Q: We've just moved into a 1920s-era apartment that has excellent architectural details on the door and window frames, as well as chair rails and crown molding. Our furnishing budget is not very large, and we'd like to make the sort of purchases that would be appropriate in a future home, not just in the current place. Do you have some general suggestions for us?
A: Keep it crisp and simple, and you'll probably be able to take a lot along when you move. Be aware, though, that you can't take it all with you. Keep in mind, too, that one's living environment should be considered, first of all, an investment in comfort and aesthetic pleasure. So much the better, of course, if the furnishings prove to be portable assets, but that should be a secondary consideration.
Even though you don't intend to remain in your present apartment for the rest of your lives, there's always the chance that you'll be there longer than you now assume. Make sure that your home today will be pleasant tomorrow as well.
The place to begin is the surround. By this I mean the lighting as well as the floor and wall treatments.
White walls, possibly glazed to a subtle luster, will help highlight moldings and other architectural details. Bleached wooden floors are likewise a fail-safe option in a setting like the one you describe. High-gloss paint, in whatever color you would like to be predominant, would probably also work well as a floor treatment.
Look carefully at the corner of the photo and you'll see a black-and-white diamond-shaped design on the floor in the foyer. This effect can be achieved with vinyl or by painting such a pattern on the floor with the aid of a stencil. Another appropriate possibility, one that you can take with you, is a flat rug or a canvas floor cloth in a similar, black-and-white design.
Your apartment seems as though it has great potential for displaying contemporary versions of Deco-style furniture. Such simply designed, generally smaller pieces can readily be moved to another space.
The photo shows one such object -- a minimalist black metal console inspired by the 1920s Art Deco movement. It will go beautifully on a wall rich with architectural details of the same period. Here, the console is flanked by complementary wall sconces. Both the electrical fixtures and the console are the work of the American Glass Light Co. of New York.
Perhaps you would prefer to hunt for some original Deco pieces. They'd undoubtedly be a good investment, if you can afford what they already cost. High-quality reproductions are widely available, however, and there's no need to feel that they're somehow bogus, since most Deco pieces were themselves machine-made. In that respect, this style is very different from hand-carved period furniture, which seldom can be successfully reproduced.
As you might now suspect, traditionally detailed spaces need not be furnished with traditional furniture. But when styles are mixed, especially with the combination of contemporary pieces and a vintage environment, it's best to keep things very simple. That doesn't mean, however, that other aspects of interior design can be ignored. Furniture is only one part of a well-designed setting, regardless of how long the setting is to be used.