Two of my favourite decor books of the past season were Amy Lau’s Expressive Modern and Katie Ridder’s Rooms: both designers conjure with confidence creating spaces that whisper serenity and scream luxury. One thing that surprised me about both books, however, was the tendency of the decorators to fall back on matchy matchy solutions that I mistakenly imagined were passé (photo above by Roger Davis, below by Kim Sargent).
Lau is especially fond of this path often turning a jumping-off point into a cliff dive. She loves commissioning custom art and glasswork, rugs and cushions, typically in undulating and/or spotty patterns (photo below by Kris Tamburello).
Her rooms work, make no mistake. But I find the approach ever so slightly off-putting. It’s as if her fall-back solution is to throw money at the problem and have an artisan create a custom piece that absolutely and irrevocably nails the concept. It’s a bit overt for my taste.
Ritter is less slavish but she throws some curves in Rooms that really took me aback. In the den below (photo by Lucas Allen), the colour of the vintage leather chairs has been picked up for the walls and cabinetry, something I would never, ever do because it’s just so matchy and yet in this case I think it works very well.
In the bifurcated living room below (photo by Scott Frances) Ridder repeats the chair pattern on the banquette cushions and opts for similar ribbed shades on the pendants and table lamp. Matchy matchy or just good decorating?
Ridder goes whole hog in the princess-ready bedroom below (photo by Lucas Allen) even piping the side chair in the same fabric as the canopy and pillows. For many, the room is the definition of divine; for me it’s a bit suffocating.
The Ridder sunroom below (photo by Eric Piasecki) is less overtly matchy but with so much harmony in terms of pattern and colour the space feels overly “done” to me. I recognize this is exactly what a lot of clients are looking for and that’s why Ridder is famous and I’m just a wannabe, blogging in the dark.
In Rooms and Expressive Modern, both designers showcase spaces that are unequivocal home runs, like the living room below by Lau (photo by Kim Sargent). I think the designer is at her best when the palette is less tightly restricted, when furniture style and tonal harmony unite the scheme rather than obviously repeated patterns.
Same goes for Ridder who consistently finds the balance between homey and glamourous when she’s not matching things up.