COTE DE TEXAS: Why Update An Already Perfect Interior?

Why Update An Already Perfect Interior?


The Roman born designer Alessandra Branca is known for her red and black and gold interiors.   She uses classic fabrics and traditional furniture mixed with antiques, many in the chinoiserie style.  She always mixes in a surprise, a contemporary piece or an unexpected accent to keep her interiors exciting.  Her new line of fabrics for F. Schumacher are so classic that many of her rooms using these designs are a throwback to the more lively interiors of prior decades. 

In fact, on her instagram, Alessandra proclaimed  - “I believe the 80's are BACK !!!! What is old is new again!”

It’s as if her new fabrics have taken her back to a more colorful era with patterns and layers and chintz. 

Look:

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In this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse – Alessandra used her fabrics mixed with Pierre Frey’s Braquenié curtains.  Could a room be any more traditional?  The contemporary art work and light fixture give it that exciting pop that Branca favors.


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She used yardage of Pierre Frey’s Tree of Life fabric laid casually over the couch and on a settee.  Her own chinoiserie screen from her NY apartment was borrowed for this room.


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 In this Elle Décor apartment, Branca used her new Schumacher fabric on the walls and curtains.  Beyond fabulous.  Alessandra at her best.



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And in this Illinois showhouse earlier this year, Branca used her Schumacher chintz fabric against dark walls.

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Another view of the living room.  I think this room is so classic, so traditional, it’s just perfect in my opinion.  
 
So, while Alessandra is designing very, very classic interiors for showhouses and for herself – the new September issue of Veranda with a Branca designed house was a surprise.
  
I recognized the house, it had been featured in House Beautiful back in 2009 – I even showed it on the blog all those years ago.  Apparently, the young couple who own the 19th century, 4 story Chicago townhouse, had hired Alessandra to renovate and decorate their house the first time.  Ten years later, they wanted her to update it.  So soon?
 
I think ten years is the time period that trends and design styles tend to look dated.  And it’s the time period that SOME people start to get restless with their interiors and want them updated.
 
Alessandra Branca is one of my favorite designers and without a doubt, a first class one at that.  Studying her interiors is akin to taking a course in design – there is much to learn from her - and her book and pictorials give one that opportunity.
 
And so, I couldn’t help but project my thoughts onto Veranda’s story, looking at the choices Branca made as she explores a more contemporary, more youthful aesthetic.
 
It is interesting to look at the house – before and after – to see what stayed and what was changed.  I thought the house was perfect to begin with, so, the question is:

When you already have a perfect house – do you need to update it just because it’s been 10 years?
 
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For instance, this living room was designed by Branca several decades ago and I’m not sure I would change a thing today.  Does it really need a Sputnik light to be on trend?
 
WHY WOULD YOU UPDATE AN ALREADY PERFECT INTERIOR? 
 
 
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BEFORE:   The townhouse was first seen in House Beautiful, 2009.  When it was first bought, it needed updating and decorating.  The division between the entry hall and the living room had been removed, so Branca placed a large screen that acted as a wall – with art on both sides.  Here – is the entry hall – with a suzani covered bench and antique chest.  The couple waited three years for Branca to find the perfect mirror.


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A somewhat bigger photo scan from the House Beautiful pictorial.
 
 
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BEFORE:  Unfortunately, there aren’t large pictures of the front living room – but here you can see Branca’s trademark European stringing yellow silk curtains with blue velvet trim.  Behind the sofa is the screen.  Antique Swedish chairs have red damask fabric.


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You can see the beautiful red lamp and skirted table in the corner. On the walls is a faintly patterned yellow paper. A textured rug is underfoot – all items that Branca likes to use.


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AFTER:  And here is the living room today.  It is totally different – with lilacs and pinks instead of yellows and red.   The new color scheme was inspired by the Damien Hirst print with lilac Fortuny on the chairs.   The Italian stringing panels are replaced with a more contemporary styled curtain.  Branca removed the yellow print wallpaper and added faux stone walls created out of parchment wallpaper.  The textured rug was replaced with a soft wool one.

Branca updated the antique lamps by placing a glass sleeve over them along with new trendy shades.  The difference is remarkable – for several reasons.

First, the new color scheme is different from the rest of the house, which didn’t change in the renovation.  To me, it doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the house.  Branca says of this new color scheme:  "You never want a house to look like Garanimals. There's really nothing worse than matchy-matchy."

But I do like “whole house decorating” and think a cohesive decorative scheme makes sense.

Second, is this a color scheme that will last as long as reds and golds and blues?

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BEFORE:  At the original renovation, Branca coved the ceilings with new molding, and here in the dining room,  painted it a darker color for contrast.  French chairs surround an antique table along with a red and blue Bennison covered banquette.  Red check fabric at the windows keep the room casual while a trio of 1950s Venetian de Majo light fixtures are an interesting contemporary surprise.  Grasscloth covers the walls and add more casual texture.  Throughout the house, Branca added French doors at room openings to let light flow through the townhouse.


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Another photo from the 2009 photoshoot.  As you can see, the dining room doesn’t flow with the newly decorated living room with its lilacs and pinks – so this is the next room Branca tackled.


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AFTER:  The newly decorated dining room is as much a change as the front living room.   Here, you can see the new wood floors in a chevron pattern that Branca replaced from the plain wood planks that were there before.  Antique Gustavian chairs are covered in white leather and mixed with a hot pink velvet Edward Wormley sofa. A contemporary Plaster of Paris Stephen Antonson light fixture replaces the three previous ones that no longer worked over the round table – though I loved them!  Against the back window wall, Branca placed a large vibrant print that floats in front of the curtains.  The gilt mirror that was in the foyer is now placed here and the white French door is now painted black. 


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BEFORE:  The family room was done in a soft aqua blue.  Very traditional, very Alessandra Branca.  Above the fireplace is the flatscreen, and flanking it are two antique metal cabinets which Branca replaced screen in their front panels. Above is a French styled lantern and below is a blue and cream textured rug. 


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And a view of the two antique leather wing chairs in front of the large window.


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Looking the other direction – the French doors replaced a plain one.  Note the table between the chairs with the velvet base.

  
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AFTER:   Today, Branca mostly just tweaked the room, updating things but keeping the basic scheme intact.  First, a vintage, white coffee table replaces the beautiful velvet ottoman.  And a new rug is placed.  Most notable is the lantern has been replaced by a white opaline glass and brass fixture from the 50s.  The TV is replaced by art work that once hung in the landing.    The walls are covered in a more creamy, textured paper and the blue and white porcelains are replaced with white.

The changes are subtle but when you look at the new and old designs, the new design is
much more sophisticated and more of the times.

Like the light fixture?  Restoration Hardware has a copy!  HERE.


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This side of the room is almost the same, but a brass table between the antique leather chairs brings in another touch of contemporary, as does the round mirror over the painted chest.  Here you can see the beautiful new floors.


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Close up of the blue striped linen curtains.


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AFTER:  There are no before pictures of the kitchen, but today it is a showcase of contemporary and classic – along with the newly placed vintage light fixture.  You can see that Branca used new fixtures throughout the house to update its décor.  In the kitchen Branca carefully matched the stain of the cabinets to the floors to present a cohesive, thought out design – a benefit to hiring a talented interior designer.
 

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BEFORE:  My favorite room, the bar, received few changes.   Except for a few small changes3, this room remained the same – with the décor that matched the original red, yellow and blue décor scheme – as opposed to matching the newly redecorated living room and dining room.


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BEFORE: The fabulous vintage looking bar with its charming stools and trio of glass pendant lights.


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TODAY:  A more contemporary coffee table replaces the three antique ones and a spoon chair was brought it.  Otherwise the bar was left the same, with the original color scheme.


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BEFORE:  The Moroccan inspired guest room is another room that wasn’t changed and remains in the old color scheme – the yellows and reds and blues rather than the lilac and pinks.  


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BEFORE:  The sitting area in front of the fireplace.


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AFTER:  The only change I think is the addition of the throw on the bed and the addition of one of the bar’s little tables.  Why mess with perfection, I say?  But, is the old color scheme mixed with the new scheme too jarring?


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A vignette against the golden walls.


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BEFORE:  The master bedroom foyer with its black lacquered walls and floors. 


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AFTER:   In Veranda, the same area with just a few tablescape changes.


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BEFORE:  The master bedroom with its gray walls and dark floors is quite different from the rest of the house’s first décor and seems more in tune with the new color scheme.  Fortuny curtains sit within a bay area that is wallpapered in matching fabric.  The zebra provides the main pattern.


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BEFORE:  I love the matching brass floor lamps with the Fortuny shades. 


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Alessandra instagrammed this photo of the room.


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AFTER:  Today, the desk chair is changed from its paisley to white fabric and a stool sits in front of the bed now.   The biggest change is the bed!  Wow!  The brass legs!   From the Branca Collection.  The bedroom seems very in tune with the newly decorated areas – the living room and dining room.


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AFTER:  The powder room.  Beautiful sink and faucet.


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BEFORE:  In the basement, the hall is lined with a striped runner and chalkboard covered walls.  The scheme is the former red and yellow.  No idea if this was updated.


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BEFORE:  The playroom in the basement is a mix of colors and stripes and prints.



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BEFORE:    The media room in the basement is pure Alessandra Branca with red lacquered walls and a mix of paisleys, suzanis, and stripes.

So – what do you think about updating your interiors, leaving some rooms with the former color scheme but not all?  Should you update your interior just because it’s not trendy?  Alessandra says she is against whole house decorating when she said:  "You never want a house to look like Garanimals. There's really nothing worse than matchy-matchy.”

But is there?


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Does the new living room look as good with the bar as it did before it was updated? Or does it not matter? 


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I think I vote for matchy-matchy.
What about you?

Read this story in the September-October issue of Veranda!!


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And – do not forget to visit Tara Shaw’s web site – where she is extending a 30% discount on purchases of $200 and more to all Cote de Texas readers!  Use the code COTE30TEXAS when checking out HERE!

41 comments :

  1. I liked all the "befores" better than the new color scheme/design. It seems too edgy as compared to the more traditional colors/style. The new scheme is more masculine, cold... my 2 cents..

    xo,
    Ivy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agree,,,trying too hard to be
      'trendy"? and I hate that word

      Delete
  2. The new interiors are beautifully done, although I would personally tire of the new color scheme, eventually.
    Her clients clearly have the resources to redecorate when they so choose, so good for them!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tastes change (as do trends, but lets ignore those for the moment) - and fabrics wear out -especially with kids! If you're goign to replace something -it might as well be with something different and a fresh new look. I know most of us are constantly changing our homes -I know you are too! I think if we had regularly scheduled photographs at once a year or so - it would be shocking how much changes! a tweak here or there adds up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes. you are right. what bothered me from a purely aesthetic viewpoint is that the new was so different than what remained. like the old adage goes - i was just going to paint this one room....and then....but this couple stopped it seemed.

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    2. I agree! The happiness and the flow was lost!

      Delete
  4. It was time for a change. The old rooms looked old and tired to my eye ,however, the new rooms needed a better flow. Matchy is not a bad thing!!!

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  5. I love the before and after equally...everything is beautiful with such lovely colors.

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  6. Design and trends...somethings stand the test and others don't....whether its interiors, clothing and hair.... (Bobs will stand the test of time with subtle changes.... a mullet will never be a good idea or ever look good, and long layered locks will always be beautiful). Pantone will drive behavior or not.... I really loved the black and white rooms in your post. I laugh at the nail salon when someone invest 30 minutes LABORING over which color shellac, or worse ..regular polish, they will have on their fingernail or toenails... They other day I gently teased someone telling them... "It is a one week commitment for me, two perhaps for you...but it is a nail color dear...not a husband!" We LIVE in our homes. We can't always afford what we want but we can work to create it over time. My home is my sanctuary. It is where my family refuels and renews each day. It is where dreams are born and executed. It is where memories are made. I 've made memories snuggling on a chintz sofa with my grandmother, .but today... I'm glad it is a washable white linen slip covered one. How we live evolves. I loved Windsor Smith's book...she expressed that concept so eloquently.

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    Replies
    1. I absolutely love the comment about nail color being a 1 or 2 week commitment.

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  7. what a great comment! thanks!!!!

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Really a great job done by your your work is really very appreciative.I like the design and the colouring of the walls. Its innovative.Thanks and keep sharing.

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  10. Joni, I have always loved Allesandra's design aesthetic! As years go by, we often feel the need to freshen up a look, some pieces and styles are timeless of course. Change can transform a room though!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Change can transform a room though!"

      A bold--nay, courageous--stand, Karena Albert!! Take a bow!

      Delete
  11. For the most part, I prefer the "before" pictures. I'm all for minor updates to a classic room - different accessories, new pillows, perhaps even a new coffee or end table. But then, I'm not rich, so I'll always opt for getting it right the first time and adding to it as you go along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too. Even if one is "rich" getting it right the first time and adding to it as you go along has always been my philosophy as a decorator.
      I have had two "billionaires" as clients; and they had the exact same philosophy!!! And they did exactly that! It really has nothing to do with money. (Fortunately, both of my billionaires had great taste! As did their wives. (Maybe it was because they were self-made men who never wanted to lose sight of where they started!!! And they said that!)

      Delete
    2. I enjoy your.....stories so much Penny!!! They are so imaginative!

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  12. I find Alessandra Branca's comment that "There's really nothing worse than match-matchy" ironic, as the designer's work is the epitome of match-matchy. If you look at her rooms, including for example, her Illinois showhouse (Schumacher chintz, photos 4+ 5 from the top), she takes one print and matches the colours exactly for all of the other items in the space. Same coral chair fabric, coffee table and stuffed bird; same brown walls and damask print. The exact same tone/hue for everything, right down to the coral ribbon trim on the lampshades. It screams that a decorator has been here (Look! I can do custom!), which will please many clients -- but can be a problem if you want to make changes over time.

    A non-professional, who doesn't have the guts to do a deep brown wall like Branca, would have kept the walls white/off-white/light neutral. He/she would have been unlikely to customize lampshades, piping, etc. The room would still be pretty, but less "decorated". With a more neutral backdrop, it would be easier to make changes over the years (change a fabric or two, add some new cushions to the room next door, etc.). Someone with a more nuanced sense of color than Branca (think Michael S. Smith or Kathy Ireland) could improve on the non-professional's safe-but-sure, keep-some-things-neutral formula. This work would include more color, but not require a full-house overhaul when change is desired.

    Thus the problem is not so much that a color scheme has changed in a couple of rooms, but rather that "Branca's color scheme" has changed in those rooms. If you use the same three colors in the exact same tone/hue throughout your home, something will look off if you don't carry it all the way through. If those three colours happen to be very bold/bright/dramatic, any variations will really look amiss. See, for example, Branca's bar. Even if you removed every last red accent (vases, lampshades, books) -- what other colors could you add to that very strong shade of yellow to change up the room? The yellow is so specific, so everywhere, that you're better off starting fresh with a new color scheme.

    So, yes, I agree with Joni, the new changes next to the old color scheme do look "off". However, it's not an inevitable consequence of redecorating, but rather something that happens when a design scheme is so very bold/bright/specific. Branca's work is dramatic, and should be appreciated as such. Her sense of color is not subtle, however, and the degree of match-matchy accessorizing/customizing she undertakes -- no matter how "classic" the overall style -- will mean a larger overhaul when changes/updates are desired.

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    Replies
    1. Very interesting analysis. Very. Well said!
      I actually change all the slipcovers in my house 3 times a year; and I think I am changing the color scheme.....maybe I am not! Now I will study!
      Joni, your posts are so thought-provoking! Thank you!!

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    2. What a thought-provoking analysis. I think you are spot-on, Anonymous…Branca's schemes are so bold-bright-specific that they do look "decorated", and I can see how changing them up would involve a major undertaking of time/money. No "tweaking" to update the look…a major overhaul would be necessary, I see now. Thank you for another wonderful post, Joni. Your blog is like taking a master class in interior design. xo, Shanna

      Delete
    3. Anonymous, I totally agree with your analysis. I myself prefer a less decorated aesthetic. I also prefer the updated decor with the exception of the master bedroom.

      Delete
  13. This is jlonit - I haven't been able to post for months because my computer is playing up.

    I don't mind the changes, except for the awful light in the living room (the black and white sputnik thing).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Joni
    Kudos to you for doing this post. I have always loved Alessandra's style and in particular the use of her signature red. Her use of color and pattern are bold. I like you prefer splashes of color and pattern in my own home because too much of either can be tiring. Of course the makeovers are lovely. I am not a fan of the sputnik light fixture, so out of her wheelhouse...

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  15. I just want to know where in the heck I can find those three antique tables with the "legs with hoofs" she replaced with an ordinary coffee table (in my humble opinion!) I love those three tables.....and I love the whole entire earlier rendition of this house!

    I want to "shoot out" all sputnik chandeliers! (fortunately, I am not armed!) This just looked to me like "change for changes sake"; and if that is what her client wanted....so be it. We do it. It just made me sad. And it didn't seem nearly as "inspired and happy" as the first rendition!!!

    Just my opinion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless your heart, Penny dear!! You are always willing to try and....contribute. And we appreciate your "efforts"!!!

      Delete
    2. That comment was just plain mean. Agree or disagree with the points someone makes, if you like, but personal attacks aren't necessary.

      Delete
  16. as always, great post, joni. but gee whiz, paid my laura ashely dues in 80's. so a bif "meh" from me. your rooms are my favorite. you've spoiled me for all the others. long live linen and seagrass forever!
    best,
    annie

    ReplyDelete
  17. as always, great post, joni. but gee whiz, paid my laura ashely dues in 80's. so a bif "meh" from me. your rooms are my favorite. you've spoiled me for all the others. long live linen and seagrass forever!
    best,
    annie

    ReplyDelete
  18. Why is it necessary to refer to a light as a "light fixture"? The other phrase so frequently used on design blogs that really grates is "window treatments" when one means curtains.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Why is it necessary to refer to a light as a "light fixture"? Quite possibly because it is the fixture to which the writer is referring, rather than the bulb. With respect to "window treatments", not all are curtains, some are blinds or shutters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pure pedantry. Why on earth would anyone be referring to the light bulb? As to "window treatments", one would say curtains when speaking about curtains or blinds when speaking about blinds. I doubt that the Queen has ever walked into a room and said "what lovely window treatments".

      Delete
  20. Loved the before pictures- fabulous design! As a graphic designer, it would drive me crazy to live in the "after" house. Either style alone is fabulous, but both together make no sense from a design perspective.

    ReplyDelete


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