With the dizzying rush to tag the next design phenomenon (millennial pink, anyone?), it’s so refreshing to find homes floating above the fray with timeless grace. Designer Marshall Watson has made it his mission to cultivate the instantly classic, and the breathtaking results of his labor are now memorialized in his first monograph, The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors (Rizzoli). In Watson’s hands, true elegance is less paint-by-numbers, and more about a balance between thoughtfulness and imagination. Here are some of his tips on creating spaces that last.
Don’t be afraid of pretty
The raw and unfinished may have its time, but nothing quite satisfies like the beautifully handcrafted. The devil’s in the (delicate) details, like a touch of Provincial-styled embroidery for this Napa Valley dining room. “Though there can be a relaxed, casual quality to a space,” writes Watson, “maintaining a tightly pulled together scheme gives the room a sense of readiness, even occasion.”
Embrace the locals
Symmetry and proportion aren’t everything. Sometimes the classics linger because they embody the unique personality of the region. Take homes in Palm Beach, for example, where the decorative style “can swing from an elevated northern elegance dipped in white to colors that were not made by God,” says Watson.
Find your bliss
Yes, the locavore lifestyle is quite honorable, but should it always apply to architecture? What if you want Californian Mediterranean for your Salt Lake City home? Or a beach home in The Bahamas made for Midwestern sensibilities? While respecting the demands of the surrounding environment, architectural variety is beautiful, capturing “an almost poignantly innocent, entirely American exuberance,” he says.
Light your way
When in doubt, a good dose of sunlight maintains warmth and livability, even among the most refined furnishings and priceless artwork. (After all, a truly elegant room should never feel like a museum.) “A sun-filled home encourages guests to relax without sacrificing the elegance of the tailored furnishings,” says Watson. For this California beach home, crisp white and egg-yolk yellow also help “radiate a cheerful warmth.”
Photos courtesy Rizzoli/The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors