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Published: Thursday, 3/23/2006

American Home Decorators Embrace Modern Design: There s Harmony Between Contemporary Patterns and Traditional Style

Americans are at ease with modern design, fabrics and upholstery, after years of embracing traditional styles. How come?

Almost anyone can create affordable, handsome contemporary interiors, notes Lee H. Ledbetter, AIA, Lee Ledbetter Architects, New Orleans. He finds modern 1950s furniture in antique stores, online and at flea markets.

Further, some see clean, contemporary decor as a welcome break from the style they grew up with. For others whose childhood home was a 1950s ranch furnished with Danish modern pieces, the look is pleasantly familiar, continues Ledbetter, who is also an interior designer.

Memphis-based Biggs Powell of Biggs Powell Interior Design and Antiques notes that, Print quality is an important difference between mid-20th century fabrics and today s. We enjoy vivid upholstery colorations, durability and color fastness. Practicality is paramount. A fabric too delicate for your child to live with is not right for your chair, Powell says.

Powell adds, Home fashion tastes tend to come full-circle, although I ve always preferred a less is more approach to decorating, regardless of style. People are more open-minded today about mixing traditional furnishings with fabrics in contemporary designs, says Powell. However, he suggests that you Take care when introducing one random contemporary print, color or furnishing to a traditionally styled room. The newcomer should visually marry the existing decor.

Ledbetter notes that world-famous interior designer Billy Baldwin (1930s-1970s) used a mix of antiques with modern pieces and a no-holds-barred attitude about brilliant color. Yet Ledbetter recommends that contemporary patterns work best if the antiques and the contemporary pieces reflect similar, clean lines.

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