Thanks to my renovation, my team and I have considered every decorative option imaginable to give my new home a makeover that respects its historic past but feels fresh. We’ve seen plenty of amazing new possibilities, but what’s struck us most has been the fact that the classics never die; they just get better as they’re tweaked or even reinvented. We’ve seen so many creative and captivating iterations of age-old finishes and furnishings that we’ve fallen in love with them all over again. So we’re spreading the word as we find them. Here are the first three we want to share.
Terrazzo: Talk about hand-crafted luxury! Terrazzo, a composite surface of stone fragments in a cement binder, is totally customizable. The fragments can be as crazy and colorful or precious and opulent as you want. It dates back to the glorious mosaics of ancient Egypt, but ironically the version we use today comes from 18th century Venice. Construction workers used the technique as a low-cost way to surface the “terraces” surrounding their homes—hence the name terrazzo. They would set marble fragments in clay, then ground them down and polish the surface until smooth.
Inlaid metal divider strips (to reduce cracking) and electric grinders made terrazzo a popular flooring option in grand Deco homes (it harmonized with the machine-age aesthetic), and its durability made it common in public projects, such as museums and airports, by the mid-century. My new place has a striking green and gray terrazzo floor in the foyer, which is in fine shape. But to take it from striking to stunning, we’re making it more glamourous by adding extra brass inlays to amplify its staid geometric lines.
Églomisé: I’m happy to do as the French even when I’m not in France. And that’s where I was the first time I ever saw églomisé, a technique that involves applying a design and gilding on the reverse side of a piece of glass to create a mirror finish. Églomisé originated in pre-Roman times, but it was revived by French decorator Jean-Baptiste Glomy in the 18th century and has drifted in and out of favor since that time. I’ve used it occasionally in past projects, but once we saw the work being done today, the entire JLI team fell for it (and all learned how to say it; hear the correct pronunciation here).
Besides the fact that églomisé has so many different applications (from mirrors and frames to entire walls and ceilings), it screams luxury. Because it’s a bespoke, hand-applied finish, it’s also a bona fide work of art in its own right. So how could we not love it! While artisans who do it well are far and few between, we discovered some true stars. Right here in our proverbial backyard there’s the incredible Simes Studios; in New York we admire the work of Miriam Ellner; and we are using Gorman Studios in Vancouver because we fell in love with one of their motifs and don’t believe in knocking anyone off.
Chandeliers: Given their sheer beauty and complexity, it’s easy to understand why chandeliers have always been a symbol of luxury and social standing. Only the rich could afford to own a fixture in early middle ages, when chandeliers were invented, that was stationary (instead of moving from room-to-room), highly ornamental and used so many candles, which were astronomically expensive at the time. Like every decorative object, they evolved, were made in countless materials and trickled down to the working classes, especially as they became machine made during the industrial revolution.
As luxury interior designers, we have great reverence for the chandelier. Whether rustic or refined, playful or serious and restrained or larger-than-life, it gives a room a statement-making dose of decorative style. While looking for different options for my place (we’re putting them in the library, master bedroom, dining room and kitchen), we were bowled over by French sculptor Philippe Anthonioz’s cast plaster version (above) and American ceramist Eve Kaplan’s sculpted and gilded version (below). Both show how ordinary materials can be put to grand use. Neither were quite right for my place, but you can bet they’ll be working their way into our projects.
01 Aug 2019