Accessories catch the eye on basic backgrounds

Candid Closet

November 14, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Carol O'Bryon dresses like she designs corporate and residential spaces: in neutral, classic hues. She saves a sense of whimsy for accessories.

"Accessories are really important," the Towson-based interior designer says. "I don't bore as easily with clothes as I do with accessories. In the same way, I feel if I'm working on a residential home, you make the backdrop out of more expensive materials that are more neutral and span the test of time. And you accessorize with trendy things you can change that won't cost a fortune.

How would you characterize your style?

It is sort of a loose sophistication. Sophisticated but not too serious.

Your profession requires formality and comfort. How do you twin the two?

I buy very few suits. I'll buy slacks and jackets and skirts all as separates and then every morning when I get up, I open the doors of my closet, stare, and ask myself, "What's my schedule )) today?" I really dress for my clients. If I'm going to see a client that likes a lot of color, I'll probably wear a lot more color.

My dressing from day to day varies greatly. Today I have a meeting with a client who runs a fast-paced software company out of his home. Because he's younger and more casual and I know him, I'm dressed in black linen slacks, suspenders and black and white silk striped top.

How do you shop?

Because I'm busy, I don't have time to browse. I put three or four-hour time blocks together to shop. And because my love of clothes and fabrics and fine things exceeds my pocketbook, I spend a lot of time trying on everything I like at Loehmann's or the Nordstrom Rack. I buy in batches. I do maybe two or three trips a year.

You approach color prudently.

If I'm presenting fabrics or colors to a client that day, it's particularly important to me that I don't overwhelm them. I don't want to clash with my project. It would be very strange to present someone with fabrics in rust and browns and wear something that's turquoise.

What colors do you wear?

I wear a lot of rust to go with my red hair. I'm now in a brown phase, and gold and that kind of earthy mossy green.

What speaks to you when you shop and assemble outfits?

I like vests and multiple layers of things that combine different textures and colors. I also like to wear things made of linen and silk that, when I touch and feel and look at them, make me feel good.

Talk about your accessories.

Most of my jewelry are things I love and things I found on trips. When I was in Venice, I bought a little mask that's handmade. It has crisscross diamond patterns and wonderful colors. It wasn't expensive, but I love it. People comment on it because it's unusual. And this summer, as the American Society of Interior Designers had its national conference in Baltimore, one of the chapters from the Midwest sold pins made out of leftover laminate samples as a fund-raiser. I bought this pin with a computer chip in it.

What about staying warm?

I hate coats, but I finally found a Ralph Lauren coat I love. I don't mind wearing it when I have to. Usually my coat resides in the back seat of my car.

You must have to tote a lot of stuff from project to project.

I might walk in with my briefcase and four bags. I have a lot of bags I use to carry samples in. At the fabric showrooms at the Design Center in Washington, they give out wonderful heavy paper bags with great designs on them and in great colors. And I use canvas boat bags.

When you're truly off duty, what do you wear?

After two long days of being dressed in heels, last night was the first night I got home at a reasonable time and could relax in casual clothes to make dinner. I opened the closet and pulled out my husband's flannel shirt. It's a wonderful shirt.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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