Interior Design and Your Personal Style

Just as I was musing about how to write about the Interior Design of Whoopi Goldberg's home on "Oprah" yesterday, Barbra Streisand "showed" Oprah HER estate today.  What a contrast, and a great way to discuss personal style in Interior Design.

Barbra was celebrating Oprah's last season, and promoting her new book (which everyone in the audience got, of course): My Passion for Design.  Barbra has always been known for her appreciation and affinity for Interior (and other) Design.  Before she ventured into the work on her current California beachfront estate, her homes and famous guest houses were photographed and published as she filled them with collectibles and incredible vintage (that would be less than 50 years old) as well as antique furnishings.  Today's celebration of her house showed a less formal, more decorative and country-looking environment than when she was famous for amazing Art Deco pieces.  The exterior of the house is completely in sync with the interiors and the attention to detail is admirable and consistent.  The exterior is covered with flowers and climbing roses.  She showed a room in her guest house that overlooks the ocean.  It's decorated in prints of pink -- and right there, with her microphone, is where she records her incredible vocals.  The few interior spaces she shared of this house show her attention to detail:  everything coordinates.  It isn't all the same, but the design and decorating style is consistent and the house feels like it has a "theme".  Her book has interior shots (not avail online for me to share!) of her other incredible residences as well.  Today, she even talked about how she chose the color of the fish in her pond (black and white) to coordinate with the outside of the house and the color of water.

img_passion_exterior  Babs 1.jpg


Whoopi's home, which first inspired this blog, is eclectic.  By definition, "eclectic" means: "varied: made up of parts from various sources".  Eclectic means that although it's VARIED it also WORKS.  Whoopi has an amazing bedroom of 1930's Art Deco pieces including a fabulous bed and other coordinating pieces.  Her bathroom is HUGE, nicely detailed, but not in a specific style.    Her home has lots of empty space, wood flooring and casual gathering spots for her family.  It's filled, but not "girly" or fussy.  Her kitchen table and chairs work well together, but are not a matched set.  Shelves are filled with (as she calls it) her "Negrobelia" collection of Aunt Jemima-styled ceramics like cookie jars, pitchers, etc.  Whoopi's book collection is so extensive that she uses three separate rooms to accommodate her library.
Thumbnail image for whoopi-goldbergs-loft-2[1].jpg
Since most of us don't have the opportunity to build an estate with a fish pond and an antique water mill, we nestle into our living room, bedroom or den to make our own space.  If we have lots of books, we likely don't have a few extra rooms to create a substantial library, so some books get moved to boxes or find a new home.  But, if we like books, we have shelves all around to keep what we can.  If movie posters are our favorite thing, walls for bookcases might be scarce, but that's OK.

If what we like is what is on display down the street at a chain furniture store, we should just buy it.  Somehow, I think that most of us would rather personalize our space.  Some more than others:  maybe just artwork, or area rugs, or a cute collection on a table or shelf.  Some of us want to explore more possibilities.

Personal style is about doing what WE want, rather than go into a store and buy stuff because it's in the middle of the showroom floor.  It's not that different with what we wear, but those purchases are usually less permanent than what is in our home.  It often seems easier and more forgiving to wear vintage or resale funky clothing than it is to NOT buy the same leather sofa that your neighbor has, or use the same color granite countertops or maybe buy painted furniture.  On a coffee table, contemporary glass bowls and/or candles might work for some, while old cigar boxes will work for someone else -- or maybe a stack of art books.  There is absolutely no question that colors and products go in and out of fashion.  I haven't seen a pink toilet (other than the 1930's "wisteria" fixtures I saw yesterday) since the 80's, and shag carpet is reappearing, so who knows.  Only stainless in your kitchen?  Maybe not if you want to go the route of white painted kitchen cabinets, which is always stylish.

Movies and celebrities seem to go the funky, mismatched route.  It's certainly true that a movie set will be professionally designed and styled, and Professional Interior Designers may (like me) enjoy working in mixtures of styles, colors and seemingly mismatched proportions.   Eclectic can be spare, or it can be "organized clutter"; it can be antiques, country, contemporary and mid-century modern mixed into the simplest of styles.  Besides "being eclectic", you might like unusual colors.  In the proper proportions, any colors can work together (from my color theory class in college).  Seemingly strange, it's true.

Fly with what you love.  If  you want to do a pink room like Barbra's guest house, go for it...I'd suggest finding a qualified Designer to find the products you'll need to make it work, but why not pursue it?  Many retailers probably don't sell those colors nowadays, but they ARE available.   If you want to pare down your dining room to a sturdy table and chairs that aren't a matched set --hey, that's great!    One of the most wonderful photographs I ever saw was of a dining room with bookcases between the tall windows -- a library/dining room!    Again, find help to make the seemingly  quirky stuff visually fit together and look balanced, AND you will need to figure out how to replace essential pieces of furniture (like dressers, buffets)  with alternative surfaces/storage if space is scarce.  After all, you'll have to live there when it's done, right?

Leave a comment