Gary Warrell-Phillips

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Back into the future

26 June, 2016

Attractive opposites working in complete harmony

I cannot resist frequenting an auction, house sale or car boot as I never know what wonderful treasures I’ll unearth and over the years I have collected and restored some magnificent pieces.

My love affair with antiques began many moons ago, whilst visiting the Isle of Wight, where I came across a charming vintage shop. Whilst casting my eye over it’s contents I spotted a Louis XVI chair tucked away in a corner, appearing very sorry for itself indeed.

Looking past the chairs dishevelled state all I could see was a beautiful piece of furniture crying out to be restored to it’s former glory. I immediately purchased it, and carried it home under my arm (via the Hovercraft!) where it has been a much loved piece that has proudly gracing our living room ever since.

And so began my fascination with combining period pieces within a modern setting… known today in the design world as Past Modern.

Mix it up

For the last decade designers have seen an upsurge in the demand for mixing styles of differing eras and designs. Today clients want their homes to feel more personal and to be one of a kind. This has resulted in the unified, cookie-cutter home trend being kicked to the curb, in order to make way for spaces that offer a sense of authenticity and character.

Instead of everything matching with themed-like precision, we are seeing eclectic contrasts such as sleek, modern backdrops subtly showcasing beautiful vintage chandeliers and oriental rugs, or rustic dining tables paired with steely mid century industrial chairs.

There is no rule to say that the outside of your home should match the inside… so don’t be afraid of mixing it up – a lot I say! The principle for interiors remains the same…  simply start by creating one or more focal points.

If you are looking to create a linear look, why not pair two of the coveted Ludwig Mies Barcelona Chairs with traditional sofas, arranged around a 1950’s Eero Saarinen Tulip coffee table. I’m name dropping here, but it’s rather difficult not to as their style is oh so elegant and utterly timeless.

If you have wooden flooring, bring the look together by adding texture with a large patterned rug – this will also soften the overall feel. Finally, a few well chosen, sentimental accent pieces that sing your personality and voila, in no time at all you will have created a unique look that has rhythm, balance and oodles of style!

Go for bold

With your sophisticated Past Modern backdrop complete, now is the time to add a pop and a dash of fabulousness here and there. Don’t hold back, go for bold prints that will lift your look.

In a bid to further enhance style, interest and colour into décor, this season I’m delighted to see the wonderful collaboration of fashion and interiors, with ideas from the catwalk being translated into a theatrical array of exotic prints.

Taking centre stage right now is a movement towards the use of big geometric and quilt-like patterns, in the form of tiled flooring, wall coverings and soft furnishings. Besides, one simply must have a bold scatter cushion or two adorning ones seating arrangement!


Speaking of art, it is important when selecting a mural that it complements the décor and architectural feature of your space. Rule of thumb, make certain that it incorporates some of your rooms core attention grabbing hues such those within the wall colour, furnishings and cushions. This will ensure your object d’art works in complete harmony with your room ensemble.

Creating a bespoke, stylish interior is not just about colour and furnishings… incorporating the right lighting for your room-scene is akin to choosing a headpiece to complete your outfit for Ladies Day at Ascot. Lighting should be the piece de résistance, the crowning glory.

Space allowing, there is no better statement piece to luxuriate your rooms look than the iconic Sputnik Chandelier. With its glittering presence, this glamorous conversation starter is sure to light up every aspect of your life.

Star Turns

Not everything in your décor has to be collectable or iconic, after all there’s more depth if it has meaning. We all have that one piece hidden away in an attic or garage gathering dust, that we’ve been meaning to repair or update. With the Past Modern trend firmly established on the design landscape there has never been a better time to re-invigorate that family hand me down.

So don’t worry at all if it’s not a mid-century classic, it still holds purpose – not to mention treasured memories.  All that is needed is a little imagination and you can transform any piece into a star turn that will enrich its life as well as your own. And if you need a little help… see me for ideas!

If only I could be up-cycled with snazzy new upholstery and a lick of paint!

Gary Warrell-Phillips, Decoration by Design, Farnborough, Hampshire

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