Ever since I can remember, I‘ve always tried to be incredibly resourceful and innovative with things that were, oftentimes, ready for the trash. I relish the beauty of finding old things and making them into something new. During my frequent trips abroad, I was the kid stopping to look at the buildings, the gates and stone walls. I didn’t know that one day these architectural details would be categorized in my mind as a recipe for a well appointed home. But with details large or small I never discriminated and you know me: I’m always up for a challenge.
That said, architectural design is all about embracing, tapping into, and utilizing architectural details. Let me explain. You will routinely find architectural details such as fluted columns, dentil molding or corbels on the outside of a building or structure. Bringing these details indoors conveys a feeling of substance and continuity, especially if the same details are also displayed on the outside. These sometimes small yet powerful visual cues are the cream on top of the cappuccino. Cream, as you know, always rises to the top, and so do these details in my mind's design handbook. They are the punctuation in a sentence as they make you stop and pause, and reflect for a moment on the grandeur of old world craftsmanship.
Many times the architectural details can be found in unusual places. For example, in my dining room I have architectural renderings of antique buildings. These were actually pages from a book that I salvaged from an antique store in London. This book had severe water damage and was practically destroyed. But you know me...I saw the potential in a few of the pages: I could visualize them fabulously framed and hanging in my home. And guess what? That’s exactly where they are.
Dentil molding is a perfect example of how to use traditional outside architectural inside. Not only do I have dentil molding below each outside window lintel--that's the shelf above the window frame--I have the very same molding on my fireplace mantel. I wanted to create a cohesive look and feel and in fact, that is exactly what happens. Most people don’t even realize that they have seen the same molding in various places on the exterior of the house but it does register, and they often comment later.
Here’s another architectural detail that I brought inside from outside in a very unique way. I took an old iron balcony and made it into a sideboard for my dining room. Here again, I found a way to use an existing element in a new way. The patina is perfectly preserved and seems to be frozen in time. I left it exactly as I discovered it but topped it with a modern touch, a frosted piece of one inch glass. Because the ironwork is open, it takes up “zero space” visually, and from my living room one can see through the table into the garden. It romances the eyes, creating an illusion of it still being outside.
Lamps often represent architectural details, and the lamps in my dining room are a perfect example. Made of cement composite, they are shaped like the finials one might find on top of a fence post. These finials are, however, wired for lamps. They are the perfect size and complement the other architectural elements in the room. Another place one might find architectural detail is in furniture. These details are often incorporated on the legs or arms of tables and chairs. I have a large oval table in my front bay window. The tabletop sits on two large urns that are supported by the bottom legs. The effect is dramatic and interesting, and reminiscent of the many urns found in my garden. Looks for these types of ways to simply bring exterior details into your rooms.
Here’s a further interesting way to use architectural detail: use corbels. Corbels are really just brackets except that they are decorative and come in a variety of styles and are usually made from wood or metal. The earliest use of corbels was purely structural, but have evolved to free-standing decorative items, which you can incorporate as you wish. These decorative brackets can be used for everything from holding up counters, supporting cabinets or shelves and even in the kitchen as a support for a range hood. I like to use them as bookends and/or free standing on a countertop for visual interest. Reproduction corbels are becoming more popular with designers because they look old but yet lack the antique price tag.
You can tell that I really love to use these elements in my home. Everyone always comments about how the essence of Rosebrook Gardens’ interior romanticizes Mother Nature. Here’s another element that I think you will find interesting.
When I purchased my house, it had two pillars separating the dining and living areas. These pillars were simple, hollow, plastic--and you can imagine my dismay. I had them removed immediately. I happened upon a real wood column in an antique store in the Hamptons. I had it cut down from 9 feet to 5 feet, had the bottom moldings reattached, and now I have a fabulous pillar in the corner of my dining room. It serves as a display for whatever suits my fancy or on its own--it is equally beautiful and majestic just adding it's classical shape to my room. It has a flat top and beautiful fluted sides. It is spectacular!This antique repurposed pillar has become the blueprint for the sides of my fireplace mantel, for my pergola’s pillars and one day will be the inspiration for my new portico. Why reinvent the wheel when I have the perfect example of what to replicate?
That said, I’m always asked if my home is an old home that has been renovated. I delight in saying that it is a new home, one that transports you to a time gone by when homes were built with such attention to detail and when craftsmanship was the standard. Today, it’s harder to find these details but when I do, you can be sure I’ll stop and MARval over them.
And there you have it.