Tuesday, February 1, 2011

American Modern

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to hear Thomas O'Brien speak at the LA Mart. He was there to talk about his book, American Modern. I wasn't originally planning on purchasing a copy, but after hearing him speak while looking at his amazing rooms on the big screen, I couldn't help myself. I've only had the book for a little over a week and I've already read it cover to cover and used it for design inspiration for a project I'm working on, so I'd say it was a good little purchase.

Thomas O'Brien is amazing. He's incredibly talented and was so genuine to listen to. I adore him.

Here's a couple of things that I have learned from Mr. O'Brien and his book.


When he was going through the different interiors in his book, he kept emphasizing this idea of collecting. Your home should be a collection of things that you love. Whether you've collected something over the years, or you've collected accessories and art specifically to redecorate your home, you should collect items that you love or that have meaning to you. I think the depth of this idea really shows in his interiors. His rooms feel very personal; not like someone just went over to the Crate & Barrel and picked up a few random knick knacks to fill up a shelf (guilty!).

Thomas purchased his home on Long Island, which was a boys school in the 1833 known as The Academy, then in 1921 it was purhcased and turned into a residence by a poet named Anne Lloyd. Thomas likes to collect coins and other memorabilia from these 2 different years, along with Anne Lloyd's published works, to fill the tables and shelves in his home.

It's ok to make your own rules, as long as you make it look good.

Thomas O'Brien installed custom Venetian blinds that were taped and corded in his New York apartment many years ago, and now he says they are a preferred treatment to do for clients. I was always taught that Venetian blinds were a no no. And if you flip through any design magazine nowadays, you most likely won't find them on any page or in any interior. But I have to admit, that Thomas makes them look so good. They fit his interiors perfectly. He says in his book, "I love the retro, reading-room feel of them, the elegance of their function." Amen. No one can argue that when it comes to function, Venetian blinds are where it's at in terms of window treatments, but of course, there is a time and place.

Homes are meant to be lived in.

Clients everywhere (mine as well as Thomas') worry about stains on light colored fabric and furniture, scratches and wear on marble counter tops, and nicks in wood flooring. Thomas addressed this issue during his presentation when someone asked how he convinces his clients to use these types of materials. His answer was basically that everything is destructible, you live in these spaces, you use these items, that is the point of having them. Wear and tear shouldn't keep you from designing and living in a beautiful home, or living in that home once it is completed. Furniture will need cleaning and counter tops may need resealing and resurfacing from time to time, but that is part of the natural upkeep of your home, like changing the oil in your car, or taking a shirt to the cleaners. And if you never get around to that upkeep, Thomas O'Brien shows you how the lived in look can be so beautiful.

Many people would shy away from white painted floors, but Thomas loves them. He said he just slaps a new coat of paint on them every couple of years to keep them looking fresh.

I don't think I saw any other surfaces other than butcher block or marble in his kitchens and bathrooms. You really can't beat the aesthetic beauty of marble, even with a few scratches.

photos via habitually chic, nest egg, design sponge, four walls and a roof


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