple of terrific books.

 

The Elements Of Style

 

History of Interior Design

 

Here is a more complete list of French Furniture Styles

 

As for self-reflection…

This one is more difficult. But you need to ask yourself.

What do I REALLY love?

Forget about the hottest trends coming out of XYZ market.

We already know that those are designed to benefit the manufacturers who want you to buy their furniture. They are doing everything in their power to trick you.

Are you still confused?

Well, just about every designer I link to in this blog is classically based. There are three posts that hi-light my top 20. (as of that writing). But it’s a great list. You can see them here, here and here.

The last thing to remember is that classical furniture does not necessarily mean “traditional furniture.”

Most of what is deemed to be “traditional” is anything but, in any case. It’s not traditional or contemporary, or modern, or country. It’s made up drek, IMO.

Bottom line. Look for good, pleasing proportions and lines. I don’t care if it’s being touted as the hottest design trend of 2018.

If it looks weird to you, in any way. Believe yourself. It’s weird.

 

*only 6 more days until I leave for the YES, CLASSICAL ARCHITECTURAL TOUR IN ENGLAND!!!

 

And OH! I have my Via Spiga Trenchcoat!!! I got the medium and it’s perfect!!! Thank you all so much for your sage advice and encouragement.

 

Calm down!!! lol It is not this light. It is the classic khaki color, but the shape is just like this and it is the single breasted version. Very smart. I found it on Amazon!

Micahel Kors orange purseOh, and I splurged (but it is on sale) on this orange Michael Kors handbag. I found it at Lord & Taylor. It came today too and it is GORGEOUS! And the perfect size. The leather is very soft, and of excellent quality.

And the blog will keep rolling while I’m away. A week from today will be a special post I think that you guys will enjoy because it requires a lot of participation. (if you want).

And the following Sunday, I’ll be sharing some hi-lights of the trip.

xo,

 

 

  • Bridget - September 26, 2017 - 11:18 PM

    Great post and thank you for the book recommendations! Bon Voyage!ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - September 23, 2017 - 4:15 PM

    That’s funny Laurel ! Maybe they call it a roll-arm sofa, a plain old sofa, or something else entirely? I’ve had mine for about 18 years and didn’t know what it was called. I only learned it was referred to as English roll-arm after I started reading your blog ! So do tell us upon your return! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 24, 2017 - 1:01 AM

      I’ll try to find out. Hopefully, I’ll remember. But also, there are some English readers, so maybe we can get the answer sooner. ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - September 23, 2017 - 12:15 PM

    Fabulous post Laurel ! I really enjoyed this one. Thanks for the book recommendations and I love your new coat and handbag. I’m very fond of the English roll-arm sofa and I have one I adore.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 23, 2017 - 2:19 PM

      Hi Maggie,

      One of my missions is to find out what the English call an “English roll-arm sofa.” Maybe it’s just “a sofa.” haha!ReplyCancel

  • Mary S Hill - September 22, 2017 - 8:53 PM

    Wonderful post, Laurel. You explain these things so well! I want my husband to read this post. Both of his grandfathers were professors of architecture – I wish he had inherited some of their skills – but oh well!

    This furniture that people spend good money on, and some think it is just so wonderful, and it’s just so dreadfully awful! Your examples make me laugh out loud! Thanks for simplifying the whole classic furniture thing. I’ve had a hard time keeping that all straight.

    I’m so happy you get to go to on this trip! We will have so much fun living vicariously through you. I really appreciate you so much and have learned so much from you – you have no idea how important you are in my life – lol!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 22, 2017 - 9:59 PM

      Oh, that is so sweet Mary! And I very much appreciate that! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Nicole - September 21, 2017 - 7:55 PM

    I’m also a serious curmudgeon and resent that the faux weathered trend has ruined flea markets. No, I am not paying several hundred dollars beyond the value of that buffet just for the enjoyment of your hideous DIY faux whatever you did there when I could have given it/procured an actual, decent repainting. It’s like the hipster chefs who went and ruined the price of cheap cuts of beef by making them trendy. If they come for my chicken thighs, it’s on. Get off my lawn!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - September 21, 2017 - 7:42 PM

    My husband refer to the style of terrible beds above as being of a manufacturer’s “royal steed” collection because we just imagine some overly ornate made up fairly tale something or other. Not to say he didn’t have a few pieces of it when I met him. Some of the less ostentatious things we’ve been able to work with. Others are happily finally on their way to Craigslist.

    With regard to the reader’s concern about the en vogue style of “French country” aka distressed, pickled, burlapped, and white canvased everything, I do think it’s a trend that someone with many pieces in that style will tire of well inside of 10 years. It kind of reminds me of the mid-90s adoration of hunter green and burgundy interiors.

    But I also understand walking into a furniture showroom and seeing all of these lime washed or otherwise faux-aged pieces sprinkled in a sea of white sofas and thinking “man, this is exactly what I need” because en masse it’s not visually heavy and presumably one is in the store seeking a decor change, so the distressed stuff as a group looks very much like a breath of fresh air that could be just the ticket for change.

    BUT–like Laurel and others have pointed out, most of these finishes and almost all of the shapes and especially these finishes on said shapes aren’t accurate in the least, so they aren’t timeless. I think the solution is to buy accent pieces in the trends one loves and stick to the truly classic for workhorse pieces. I was very seduced by weathered farm-style dining tables but walked away because I know my heart of hearts wants a classic Federal style leg table or round with a birdcage pedestal. I can put cheaper, trendier chairs with it and still love my table in 15 years and eventually pass it to one of my children. This means I have nothing in my dining room while I wait to find a not-wrecked, in-budget, acceptable-looking reproduction, but in the spirit of not throwing good money after bad, I’m waiting.

    Besides, I have young children and unkempt hair and overflowing laundry and no one expects my house to look like anything other than a romper room right now anyway hahaha.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 10:01 PM

      Hi Nicole,

      Please be sure to check out Chairish.com for a vintage traditional dining table. They have some incredible deals. I mean, some are just a few hundred dollars. Shipping costs more. And the table might need some work, but it would be worth it.ReplyCancel

      • Nicole - September 22, 2017 - 5:27 AM

        I have actually been looking there thanks to previous recommendations by you and have found a few things but was unsure of how or if returns work if you get a piece in and it’s either not what you thought or just doesn’t work. So far there has been nothing within 2-3 hours drive of my location so I could see it before purchasing.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 22, 2017 - 9:57 PM

          Hi Nicole,

          You can correspond with the seller and if you have any questions, I’m pretty sure that they’ll be able to help you. Some of the photos are better than others.ReplyCancel

  • Caroline @ The Hyphenated Home - September 21, 2017 - 3:47 PM

    I have a problem that I worry about whether an object I like is a sudden passion or a lasting love rather than if something is ‘classic’ per se. I am a horribly addictive online browser for furniture and I have to look at hundreds and hundreds of things before I figure out what I really like– and then I end up unable to choose between two things that have advantages and disadvantages. Then I’m all in a muddle and I have to ask my wife who says, “Anything you want, honey…”

    Basically I can’t decide which rug to get for our guest room right now and I’m fretting!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:59 PM

      Hi Caroline,

      Well, if it makes you feel any better, the same thing happens to me. ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - September 21, 2017 - 2:37 PM

    Love Neoclassical furniture, but especially love how the Swedish interpreted it in light Gustavian design.

    You know, I knew about neoclassical furniture and I knew about the Golden Mean, but I never knew neoclassical furniture was built to reflect the Golden Mean!

    No wonder it was love at first sight.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:57 PM

      Me too!!! In fact, next year, there’s a trip to Sweden! ReplyCancel

  • Risa - September 21, 2017 - 2:29 PM

    Wonderful educational post!
    As for that first bed featured under the Tabasco category, my brother’s wife insisted they spend $$$$$ to purchase a version of it for their bedroom. Hideous! They are now divorced. Pretty sure sleeping in that monstrosity was not good for their marriage.ReplyCancel

  • Julie S - September 21, 2017 - 12:45 PM

    Great post, and the last line is my favorite: If it looks weird to you, in any way. Believe yourself. It’s weird. THANK YOU!!

    We have a VERY tiny decorating budget so it’s up to paint and fabric most of the time. We are slowly getting a few decent furniture pieces after 7 years of marriage and I will keep that in mind as I browse Craigslist for my next finds.

    I’ll come back to read the other comments later but just wanted to leave one right away.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - September 21, 2017 - 12:03 PM

    Hard to be original after so many great comments..amazing post, Laurel. Yes, I do believe in educating yourself, reading, exposing yourself to different things..the more you see the more you become interested, the more interested you become the deeper you dig, the deeper you dig-the abyss is looking at you more attentively..yet you don’t step away..:)

    And yes, I believe everything we do in life is interconnected..with us, in the core of it. Seemingly different things bear some very important similarities..some visible some to be discovered yet

    have a wonderful and safe trip!

    I felt in love with London when there, many years ago..when my face was still plumpier..:) I’m reading “At Home” by Bill Bryson now…fascinating book..a lot about England naturally since his house that he takes as the axis for his storytelling about people and houses in the context of geography, history, arts, is in England. I just wish every book we read in school was like his. I’d emerge to be much more educated person.

    Love the orange purse!ReplyCancel

    • Dolores - September 22, 2017 - 7:20 AM

      Thanks so much Jenny for the recommendation- that book is now ordered from amazon.com and on its way! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:55 PM

      Thanks so much Jenny!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - September 21, 2017 - 10:39 AM

    Thanks again for another informative and interesting blog post. You are one of my top three favorites and I always learn something from you! Have a wonderful time in England! I can’t wait to hear all about your trip. I would love to go on the same kind of tour.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 11:46 AM

      Hi Kate,

      I am so incredibly blessed. This trip would not have been even close to being possible until very recently. That I am now able to do it feels like a miracle. And I don’t use that word lightly.

      But to be amongst 23 others who share the same passion for the classics, is almost too much for me to comprehend. I have a list of the other attendees and I took a look at a few. One of them, an architect has the most unbelievably beautiful website I’ve ever seen. Hang on. Let me go and find it.

      http://www.establishdesign.com/?page=home

      click on where it says ‘love stories’

      Now, I normally say NO MUSIC!!! But, this is so beautifully produced and the music is a necessary component; it gave me chills at the end.

      ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - September 21, 2017 - 10:02 AM

    Great info as usual, Laurel. 16th all the way for me although I do have 2 little chairs that were my Grandmother’s that are 15. I use one in the bathroom, so “they” don’t take themselves too seriously. I had just posted chairs that I slipcovered yesterday on instagram and then read your blog. Love the straight fluted legs. Have a wonderful trip!XOReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 10:16 AM

      Thanks so much Nancy! I love your bathroom chair! I’ve been so lax on insta recently. It’s like, do I have to do THIS too? Really? Who said so? lol ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Lambert - September 21, 2017 - 9:32 AM

    The people at Chairish don’t always know what they have. That first “Louis XVI” settee (canapé in French) with the paw feet is actually Directoire, the period after Louis XVI, when Napoleon was gaining power.

    Good post, Laurel. I abhor the pimped out, no-particular-style-but-trying-to-be-everything furniture some of the makers are turning out these days. Tacky.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:40 AM

      Hi Cynthia,

      Yes, yes, yes!!! Directoire! I should have caught that myself! And I believe that the corresponding English style is Regency, because they duh, had a Regent in power. Is that right? ReplyCancel

      • Cynthia Lambert - September 21, 2017 - 9:55 AM

        That’s exactly right, Laurel. You know your stuff!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 10:07 AM

          I need to make that change in the post. Thanks again for pointing it out!ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Dickson - September 21, 2017 - 8:40 AM

    Laurel, Thank goodness you are here to show the way! I have a friend for whom style is based on the almighty dollar. Her new living room sofa is so hard she warns you before you sit, but it was a really good price with matching decorative pillows (barf). I can talk and show pictures but if it doesn’t fit the current trend, and is cheap to boot, then she doesn’t hear. Some people don’t want to educate themselves. Sigh. Thank you once again for all your insights, advice and great humour!! CathyReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 10:06 AM

      Hi Cathy,

      Well, it’s pretty rampant, apparently. Because if it wasn’t, they wouldn’t make that crap! And I can appreciate having absolutely no money for furniture. I lived like that most of my life. But there are ways to furnish a home that cost very little and are still classy. Of course, it helps if one can sew and reupholster!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - September 21, 2017 - 7:52 AM

    Hello Laurel, Possibly one guide to tacky furniture is that, although there are exceptions, it tends to be thin and spindly, or thick and heavy (as in those monstrous bedsteads). Also, if you see a style literally Everywhere, even if not too hideous in itself, it is being overexposed and you probably will get sick of it. Also, good-quality furniture can be moved around and you will find that it can have many lives.
    –JimReplyCancel

  • Dolores - September 21, 2017 - 7:12 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I would have a total meltdown if my three favorite blog writers ever decided to throw in the towel-you know you are part of that triumvirate! 🙂 This was another wonderful blog post, and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. You are so right! I still have one ersatz Louis XVI piece, but it’s nothing like the monsters you featured..:-)
    When you get to Ben Pentreath’s home in Dorset, just know that I’ll be ‘plotzing’ with envy, but at least I know you’ll report back on your delightful experience and share the high lights with us.
    Maria Khoreva is a DREAM! Such looong legs and such wonderful control at age 17!!!I watched every you tube clip I could find of her. Have a wonderful time in the UK!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:59 AM

      Hi Dolores,

      If it makes you feel any better, way back in 1991, a friend was throwing out this ersatz Mediterranean buffet that was probably from the 70s. At least the wood was a nice medium stain, but the doors, a little strange. Well, we had ZERO money for anything, so I said that we would love to have it to put our TV on. She and her husband brought it over and the two men lugged it through the back door where it would live in our den– temporarily.

      Well, “temporarily” ended up being 21 years, until I moved out. lol

      I am going to have to work very hard not to make a spectacle of myself– really the entire trip, but especially at Ben’s! Do they make muzzles for rabid fans!? LOL!!!ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 10:01 AM

        P.S. If you can’t get enough of Maria, please check out her instagram! (that’s a direct link) She has dozens of short videos of herself practicing. INSANE TALENT!!! And she’s quite adorbs too!ReplyCancel

        • Dolores - September 22, 2017 - 7:38 AM

          Thank you, Laurel!! I am now of course, another one of Maria Khoreva’s devoted followers. Her beauty and talent bring a lump to my throat. She’s just soooo astonishing!
          When we were first married(48 yrs ago!!) I bought one of those Mediterranian styled armoires for the TV- it was cheap and affordable.But- I had my husband reverse the doors, which gave me a plain flat surface, perfect for painting..
          Maybe Ben will have a photo of you on his blog!:-)ReplyCancel

          • Laurel Bern - September 22, 2017 - 9:58 PM

            Hi Dolores,

            Oh what a fantasy! Me on Ben’s blog! But make no mistake. He will be on mine! For real!

  • Kellee - September 21, 2017 - 6:56 AM

    Oops, I hit something! I ended up with the most beautiful classic 4 poster bed, a Bergeres chair,an antique sette and an old FBI desk (solid as a rock Drexel) to name a few. I found mixing classic pieces with fresh colorful patterns surprisingly easy.

    Best of all, at end of my husband’s 1st winter stay, 2nd year of ownership, he declared he loved all that I had done to the house and we should make this old house our home! He released to budget but I am still looking for classic furniture. I am so happy! Thank you for your inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Kellee - September 21, 2017 - 6:33 AM

    I had to say something when I saw the beds! 4 years ago we purchased a Southern Greek Revival Shotgun in a tiny South Georgia town. The house was to be our temporary winter house until we built the home of our dreams. The house was built in 1898 with pine floors, 12 ft ceilings and picture molding. I melted the moment I walked in the door…it was love.

    My husband “suggested” conservative spending on furnishings since the house required some expensive renovations and we would sell when the kids finish college. So off I went to yards sales, used furniture and every charity store I could find within 100 miles. I was looking for fun and funky but was drawn to classic styles.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:50 AM

      So, I gather that the Greek Revival ended up being your dream home? It would certainly be mine!ReplyCancel

  • Celeste - September 21, 2017 - 6:16 AM

    I’m always envious of people who can pick their furniture, put it in The Spot and then everything looks nice forever, with maybe a recovering every once in a while.

    I won’t lie. My goal is a house like my dad’s long dead friends where every single thing had its spot and that was that. It was very comforting and interesting to me when I was a child. THERE SHALL BE THE CANDY DISH. IT SHALL ALWAYS HAVE HARD CANDY.

    I love furniture. I suck at furniture. This is why you wil always have a job. 💗ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:45 AM

      Hi Celeste,

      I very much admire people who have a spot for everything. I could stand to be more like that but it’s very difficult for me.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - September 21, 2017 - 5:39 AM

    What a fantastic post! Your blog is always a delight to read and a valuable fount of design knowledge. You’ve really helped me up my decorating style. Also, I loved your choice of trench so much, I actually ordered it for myself. Have a great time on your trip!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:43 AM

      Thanks so much Michelle. And wonderful about the coat!ReplyCancel

  • Joanna Pearson - September 21, 2017 - 4:23 AM

    Darling Laurel,

    at first I thought you had finally lost the plot…I often skim through the images on the blog before reading the text….

    That GRUESOME four poster bed, guaranteed to ensure nightmares, & that pantomime chunky sofa, masquerading as style, both images with an optimistic ‘pin it’ (!) in the corner.

    Bizarrely, I can’t take my eyes off that bed…I keep going back to it to celebrate its awfulness.

    Relieved, on further reading, that you have all your delightful marbles intact & have written yet another humorous & informative blog.

    We have all had to kiss a few ugly interior ducklings in the past, & like yucky past boyfriends, cringe ( & laugh) at their memory.

    Of course, now, under your expert guidance, we have no excuse anymore to give these beasts house room…ReplyCancel

    • Lorri - September 21, 2017 - 2:40 PM

      Joanna, that is hilarious. Yeah, if Laurel had posted those monster beds as something to aspire to, I’d be backing slowly away from my computer. 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 9:41 AM

      Hi Joanna,

      Too funny! No, I haven’t lost the plot– yet. ReplyCancel

  • Lin - September 20, 2017 - 11:59 PM

    The question about changing design every 10 years is so valid. The people who create a style for decades & decades have CONFIDENCE, Typically they are very very rich which of course creates the confidence. To all I say go with what you like. Don’t worry about public opinion which changes based upon trends. Go with what you like and embrace it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 12:22 AM

      Hi Lin,

      I don’t think that one has to be rich but perhaps what you mean is that they are born into a certain lifestyle and inherited the fine furnishings. And definitely, that can make it easier. But I also think that confidence can be developed and learned. And that is one of my aims. It’s something that I don’t think most people give much thought to.ReplyCancel

  • Mary M - September 20, 2017 - 11:38 PM

    Having studied ballet for 12 years, the video made me weep. So gorgeous, so perfect.

    XVI for me, for sure, and Furlow Gatewood. Love his relaxed style.

    This definitely is a subject that needed to be covered, and you did it beautifully.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Wishing you a great trip.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 11:52 PM

      Hi Mary,

      Yes, Furlow! What a gift to the world he is!ReplyCancel

  • Gaye - September 20, 2017 - 11:30 PM

    One more thing. I just read your remark about having found your”at last” having found your special calling. Not sure about your earlier “callings,” but I think they all combine with your personality to make your blog unique. Yours was the first blog I’d ever paid any attention to, frankly, and I was impressed with the way your writing style suited the blog genre and how your knowledge was so engrained that you were able to laugh naturally as you talked about interior design. I thought I’d been missing something and went looking at other blogs. And I don’t think there is anything like yours to be found. I mean that. You always go to the level of principle, thereby preventing hopeless “copying.” And the ease and wit with which you talk to your readers—for that is the effect: “talking”—is pitch perfect. This form, the blog, was made for you. I’m still surprised at how much you get into each posting. Since discovering your blog, I read several good, informative gardening blogs. Good as they are, they always remind me how sophisticated and spirited your blog is. And how much instruction occurs unnoticed. You’re right: this form is yours.ReplyCancel

    • Lorri - September 22, 2017 - 4:33 AM

      My Internet browser spontaneously creates a Home Page with screen shots of my most visited web sites. All I have to do is click on them.

      The only two decor sites that made the cut, according to my usage, is Laurel Bern’s and Maria Killiam’s.

      Very interesting because I read a lot of decor blogs and sites, but these are the two most interesting and informative. I believe that’s known as site “stickiness” in Internet jargon.

      Laurel, you are very “sticky”. 😉ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - September 22, 2017 - 9:55 PM

        oh, haha! It takes a lot of work to make things stick! ;]ReplyCancel

    • Gail - September 21, 2017 - 10:24 AM

      Gaye – Your post said everything about Laurel that I think/believe, but am not nearly so eloquent as you. Thank you.

      Laurel – Your wit and wisdom is second to none. Finding you three years ago has been a gift. Yours is the only blog I read, and I’ve tried many.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - September 21, 2017 - 11:26 AM

        You guys are making me cry. The good kind of crying. I’m so appreciative of your kindness and support!ReplyCancel

    • Dolores - September 21, 2017 - 7:20 AM

      Gaye- if I could give your comment a MILLION likes, I would!!
      Laurel is my absolute favorite blog writer, ever. I love her!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 11:46 PM

      That has to be one of the most insightful, loveliest comments I’ve ever received. Thank you so much Gaye.

      And a point that was made at the beginning is so, so true. And this goes for everyone. All of our life experiences, make us who we are and contribute to what we are eventually to become.

      That is why when I think about all of the crappy stuff, I realize that without all of that and the lessons learned, some critical piece would be missing.

      I think it’s important to remember that when life seems heavy and hard. It’s the essence of faith. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Gaye - September 20, 2017 - 10:54 PM

    I’m saving this post, Lady! Labeling it “How do you keep your Louis straight?”!

    Seriously, it’s one of your best, I think. Thank you for taking the time to put it together.

    One of the things I’ve learned from you is to dare to take a good “classic” piece like the antique sofa and update it with an interesting fabric and/or pillows from another era. When I was an undergrad, we studied “periods” of literature and with literary works, we also studied the architecture, furniture, music, and art. It all made such sense.

    As do you here.

    Have a glorious time in England.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 11:04 PM

      Hi Gaye,

      Yes, fashion, furniture, architecture, art, music, through the ages almost always are inter-related. I think that it’s quite interesting. It’s not like a musician got together with an architect and said, “hey lets create in the neo-classic style.”

      I guess at the time, they were the “hot new trends!” haha But with a HUGE difference. Those dudes had fabulous taste!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kris Betts - September 20, 2017 - 10:44 PM

    As usual a very instructive yet fun to read post. I know I’m a broken record but I do luck out in finding really nice classic pieces at consignment stores in Seattle. Realize it’s a good option if you can drive to an affluent neighborhood where they are or go to estate sales there.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:59 PM

      Hi Kris,

      Those are great options if one is near the right area. I think that I got them in this time. I guess I could go look but feeling lazy. lolReplyCancel

  • Eleanor - September 20, 2017 - 10:35 PM

    Laurel,
    I will definitely be purchasing these books! I’m starting to accumulate design and architecture books for our big renovation in 2 years. I have been stop-gap remodeling for so-long now that it’s basically a way of life….Next year we actually get to start talking to the builder and architect. Have a lovely trip! Hoping for some pictures and posts from the trip when you get back.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:40 PM

      Hi Eleanor,

      Thanks so much and all the best with your big reno!ReplyCancel

  • Penny - September 20, 2017 - 10:19 PM

    I just signed up for your posts last week and have been “binge-reading” whenever I can. You have such a unique, wonderful personality for,blogging along with all your in-depth knowledge and experience. So happy to have found you. Have a great trip!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:25 PM

      Thanks so much Penny. I enjoy writing the blog a lot. I think at 61, I finally found my calling. lolReplyCancel

      • Penny - September 20, 2017 - 10:29 PM

        I am 62 and I envy you!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:39 PM

          Hi Penny,

          Well, I remember when I was about 10, I envied this girl I went to school with. She was so pretty and everything seemed perfect. I felt like an ugly toad.

          My mother said this to me. “Don’t envy her because you really don’t know what goes on with other people… or what might happen down the road.”

          xoxoReplyCancel

          • Penny - September 20, 2017 - 10:51 PM

            Wise Mother!

          • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 11:01 PM

            Yeah… She’ll be 95 next month. But she has vascular dementia. It’s the weirdest thing. She’s here but not really. I do miss her!

  • Diana Pinkerton - September 20, 2017 - 9:51 PM

    I absolutely love your posts!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - September 20, 2017 - 9:45 PM

    Laurel – You have fantastic humor. I enjoyed this article so much! Love your new handbag too!ReplyCancel

    • Leslie - September 20, 2017 - 9:51 PM

      One more thing – what a jackpot if someone inherits antiques from any of these French eras! My grandparents had very solid (heavy) dark, dark (have to say it twice for emphasis) mahogany furniture. While it was very fine furniture, much harder to find a way to integrate it into a home with more modern furniture. (Would love to see you take that on!)ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 9:55 PM

        Hi Leslie,

        Actually, my aunt did that. But it was only one piece, an armoire and in a not-very-big townhouse living area. Everything else was very modern down to the Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona chairs. So, that’s the answer. If it’s one piece it can work. It goes the other way around too, BTW.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 9:48 PM

      Thanks so much Leslie! I feel quite blessed!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - September 20, 2017 - 9:41 PM

    For me, the rule is: “It must be what it is trying to look like” – in other words, an homage is fine but fraud isn’t. Don’t buy things that look like they’re trying too hard to pass for something they aren’t. (Well, I also don’t buy things that are just plain ‘trying too hard’ but…

    True antiques, sure, go for it. Go nuts! But for anything less than 100 yrs old, if it looks like wood, it must be real wood. If it looks like marble, it must not be plastic. If it looks like silk, it must be silk…. this is just my rule and I dont expect others to agree, but it works for me.

    Classic style for me is linked with authenticity. Imagine a dinner party: in a room with a Swedish midcentury and an Italian baroque, what happens if a cheap imitation of an English regency walks in, with its MDF interior and crude finish? Buzzkill. Party’s over!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 9:48 PM

      I think that’s a great philosophy Katherine. The problem is, I find that the majority of people have no idea what something is supposed to be. A prime example out of many is wood furniture. There’s so much bad furniture that’s touted as “traditional” and it’s not. ReplyCancel

      • Katherine - September 20, 2017 - 10:11 PM

        An excellent point. Perhaps it’s the Ikea effect. As the decades go by, generations that once inherited fine furniture are now passing down the flat-pack mass-produced pieces?

        But if something is genuine wood, not pulp and filler, would that not go some way toward better chance of classic design? For example, at the Design Museum in London (or is it the V&A?), there is an exhibit on chairs; the modern mass-produced plastic chair is presented as a noble thing unto itself precisely as it does not aspire to be anything else. A Ghost Chair makes reference to a Louis fauteuil but doesn’t pretend to be one. In a hundred years, could a Ghost Chair be considered a classic?

        I distantly remember a book about Coney Island wherein the author stated that beachgoers could always be sorted into those with class and those without, simply by the amount of artifice they presented at the shore: those with lots of accessories and obvious adornment felt the need to express their status, while those who actually had it didn’t. Presumably, those with real status simply didn’t need to bother.

        It seems like an oversimplification, but can the same be said about decor?ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:23 PM

          Hi Katherine,

          Well, there are two different elements. There are the materials and yes that’s part of it, but it’s also the design itself. I don’t understand how anyone could create it in the first place. ReplyCancel

          • Katherine - September 20, 2017 - 10:26 PM

            Laurel, you crack me up! Absolutely right. Well said.

            Great post as usual. 10/10 🙂

          • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 10:33 PM

            Thanks so much Katherine! I like this one too. It’s those hot kings in tights! LOL

  • Holley Johnson - September 20, 2017 - 9:41 PM

    Hi Laurel
    It’s been a while since I’ve commented but I’m still reading every week. This was a wonderful post (as usual!) and I appreciate you addressing this problem. The house my husband and I bought last April is in desperate need of a taste upgrade, not an update. The builder was a victim of latest fadism and made some horrible choices. Think late New Orleans brothel. We’re slowly bringing the house back to reality but it’s not always easy with so many decisions to be made at once. I really wish you lived in Atlanta! One of the best decisions we made was painting the giant master bedroom Narragansett Green after reading one of your posts. Thank you for excellent advice. It is now a cozy but sophisticated space. I could go on and on…. but I won’t. Have a wonderful time in England! It’s our favorite place to visit. Can’t wait to see the highlights.ReplyCancel

    • Leslie - September 20, 2017 - 9:55 PM

      Lol – late New Orleans brothel!! Would love to see your ‘before’ pictures!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 20, 2017 - 9:45 PM

      Thanks so much Holley and sorry that you’re having to deal with a mess. But so happy that the N green was a hit!ReplyCancel

      • Holley Johnson - September 20, 2017 - 9:48 PM

        Oh yeah! Meant to tell you that we copied your bathroom color too. Shoreline? I think? Anyway, absolutely love it!ReplyCancel