Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Traditional Minimalism

Recently Traditional Home interviewed James Radin, an interior designer and set designer for the popular movie "Something's Gotta Give". They discussed his idea of "traditional minimalism." Here is what he had to say:

The key is to start with the interior architecture — cabinetry, moldings, the physically immovable part of the whole thing. A lot of great old houses were very rich in wall and ceiling paneling, interesting floors. Even the pantries would have great detailing like beautiful tiles. Get the interior architecture right, and then fill in with comfortable furnishings.

That restricted sort of palette is conscious. The initial impression is that it's plain, but it's a house that slowly reveals itself to you — so it stays interesting when you live there. There are a lot of subtle variations in textures and colors — mostly blues, whites, beiges — and lots of different patterns in the fabrics, the rugs, the spongeware. That's what saves it from blandness and makes it come to life. Often when people decorate with the blue-and-white look it fails, because it's just blue and white. It's like dressing all in black. It works if there's black patent with black silk with black wool...the subtle variations that I mentioned
The main thing was that they wanted comfortable, easy, usable rooms. Nothing formal. In the living room, we have elegant wood paneling, but an eclectic mix of furnishings — all slightly mismatched — to take away any stuffiness. You'll see that the master bedroom has a touch of formality to it. We were after a crisper, dressier effect there. It's a little fancier than anything downstairs because it's more private, so things could be more fragile.

All photos Traditional Home

The clients wanted the look of an old-fashioned country kitchen, so we used old-style lights, bead-board on the ceiling, elaborate crown molding. I've done this kind of kitchen 50 times, and one day I asked myself, 'What is it that makes it work?' And I think it's about the underlying quality — the nickel faucets, the Carrara marble, and so forth. Each thing is so carefully considered. And it's also about the simplicity. It's very controlled, not tchotchked-up.

Thanks James Radin -what a lovely home!


  1. What a lovely way to end the week Gina! The 'Less is More' Gold Star Award must go to the wonderful James Radin - his interior design style is perfect.

    I particularly drooled over the dressing room section of the Master bedroom. The use of a large ottoman in the centre of the room is truly inspirational & those closet doors - oooh, aaah!!
    Millie ^_^

  2. What a beautiful home featured here! I agree with Radin's perspective that interior architecture is key. I love the look of intricate moldings and beautiful paneling...really adds interest as well as an element of sophistication to a room. Great post!

  3. I just discovered your blog. Wow, you have an amazing collection of eye candy!! I will be checking in often.

  4. hi - thanks for the comment. I did a blog on this man too - go read it. It's a different take on him.

  5. Such a beautiful home! I always enjoy looking at his images and reading about him. Great post!


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