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What is Classic Design? January 21, 2010

Posted by legacy0809design in Articles & Emissaries.
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You will often hear me say that LDG (Legacy Design Group) specializes in CLASSIC design for the home, office and boutique hotel. Well, what exactly do I mean when by “classic” design?

Classic interior design doesn’t just mean traditional. Classic refers to design styles that have “stood the test of time”.

People immediately think “traditional” and conjure images of what they envision as traditional interior decorating. Of course, they are probably correct. What most people probably do not visualize is a room containing contemporary furniture or a work of art by, let’s say, Picasso. They probably don’t visualize a sophisticated mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings resulting in a refreshing and innovative interior. They probably don’t visualize “transitional” interior design – a term that developed in the 1970’s to describe a style that blended and crossed between the lines of traditional and contemporary. Today, that style is one of the most popular and when done correctly, is highly pleasing and long lasting.

Transitional interiors created by Legacy in 2007 shown above.

I love history and teaching the evolution of furniture design was one of my favorite subjects. Here’s the history lesson.

According to the interior design textbook by Karla J. Nielson and David A. Taylor, Interiors, An Introduction, the “contemporary” design style encompasses from 1857 to the present. Surprised? The Victorian era laid the groundwork with so much technological development. The use of reinforced concrete, structural steel, plate glass, plumbing and central heating, paved the way for the future. Early skyscrapers and the technological marvel, the Brooklyn Bridge, date to the 1880s.

Around 1890, a new style emerged that became known as Art Nouveau. These prolific designers attempted to create designs unrelated to any previous style and drew inspiration from the forms of nature. The designs of Michael Thonet and Charles Rennie Mackintosh are from this period. Most would consider these styles to be more contemporary than traditional – yet they are now reaching the century mark!

Classic chair by Mackintosh from the turn of the 20th century.


Mackintosh chair

The Craftsman style began in America just after the 20th century. Gustav Stickley (1848-1942) was one of the greatest proponents of the style. The English Arts & Crafts movement coincided with this style and was led by William Morris, who rejected machine construction, advocating simple handcraftsmanship. Today, this classic style is enjoying a renaissance in design. Craftsman can be highly functional with clean lines or have a comfortable, warm and welcoming quality.

The organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright actually dates to the late 1800’s, yet when we see one of his designs today, such as Falling Water or The Robie House, we immediately think Contemporary design. The work of Wright has become Classic.

After WWI, a group of architects banded together in Weinmar, Germany to form the Bauhaus School. Incredible new and innovative designs for homes and furniture resulted, becoming known as The International Style, which was introduced into American mainstream culture in 1932 by the renowned architect Philip Johnson. His innovative Glass House in New Caanan, CT, dates to 1949!

(Sidebar: When I was Director of Interior Design for FSI Design Group in Washington, D.C. in the 1980’s, my boss and the owner of the company, actually met the venerable architect!)

In many ways, the bold and edgy International Style became the antithesis of Wright’s Organic Style. The architectural approach is even more minimalist, devoid of unnecessary embellishment and often having nothing to do with the earth from which it sprang. A few of the “classic” furniture designs that have “stood the test of time” are the Eames Lounge Chair; Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair; and Breuer’s Wassily lounge chair. Also still going strong today is Le Corbusier’s “Grand Comfort” upholstered chair.


Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair - 1927


Mis van der Rohe's Barcelona chair - 1929



Arne Jacobsen's Egg chair - 1958

All of the above chairs would still be considered “contemporary” today and they have all attained the Classic Design status.

So, when I say that the designers of Legacy specialize in Classic Interior Design, don’t just get a mental image of Thomas Chippendale’s ball & claw footed tables, camel back sofas and ornate, gilded frames! Step outside that box and broaden your horizons.

Most of my readers would be surprised to know that in 2003 I designed a room for a young Atlanta couple’s craftsman bungalow open plan home and mixed a transitional styled orange ultrasuede sofa with an antique Eastlake table set between a pair of traditional lounge chairs upholstered in a woven chenille damask of ivory, russet, gold and brown. Light hardwood floors, a bookcase wall painted in charcoal, walls in pale citrus yellow and a set of 4 charcoal steel and glass cubes forming a cocktail table completed the picture. The result was stunning!

Here at LDG, we don’t want to set boundaries on our creative energies. We can do it all – from Chippendale to Le Corbusier!