A cosmic shift has taken place in the world of interior design, so subtle at first that we weren’t even aware it was happening. Glamour is back.
Celebrity designer Jamie Drake drew national attention to the trend in his recent book, New American Glamour, a title the inaugural issue of Vogue Living promptly stole for a cover story. “I’m glad Vogue paid homage to my concept in its premiere issue,” Drake says. “We are ready for a glamorous movement. These are economically good times, and people want to leave the beige oatmeal look behind.”
What Drake provides clients, from Madonna to New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Drake redid Gracie Mansion when Bloomberg took office), is design with wit and high style. While the featured work may be beyond most homeowners’ finances, Drake’s design tips reveal that glamour can be added to any home, regardless of budget or lifestyle.
But what is the new American glamour? It can be expressed in a variety of styles and ways, from elegantly understated interiors to over-the-top lushness. But from the sensuous to the streamlined, it’s always about opulence. “There may be no simple definition of glamour,” Drake says, “but you always know it when you see it, and it always involves luster.”
Lustrous, luminous materials and surfaces are everywhere in today’s glamorous interiors. They can be as new as the just-introduced Precious Metal fabrics from John Hutton Textiles; as chic as Kindel’s exotic wood veneers (so richly dark and shiny they may be perceived from a distance as liquid rather than solid in form); or as elegant as Ann Morhauser’s platinum-banded Ruffle glassware from Anniglass. Shagreen, crystal, rhinestone, chrome and mirrored finishes are also making frequent appearances, complementing richly appointed upholstery of satin velvet and mohair.
The back story to the New American glamour is 1940s Hollywood; in fact every designer we queried about this trend paid homage to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The look we associate with Hollywood glamour is rooted in Art Deco furnishings; but that’s just a reference point for most contemporary proponents of glamour. “Deco is one of many influences, but it’s not my influence,” says Laura Kirar, an internationally recognized interior designer whose furniture collection for Baker is available locally through Robb & Stucky.
“Everybody has ideas of what it would be like to hold glamorous dinner parties and to incorporate glamour into their lifestyle,” Kirar explains. “Some people think it’s glamorous to live in a very spare environment with Italian modern furniture. Others like the repetition of geometry, the luxe materials and all those things that speak to what Art Deco is about.”
Kirar’s collection references the past, but with a modern bent. “We’ve gone through a period where minimalism was everywhere,” she says. “It’s still valid, and it’s still out there, but we’re seeing a rebirth of decoration. People are embracing texture, material and detail in a very different way. Interior design is definitely more ornate. Fur is everywhere. Gold is back. Everything was silver jewelry was for so long; no one would have dreamed of doing gold, especially in the home. Now it’s gold hardware on doors, gold finials, and gold in fabrics and on walls.”
“It’s a new reflection of the time and a new understated glamour—a clean, modern interpretation,” explains Steve McKee, vice president of merchandising for Robb & Stucky. McKee sees the trend as adapting traditional glamour to contemporary lifestyles. The look, interpreted by guest designers for several furniture companies, will be given prime space in Robb & Stucky stores across the country this year.
In fact, Kindel Furniture worked in conjunction with the retailer to create its new Knowledge collection, quite a departure for this bastion of 18th-century neoclassic style. Kindel president Paula Scott Fogarty personally introduced key pieces of the collection during a seminar at the Sarasota store months before they arrived on the selling floor.
A student of philosophy and art history, Fogarty says glamour highlights luxury, simplicity and refinement. “This is not furniture on steroids,” she says, referring to the oversized upholstery and case goods that in the late 1990s grew in tandem with America’s penchant for McMansions.
“America has quieted down,” Fogarty reports. Yet her collection, which references both Federal and mid-20th-century styles, is underscored with touches of glamour, from lustrous French-polished woods to Dupioni silk fabrics, amazingly livable with new treatments for easy care. Fogarty insists the collection is not modern and not contemporary. “Those are historic references; this furniture is ‘now’ in style. But glamour is also timeless.”
At Baker, lead case goods designer Shaun Melvin orchestrates the development of lines by some of the most influential names in interior design, including Kirar, Barbara Barry, Jacques Garcia, Thomas Pheasant and Bill Sofield. The distinctive work of each designer indicates that glamour is an attitude not linked to a specific design preference, Melvin says. “Within the Baker showroom you can find traditional interiors which happen to be layered, and you can find contemporary interiors which happen to be spartan. Each environment is successful and glamorous in its own way,” he says.
Geometric forms and their repetition throughout a room are a common denominator regardless of the designer’s personal style. Kirar’s signature is the circle; you may have thought Barbara Barry invented the oval with her X-back chairs, but the classic Greek form is showcased beautifully in Kindel’s Knowledge collection.
Mariette Himes Gomez explores the curve in her new crescent-shaped sofa for Hickory Chair, an opulent retro nod to Hollywood glamour complete with box pleats, silky luster and Art Deco styling. Drake’s upholstered furniture for Lewis Mittman is even more voluptuous. His signature piece, the Chloe sofa, is unique yet evocative of the periods he adores, a compilation of influences including the great design of 18th-century Versailles and St. Cloud, 19th-century English Regency, and the glamorous 1930s.
Glamour in the home is uplifting. “What could be better than living out a dream, especially the American Dream?” asks Drake. “Interior design offers the possibility of living in a party moment all the time.” To that we say, “Party on.”
THE ELEMENTS OF AMERICAN GLAMOUR
From celebrity designer Jamie Drake’s new guide.
Luster: Choreograph luster throughout the room to ensure there are no dead spots. Glistening pinpoints keep the eye moving.
Texture: The glamour of texture is the invitation to touch. In addition to tactile surfaces, create texture through the visual contrast of matte and shiny, transparent and opaque.
Color: Strong color endows each space with a thrill. Simple palettes have great strength and allure; a chromatic scale of a single color adds texture and tone.
The Curve: The voluptuousness of curves and circles allows freedom of motion; when used in repetition they add glamour and surprising discoveries throughout the room.
The Mix: A collage of styles, periods and cultures comes from within, from the assuredness that there are no rules; use it to reflect your experiences and personality.