Tweaked Traditional
By Karen Parr-Moody


It's no secret: In the modern world of interior design, people love this "new" look I like to call "Tweaked Traditional." If you are familiar with the work of designers Kelly Wearstler, Miles Redd and Jonathan Adler, you know this leading style: It takes pieces from past eras and assembles them together in fresh ways. And Adler, who is a potter in addition to an interior designer, also creates new designs inspired by retro styles for a colorful style he calls "Happy Chic."

The dining room in the photo, right, is from the website Apartment Therapy; it illustrates Tweaked Traditional to a T. The room is anchored by a crisp, white table. But rather than being surrounded by matching chairs, this table is taken to a chicer level by a hodgepodge of candy-colored shell chairs from Eames for Herman Miller. These molded plastic chairs are comfortable and beautiful, but above all, they are chic examples of the Mid-century Modern look.
Another twist to this unique dining room is the pairing of shell chairs, which couldn't be more spare and modern, with the Rococo mirror and the Eastern wardrobe with mother-of-pearl inlay. Since both are ornate and delicate, these two items are the perfect counterpoints to the sleek nature of the dining room. This is Tweaked Traditional at its best.

That sound you hear is me kicking myself for not purchasing this gorgeous slipper chair in the photo, left. What a GasLamp find — it is not only offered at a good price ($69 at Booth B-308), it is in good condition. It is covered in an ultra-feminine barkcloth fabric (as opposed to the typical atomic and boomerang prints) and the silhouette reminds me of the slipper chairs designed by William "Billy" Haines in the 1940s.  If you want glamour, you have to have a slipper chair. Haines was a dashing Hollywood actor during the early 20th century before he left the world of film in the 1930s to become the decorator extraordinaire of the Hollywood Regency look (which was in itself a form of Tweaked Traditional); he knew a bit about glamour. I could see stashing this chair in a bedroom nook and adding some eclectic items from other eras to create a tiny haven of Tweaked Traditional style.

If you are going to pursue a Tweaked Traditional look, you simply must bust out a bust. While they have roots in antiquity, busts have more recently assumed their spot in modern decor, settled in among the Ikat fabrics, Arne Jacobsen chairs and gilt sunburst clocks. Designers Kelly Wearstler and Miles Redd are both known for adding a rich patina to a modern settings by adding a decorative bust. The one in the photo, right, has a silver sheen that would fit into a modern home much better than an ornate, classical home ($75; Booth B-315). Why? A modern home provides a blank canvas to imbue a bust with a crisp, modern setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to bringing "Happy Chic" to the forefront, Jonathan Adler has also made pottery fun again. His original pottery had a trademark look of stripes, organic forms and crisp silhouettes, a look he credits to his "holy trinity" of muses: Alexander Girard, Bonnie Cashin, and Bjorn Wiinblad. The vase in the photo, left, is in the vein of Adler and would bring some Happy Chic to any room. However, an Adler vase of this size would run you about $170; this one, at $18, leaves you plenty of extra pennies for more Tweaked Traditional décor (Booth B-312).

If you happen to have a whole lot of pennies, this Heywood Brothers Wakefield wicker arm chair, circa 1880, is a true collector's item (photo, right; $1,195; Booth B-310). It is gorgeously ornate, and in the way that the dining room photo above matches sleek Eames chairs with an ornate Rococo mirror, I could see this paired with some sleek and colorful items for a gorgeous result. Wicker came to the U.S. in the mid 1800s, where it was at first hand-produced, then mass produced due to new machinery. The two competing wicker manufacturers, Wakefield and Heywood, would eventually join forces as one company, following the tastes of their Victorian customers; curlicues and scrolls found their way into wicker furniture for a creative result.

I am guilty of being a huge fan of the Tweaked Traditional look. In my own living room I have combined a sofa with Mid-century Modern lines, a bamboo coffee table, tufted slipper chairs and hints of Victoriana. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it definitely says "personal style." If you want to achieve the same, just surf the eras and blend your finds together for a fresh look.

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