Traditional Style

With over 3,500 images to sort thru this turned out to be a much more difficult task than I had originally imagined. There are well over 300 “favorite ” images including building exteriors, landscapes, stairs, lighting, paneling, floors, etc. (And this doesn’t include the food/restaurant pics…) Some of these images serve a practical purpose as I see a detail I feel I can learn something from. Others record a “Holy Cow! that is incredible!!!” moment.

I’ll start with this one – a happy accident. Taken in the Louvre, I took a picture of the crown molding detail of a museum display case. It wasn’t until later, going thru the images when Sally and I returned to Salem that I saw what was in the background. I guess I was hyper focused… (We designers can be like that…)

From the Louvre as well. Note – the marble on left is faux. Sally and I saw this frequently and were in awe of it’s beauty.


I’m quite sure I took this at Versailles. Several important things here. The use of crystal to reflect and reflect light, increasing/enhancing the candle light from the chandelier. How the adjacent room is connected visually thru the use of light. And as I as to began to see and understand as our visit went on, as ornate as the crown and wall/panel trim were, they were based on the same classical orders and forms as later less orange periods/styles. There was great continuity as one style evolved and morphed into the next over several centuries.

And this was simply overwhelming… The lantern in foyers and foyer-like spaces was an element we saw repeatedly.


Fontainebleau yielded a few gems. The scale of this chandelier was massive!

It was interesting to see how Napoleon adapted rooms to his taste and style. This is the ceiling in his bedchamber, formerly the king’s reception chamber.

Vaux Le Vicomte was my favorite chateau and the predecessor to Louis XIV‘s Versailles.  Let’s start with a ceiling detail in the foyer. Spectacularly classical and ahead of it’s time.

These next two images display unbelievable faux painting/finish work. The sheer number of talented artisans employed to complete/finish buildings such as this boggles my imagination.

When Louis XIV had his finance minister, Nicholas Fouquet arrested, he stripped Vaux Le Vicomte of many of it’s valuable features, including tapestries. I believe the fabric panels and frieze indicate where tapestries originally hung. Note again, the extent of faux painting.

A ceiling detail of Fouquet’s bed chamber.  The image speaks for itself…

The bed chamber… No wonder a young Louis XIV was jealous, had him arrested and put in prison for life!


And I conclude with an image from the Carnavalet Museum, whose purpose is to preserve the history of the city of Paris. While the museum was described to us as a collection of historical artifacts, it was so very much more – especially the rooms that they have salvaged and preserved as the grand “Hotels” of Paris were demolished years ago.

And an image I need to figure out where it was taken… My guess is Versailles or the Louvre.


Hope you’ve had a mini-vacation as we slide into the month of December and the Holiday Season.


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As I began to map out the post it became clear that in order to tell the story properly, it needed to be broken down into parts. It has been a long, interesting, educational and at times painful journey. Having said that – all ended well, but not at all where we started… Today, I am sticking just to the pretty pictures and sources of inspiration, to give you an idea of where we started.

The floor plan below shows locates the stair in the context of

the floor tile layout and several adjoining rooms off the foyer. It is a two story space with the second floor stair landing/hall running from right to left above the family room and kitchen.

In reality the stair and tile layout were conceived simultaneously. The following images are examples of stairs and tile layouts we drew inspiration and ideas from.

Our client loved the tile pattern/border in Brooke Astor’s Holly Hill House. We also drew inspiration from how the stair lands and flairs, which will be more evident in my next post.

SERGE J.F. LEVY/AP Photographer

The sweep of the hand rail form the Nathaniel Russell House… Look closely, the hand rail is composed of many individually carved curved segments.

She fell in love with this older wrought iron stair balustrade.

And this more modern spin on a similar motif.

Sally and I had budgetary concerns and in fact much preferred the character of stairs with simpler wrought iron balusters, as in these examples.

Before our client was willing to consider a simple baluster, we had to go thru the “exercise” of what would the more complex balustrade cost.

And so the adventure began…

Stay tuned…


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I’m working thru the last few details of a kitchen island Sally and I are designing for a client in Newton, MA. The style of the kitchen could best be called a classical modern American kitchen with Belgian/European influences. Cabinets will be limed white oak or white oak with a transparent soft white wash, walnut island, jerusalem limestone backsplash, stainless steel appliances and funky lighting over a custom glass top table and column base that is integrated in to the island. We’re very excited about the floor, it will be stenciled. Final design and installation will be done by our decorative painter friends Lena and Doug of Zoe Design.

But I digress… Back to the island details. One of my pet pieces is many kitchen Islands I see are very conflicted visually. They can’t seem to make up their mind as t whether they are a piece of furniture, a table or something else entirely. Where I see this the most is at the island’s corners. Consequently I tend to fuss over my island corners. At the moment I have three contenders.

I’m trying to be more cabintry-like here, as opposed to furniture-ish or table-ish. I’m studying which detail will turn the corner most comfortably visually, given the simplicity of the cabinet doors. It’s interesting – as I look at the image now, I see at leasts two or three more possibilities. Can you?

This is where the process is so alive. You’ve absorbed images, had long discussions about style, function, form, materials and finishes with the client to the point where when you sit down to sketch you’re seeing the process thru their eyes, tempered by your own experience, intuition and design sensibilities.


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