What’s "In" Style in Home Interiors? Mixed Eras and Styles

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jan 22, 2014

If anything is "in" when it comes to interior design, it's incorporating a variety of styles in the home instead of just one: different styles, different eras and different countries. But does it take a professional to make them work together? Thankfully no.

One of the hottest looks people are turning to is European Modern, first made famous in the 1800s and early 1900s by such iconic figures of Austrian, German and Swiss design as Josef Hoffmann, Thonet, J. & L. Lobmeyr and Adolf Loos. Surprising even to connoisseurs, there are many others of equal repute.

And now, thanks to a young Viennese couple, Anna and Michael Trubrig, we have at our fingertips top-of-the-line furniture and accessories developed by both the first wave of Modernists and their contemporary peers in the twosome's new gallery, Stillfried Wien, opened recently in New York's Tribeca neighborhood.

The team offers EDGE readers insights on how to smartly combine styles and periods for a cohesive décor that also offers a bit of the unexpected.

Mix It Up

Be Open-Minded
"People are often afraid to mix periods," says Anna, "yet it’s so easy and definitely worth the effort. It’s the best way I can think of to truly let your personality shine through."

The key, she says, is to trust your instincts and find something you love, be it a chair, couch, lighting fixture or other accessory. "We sometimes have fixed notions about furnishings from previous centuries being too old-fashioned for today’s living, but once we see the possibilities, it’s evident how modern so many of them are."

One example she gives is the Basket Chandelier designed by Marco Dessi in 2010. Not even 40 years old, this Viennese artisan was inspired by an early Baroque chandelier from Schloss Hof, an Austrian castle dating from the 1700s, and conceived a fresh, new look with bent glass tubes and silken cords. It not only has an ageless appearance, but also can be customized with different metal finishes and silk ropes in various colors so it coordinates beautifully with any room in the house.

Mix and Match
Mixing and matching is a staple in most designers’ repertoire. Seen recently: Alison Palevsky and Sarah Shetter, the young design duo from Santa Monica, pitch African stools against a 1940s Warren Platner coffee table in a stark white, stucco-walled living room in Mexico.

Try it. You might be surprised. For example, is your dining room old-fashioned with a curvy mahogany table and chairs of the same ilk? That doesn’t mean you can’t inject a touch of European Modern. Try alternating the chairs - contemporary with traditional around the table or use the contemporary ones everywhere but head and foot. You will create not only a pleasing arrangement, but also a great conversation-starter. San Francisco designer Stephen Shubel always asks guests at his Sausalito cottage to choose their favorite dining chairs to sit in. "It breaks the ice and is a fun way to get people talking," he says.

Be Bold

Treat Furniture like Sculpture
Another way to use innovative designs with contrasting décors is to think of them as sculptures. Angular, white-painted loft spaces are especially good for this. If chairs are your thing, line several different styles against a wall ready to bring forward when guests arrive, or simply keep them in place as eye candy. You can stack books on one or two or lean a photo or painting against the back of one. Not only pretty, it’s also an interesting way to show off your art and enable a person to examine it closely, allowing them perhaps to discover why you enjoy it so much.

You can do this on a small scale, too. Pieces like the brass bookends at the Stillfried gallery, designed by second-generation Viennese designer Carl Auböck in the 1950s, are a good way to start. As unusual as they come, the pair will not only keep your bookshelf tidy, but also garner attention from anyone who sees them.

Place Pieces with Imagination
Could anything be lovelier than a highly polished, top-grade silver bar set? ?One of the most iconic pieces at Stillfried Wien was designed by Tomás Alonso in 2013, and includes glasses and an ice cube dish by Lobmeyr and a grooved tray by Alonso. The perfect combination of today and yesterday, it is functional, elegant and refined, as appropriate gracing a Victorian console as a sleek Parsons table. It is also an easy way to insert an interesting mix of texture and geometry into a room.

When everything’s the same, there’s no place for the eye to land, and a display like this gives one something to look at. Perhaps even more important, being out in the open rather than stored in a cupboard for "special occasions," you’re more likely to use it... the very best way to enjoy what you have.

Discover Your Style

Have Fun with Decorating
It’s natural to become overwhelmed when decorating, and while working on our homes many of us start taking it all much too seriously. Because anything can be fixed, do as all the top designers suggest, have fun. Think about how you want to live rather than how you think you should live. New York designer Christopher Coleman goes so far as to say, "Give yourself and your guests a chuckle with some weird art or an outlandish piece of furniture." When your surroundings reflect you and make you feel good, you can be sure your friends will feel comfortable, too. And you get to have that one-of-a-kind chair or table or light fixture that makes your heart sing.

Find a Common Thread or Create One
A good way to know if furnishings from another era will work with what you already own is to find a quality they share. If you love them, there is bound to be one, such as color, texture, wood type or shape. If you don’t see any, consider upholstering pieces in the same fabric. That will definitely tie them together and provide a brand new look to your room. Doing this also personalizes your dwelling, making it truly right for you.

"Explore and express your own style by mixing as well as matching," say the Trubrigs. And if it’s all just too much to think about, seek out an expert!

Stillfried Wien Gallery
40 Walker Street
New York, NY 10013

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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