Design Lesson
Jan 14, 2009

Home & style interview: Darryl Carter

By: Brett Walther

Home & style interview: Darryl Carter Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson
Jan 14, 2009

Home & style interview: Darryl Carter

By: Brett Walther

With a recently published book and a stunning new collection of furniture for Thomasville, Darryl Carter is the man who's making everything old feel new again. His look, aptly dubbed The New Traditional, rejects "here today, gone tomorrow" trends in favour of timeless antique treasures cocooned in a crisp, neutral envelope. It's a look that's fresh, cosy and inviting. We sat down with the designer to talk decor.

STYLE AT HOME How do you keep traditional from feeling stale and stuffy?
DARRYL CARTER
My clients are often disparate in that one may be predisposed to the modern and his or her spouse to the traditional. There tends to be a presumption that there’s no nexus between the two styles, but I think they marry beautifully. Everything has evolved from something before, and even the most modern forms have a connection to the past, so these forms can work together rather logically. I generally make a space feel more modern by having a very neutral envelope, and then taking classic furniture pieces and executing them in unexpected textiles. If you take a classic camelback sofa, for instance, and cover it in a neutral linen, suddenly the piece takes on a modern sensibility because you're seeing the architecture of the piece rather than the textile.

S@H Are we too hung up on perfection when decorating?
DC Yes, we should avoid that. I'm about living in my environment, and that’s something I honour with my clients. I aim to understand their lifestyle -- the way my clients actually live in their home instead of the way they "ought" to live there. If you’re not someone who routinely entertains large groups, I'd advocate lining the dining room with bookshelves and bringing in a collapsible table so the space becomes more usable as a reading room, rather than maintaining its status as a dining room at all times. Just convert it for the lesser use on special occasions. I think people tend to do the reverse.

S@H Getting the right white seems to be key to your designs. How do you do it?
DC It's trickier than one might imagine. White is very much a colour, and it can take on a multitude of casts. Finding a true neutral is a challenge, but I think Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White OC-125 works well with most palettes.

S@H You always manage to source such stunning antiques that really define your rooms. What's your advice for novice antique hunters?
DC Look for what lies beneath and keep an open mind. I'm driven by geometry and form. Some of the most beautiful furniture pieces I've bought have been buried under terrible 1960s fabric. You can find beautiful objects in the least likely places, and then marry them with refined furniture, fabrics or upholstery, and that's the essence of my furniture collection for Thomasville -- they’re "collected." The pieces aren't intended to match, though they all go beautifully together. This collected look is what gives interest to a house, especially since so many environments today look like hotel rooms. I'm not sure why people wouldn't want to have more variety in the home. I hope that in 2009, people will become more comfortable mixing things up and also be more confident in their eye.

S@H Every piece in the new furniture collection looks like a treasured antique.
DC
Nearly all are inspired at least in part by an antique. If the inspiration piece was highly carved or had a lot of detail, I pared that down to make a piece that's a little more modern. The Wesex chair -- one of my favourites in the collection -- is inspired by a wing chair I bought years ago. My version is smaller in scale because the intention is that it's a wing chair with some dexterity -- it doesn't overwhelm. It can go at the head of a dining table, partner with a desk, or sit on its own in an alcove. All my Thomasville pieces are comfortable, but relatively diminutive and graceful in scale, working well in both small and large environments.

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Home & style interview: Darryl Carter