Letters of Life

On Design: Mixing The Past with The Present

Morning light bathes the foyer in bright yet soft tones

A home is built on the two pillars of knowledge: Thought and memory, and furniture speaks volumes on both subjects.

Memory is more important than Thought, for Memory comprises old Thought and information that give rise to new Thought. That’s why I’ve always loved antiques and old things, because I’m intrigued by history. What went on before is so much more interesting than the Here and Now, or What Will Be.

Old furniture, particularly those blessed with good form (clean lines, elegant curves), bear the weight of the years well. Take the Scandinavian contemporary teak sidetable on the right. It has been with me for as long as I can remember. It was in the house where I grew up, supporting books, a diary, a telephone, a table lamp; as a piece of furniture, it was practical and invisible.

It followed me to my first home in the heartlands, then to my current apartment. It’s elegant tapered legs are shown to great effect here. The concentric squares around the modernist mirror above echoes the mouldings which surround it. The French-made wood-and-wicker chair has country-style wrought iron, and the mix is pleasing to the eye.

A mix of modern and classic

The previous style in this apartment was warm and woody, in a style best described as shabby chic. With the new mouldings on the walls, the Continental references called for modernist furniture to provide balance.

The console was a serendipitous find. It was the only piece in a store selling one-off pieces based on Italian contemporary furniture. We loved its clean lines and quirky, intentional dents and crooked surfaces.

The black armchair harks back to a time when overstuffed chairs were popular. The standing aluminium lamp is retro-industrial and naturally bridges the past and present styles.

Sand, shale, and silver-blue create a tranquil restful space

The view outside the bedroom is the tops of stately raintrees at least 40 years old, so a window-seat was created that stretched the length of the bedroom. The colours of sand, shale, and beach-glass add a tranquil mood to the room, a space where I now do most of my writing, resting, and dreaming.

The dark bedframes and blackframed photos on the nightstand match the dark window frames and add necessary contrast to the muted colour scheme.

Down the corridor of thought and memory

It was a bold decision to have the bedroom doors painted black and the frames white. I was inspired by pictures in a book on American modern interior design and wanted a similar old-world-meets-new effect. I’m relieved it turned out the way I envisioned it.

There’s a common perception that one needs an overhaul of furniture when the interiors get a facelift. It is true, but perhaps only to an extent. Like writing, the overall effect in the process of decorating relies a lot on attention to detail and more importantly, editing: Knowing what to take out, what to leave in.

In this decorating exercise, which took the last third of 2010, I learned to trust my own instincts on what felt right and what didn’t in all the spaces. I also learned to trust my taste, which was being tried and tested in a new context.

It was a relief when old, favourite chairs and pictures blended well with new additions. I realized that in deciding to mix styles and eras in the form of furniture, the visual aesthetic was not compromised if there were similarities in colour, form, or texture.

Looking back, it’s been a fun ride. Kinda.

What’s been your experience in trying out something new? It can be clothes, lifestyle, music, befriending people. Do share your experiences by leaving a comment.

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