Eight months ago, during that quaint era before COVID-19 and the election dominated our collective attention span, I had time to ponder my generation’s design legacy. Former Domino editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman had just proclaimed to New York magazine that the ‘Millennial Aesthetic’—all faded pinks and soft curves—“kind of feels like a binky.” She continued: “It has no edge or sense of humor or sense of mystery. There’s no weirdness, there’s nothing that clashes. It is very controlled.” I nodded in elder-Millennial embarrassment.
A good room, like a good novel or play, requires a certain level of dramatic tension. I suppose this is why I decorate with antiques, and gutsy ones at that. The binky-esque curves of a postmodern sofa—a style I also appreciate—look far more compelling when flanked by a pair of enormous English Regency armchairs. Give me carved gryphons or sphynxes any day of the week over plain white oak (though I’m still not one for cherub motifs). Antiques should be celebrated for their weirdness, for the personality and history and, yes, the tension they bring. Design can help soothe frayed nerves, sure, but for that I’d rather just take a bath.
Here are my picks from the English and Continental sale:
I’m a sucker for a faux drapery element, and at over five feet tall this garden finial would make a lovely focal point at the end of a boxwood-lined path.
I’m obsessed with the frame’s pale blue and terra cotta paint combination. It would be beautiful over a mirrored bolection mantel à la Dorothy Draper at Hampshire House.
A substantial Louis XVI fauteuil of quality can make any room, and the attenuated arms of this one are quite unusual. Its Parish-Hadley provenance doesn’t hurt, either.