Attention to detail is part of contemporary design


June 13, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer/Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: While we like the simplicity of contemporary design, the attention to detail seen in traditional furniture and interiors also has a certain appeal. Is there a way of getting both at the same time?

A: My instinctive response, not surprisingly, is to advise you to commission a professional designer who has more than average skills in creating customized interiors. But regular readers know that I'm also a strong proponent of do-it-yourself design, so I'll try to give you some guidance. Let's begin by considering some basic criteria.

Detailing in the field of interiors can be equated with the methodology used in the type of women's fashion known as couture. The blind-stitched seam and the perfectly inverted pleat are among the features of this type of clothing design with which you may be familiar. The same fastidious quality -- and sometimes even the same techniques -- can be seen in high-style interiors, regardless of whether they're traditional or contemporary in their overall look.

Exacting details are not, however, as flamboyantly visible in contemporary interiors because decorative elements are largely absent in these settings. But while the eye does have to be schooled to see it, detailing is an indispensable component of the best contemporary designs. It just doesn't look the same as in a traditional interior.

An accomplished designer working in a contemporary style will handle detail as part of a room's total design. Close attention will certainly be paid to millwork, for example, or to built-in cabinetry. Precise detailing will then be incorporated into the construction of a given piece or into an overall interior, rather than being applied in a decorative manner as is usually the case with traditional design.

A fine example of contemporary detail can be seen in the photo of a bedroom's sitting area designed by Charles Gandy and William Peace, both of Atlanta. Take a close look at the storage wall unit. The choice of color and texture, along with the matched grains of the wood doors, indicates that a great deal of care was taken in the manufacture of this object. The discreet hardware and the pattern produced by the inlay are also part of the vocabulary employed by the designers of this elegant space.

Simple yet perfectly tailored slipcovers were also introduced in place of the original, poorly upholstered fabrics. These seating pieces are now dressed in a high-style fashion, as exemplified by the contrasting welting, the pencil-like edge of the back cushion, and the inverted pleating at the back of the chairs and at the corners of the skirt.

This is one contemporary design that pays attention to detail. It may not be as immediately obvious as in a traditionally decorated room, but some of us might argue that this approach is more pleasing precisely because it is more subtle.

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