Postmodern design stresses elegance


November 10, 1991|By Rose Bennett Gilbert | Rose Bennett Gilbert,Copley News Service

Q: What exactly does "postmodern" mean? We have bought a condo with what I guess you call classical architecture; I mean, lots of columns and half-round windows.

I like the look and would enjoy having it inside, too, but I need help.

A: The name postmodern goes a long way toward explaining the look -- it quite literally means the evolution of architectural design since the modernism of the earlier 20th century.

The look is characterized by the reinterpretation of such classical architectural motifs as columns, Palladian windows, peaked roofs and detailed moldings. It has a lot in common with neoclassicism, both of which distinguish the room we show here by a leading proponent of the postmodern revival, architect Robert A. M. Stern.

He may be best known, worldwide, for his exteriors, but in this case, Mr. Stern has brought his postmodern ideas inside. Among his neoclassic classics are the fanciful Greek revival chairs, column torchieres and giant, but gentle, geometrics in the rug (custom-designed for the room in Anso IV nylon).

Mr. Stern's room is cast in soft, buttery yellows, grays and off-whites, a subtle palette as classic as the Parthenon itself. You may be more familiar with the teals, peaches and clay reds also associated with postmodern design.

Another hallmark -- and good reason for its appeal -- is simplicity. Postmodern rooms are all about elegance and graceful proportions. Clutter, rampant pattern and strident colors definitely are not in the classic idiom.

Q: I have chosen a rather expensive fabric for the new living room curtains, which I'd hoped to have made full and luxurious looking under a swagged valance. Now I'm caught between the fabric I really love and not being able to afford enough of it to cover the triple-width window. Do you have any suggestions?

A: A little of a really great thing can go a long way if you use a few clever "extenders."

For example, the author of "Designing Windows," Lamar Griggs of Arlington, Texas, suggests that you use interlining to stretch the fabric visually. According to this expert, a width of fabric that is interlined will look as voluptuously full as a width and a half that hasn't been.

To her suggestion, I'd add another trick: Use your expensive fabric on stationary side panels and the swags across the top of the window, then use solid-color shades over the windows themselves to control light and privacy. You'll get the full effect of your beloved fabric, using much less yardage.

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