Mixing differnt styles to reach 'elegant eclecticism'


October 02, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Those of you who follow design trends are probably aware that "elegant eclecticism" has been deemed the defining look of the '90s.

That does not mean "anything goes." Instead, the idea is to achieve a sophisticated, pared-down look by assembling a combination of complementary styles.

Not surprisingly, references to historical designs are very much a part of this vogue. But it's not a matter of simply filling a room with copies of the wonderful 18th century furniture produced in England, France and in the Colonies. That does happen, but most of the reproductions used in such settings aren't of the best quality.

The problem is that authentic reproductions are based on a number of factors that are only semi-operative today. Skilled furniture builders, for instance, are scarce and expensive. The proper kinds of wood are not readily available. And a faithful reproduction of, say, an 18th century American wing chair will be out of scale with most of today's rooms and furnishings.

The latter difficulty can be addressed by the rescaling of historical pieces. And this can be done at no great cost to their original charm. They can then make a dramatic design statement when mixed in with contemporary fabrics and furniture.

The firm of Brunschwig and Fils, responding to the "elegant eclecticism" trend, has this year begun offering a collection that makes historical references to French, Flemish, Russian, Oriental and British Colonial styles.

The photo shows a new set of Brunschwig and Fils lamps that allude to a variety of sources in their styling. These elegant "tole," or painted tin, lamps are all reinterpretations of historical objects and painted scenes.

The tea caddy-shaped lamp features a tea-gathering scene derived from a larger-scale painting on a Regency commode. The restyled cylindrical oil lamp base, once widely used in Europe and America, has been painted a stone-colored green and decorated in gilt with a more modern depiction of classical ornamentation. The simple Japanese candleholder has been reintroduced in this collection in a new color combination of dark green with gold and red leaves and blossoms.

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