Home & Style interview: Larry Laslo
When world-renowned interior and product designer Larry Laslo came to Toronto in 2008 to launch his eponymous collection of home fabrics for Robert Allen, STYLE AT HOME got the scoop on—as Larry puts it—"glamour, guts and gossip."
Style at Home: What does the Larry Laslo fabric collection mean for windows?
Larry Laslo: My signature treatment is the layering of a patterned sheer over an opaque fabric, instead of the more conventional opaque over sheer. I love wide, layered fabrications. I'll extend the rod a foot and a half beyond either side of the window so that the draperies can collect and the whole window treatment can be opened to let in light. And I always use enough drapery to close it completely. No faux draperies allowed!
S@H: Your fabric collection ranges from soft, glazed linens shot with gold to lively lavenders. You have an affinity for neutrals and intense colour, but what’s the key to successfully using both?
LL: The world is more comfortable with neutrals, but neutrals don’t have to be boring. You can do a whole house in greys and beiges, with strong black and white, and pump it up with colour in a very simple way—flowers and art, which can come and go. But when you really "do" colour, you have to saturate the room. It has to be knock-your-eyes-out brilliant. If the walls are painted Hermès orange, the chairs can be silk taffeta in magenta, yellow and turquoise. Go for that shocking contrast. But a turquoise wall isn’t for everyone; just because a colour happens to be out there doesn't mean you have to use it.
S@H: In your designs, you pull pieces from different periods and styles. How do you get them to work together?
LL: Conviction. You really have to like the pieces. Certain things mix easily—like midcentury with sleek, simple and modern—but I love putting the unorthodox together, too. Colour can marry things; for example, you can pair an antique chair with a modern sofa, and if the colours marry, they’ll look right.
Image courtesy of Larry Laslo Designs.
S@H: What's the best way to display collections?
LL: People always want to put too much on a table. I gave that up a long time ago. When I travel, I’m always bringing things home, so when I bring one new toy home, I have to get rid of an old one; that's the way I keep it clean. Rooms have to breathe, too.
S@H: Do you collect anything in particular?
LL: No, I love everything. It's unfortunate. And expensive! Suddenly, I can be turned on to 1940s pottery, when I loved Mexican silver. It's always the "next" that intrigues me. And there always is a next. Ten years ago, we looked at all the Scandinavian pottery and thought, "This is so ugly," but here it is. Nothing dies; it just gets revived.
S@H: You seem to design with the clients' needs very much in mind, especially in terms of maintenance.
LL: Nothing's prettier than silver, but it needs to be polished. And stainless doesn't look pretty with fingerprints all over it. These materials have to be kept up, and in some homes they just aren’t practical. I love children and dogs—sometimes more than people—but when they're in the mix, you need to use things that look good over time and are hard to ruin. You're living dangerously with white satin sofas in a house where kids are going to be scrambling around with their toys. Discipline is gone in America these days, and that's become a reality in terms of design considerations. When I grew up, there was a room that you played in and a living room that you only went into when company came over, and you never ate in your bedroom.
S@H: What does every home need?
LL: Really good lighting and hardware. If the room is like a black dress, then the lighting and hardware are the jewelry. Spec homes always have the cheapest lighting and the worst hardware, and I see that immediately. Frankly, I'd rather see good hardware and not the greatest paint job than vice versa. Those are things that last, and those are the things you notice first.
S@H: Any other pet peeves?
LL: I hate to see a beautiful bathroom with eight ugly shampoo bottles messing up the look. All of those lotions and potions in cheap plastic need to be put away in a basket under the sink and brought out only when you need them. I don't think everyone should see what you use anyway. Leave a little mystery. I hate medicine cabinets, too. If you want to get technical about it, they're not good in humidity and water because they shorten the life of prescriptions.
S@H: How would you describe the Laslo look?
LL: I like things to be exciting, a little on the edge, and always beautiful. Beautiful doesn't necessarily have to be overdone or expensive. Even if you’re setting a table with a large bowl of oranges, it can still be beautiful.
Larry Laslo Designs for Robert Allen, through designers, robert allen, 800-363-3020; Montreal, 514-938-2677; Toronto, 416-934-1330; Vancouver, 604-255-0010; robert-allen-design.com. Larry Laslo Designs, New York, 212-734-3824; larrylaslodesigns.com.
Image courtesy of Larry Laslo Designs.