Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mix-and-match modernism

Your sun-bathed, bare-walled, clean-lined, molding-free new unit may excite you as a tabula rasa for starting fresh with your city lifestyle, but, as Robert Venturi cautioned, "less is more" could turn into "less is a bore" unless you fill those voids creatively.

This living room in South Boston's Macallen Building demonstrates how diversity of choice in color, texture and material can energize a start-from-scratch space with the tension of contrasts. The fiery red plastic chairs clash vigorously with just about everything around them — the soft wood-grain closet and wet-bar doors, the muted orange walls, the hardwood floor, the somber dark-gray davenport, even their own yellow-white chamois cushions — all of which diversify the space enough to start the conversation on an upbeat note.

Nor does modern design need the "International Style" uniformity that spurns history. Here, the contemporary curves of ergonomic "plastics" counterpoint the traditional formality of highback Windsors. This cross-cultural tension brings out each chair-pair's unique qualities.

The stylistic face-off is neutralized by the transparent tables, which emphasize and encourage cultural (and social) interconnection across space. A throw-rug of concentric yellow and white rectangles, compatible with the clean-lined modernism of the room, the crazy-quilt colonialism of the Windsors and the bold, bright color-pop of the plastics, unifies all diverse elements into one satisfying composition.

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