Details, Details, Details

bw43Can you imagine Louis skimping on his home?

Are you a patron, client or just an admirer of beauty?

I am referring to fine detail, whether traditional or contemporary, and how it can enhance your space. Can you imagine King Louis skimping on Versailles? I know that I cannot even contemplate that. We all know about the French Revolution, don’t we? Today’s world is so different from the era of King Louis & Queen Marie Antoinette. We really don’t have to go back that far to remember the great homes along Fifth Avenue during the Gilded Age. What about The Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Frick residences along New York’s Fifth Avenue during the first half of the 20th century? So many handsome and stately homes were demolished along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. I am fortunate to have decorated two of the seven that remain. It is tragic that so many wonderful houses chock-a-block full of great detail have been demolished. Can you imagine if more of these treasures remained? I am not waxing nostalgic to say we should return to the time of Robber Barons and their spoils, but we have many parallels in the world today.


imageMr. Henry Clay Frick’s Home along Fifth Avenue in New York City is a fine museum worth visiting.

Many people bemoan the rich for many reasons, I am not here for that. These people of means are called upon to contribute to the great museums, hospitals and many worthy organizations that serve the needs of the rich and less fortunate. These wealthy individuals were also wonderful patrons who commissioned architects, artists, designers, metal forgers, stone masons, plasterers, gardeners, and painters to produce gorgeous hand wrought artistry in their homes. It was a time when Mr. Frick’s house had to be better than Mr. Carnegie’s. I think you get the picture. We don’t have to go back to gilded woodwork and hand wrought plaster work. However, we do have the capability if this is the client’s desire. We all know Bill Gates and Warren Buffet keep a lower profile, are generous with charitable causes and do not flaunt their wealth as King Louis once did. Staying below the radar is popular with today’s new guard. These tech-titans have chosen a different path than the 19080’s when the masters of the universe flaunted wealth for sport.


imageMr. Calvin Klein purchased and razed a faux castle in The Hamptons to build something contemporary yet elegant.

The point of this entry is to talk about being a patron, you don’t have to be a billionaire or even a millionaire to be a patron. Some money is required, but let’s not get carried away yet! The time has now arrived to focus on real things like furniture, fabrics, area rugs, accessories, and original artwork. We should not focus on how little we can pay for it. Let’s look at buying less with an eye for quality. When is too much too much? How much do we really need?

With that said, many of the places I have counted on for years have closed. I have been very sad about the demise of many dear sources that have gone out of business. Tastes change, the world changes, many designers and their clients lacked the interest to keep wonderful businesses alive and thriving. Now their doors are closed forever. A prime example was Chicago’s last custom source for Trimming or Passementerie as our French friends call it. Call it what you wish, trim is a good thing.

Theodore Merwitz Custom Trim was my favorite custom trimming source. They made beautiful tassels, fringes, cord welts and the like. Merwitz recently shut their doors after more than 50 years in business. I was friends with the late Mr. Charles Klein, who learned the trade from his father-in-law, Mr. Theodore Merwitz many years ago. You see Mr. Klein married Mr. Merwitz’s daughter, he needed to provide for his bride and the family that eventually came along. As time went on Mr. Klein taught the fine art of trim making to Scott, Mr. Klein’s son-in-law. There’s an art to making custom trim, the hand labor is grueling, the workshop was blazing hot in the summer, the office was air-conditioned but not the workroom. The fine artisans worked in difficult conditions in the warmer weather, they had a job to do and always came through admirably. I can vividly remember Mr. Klein working in his undershirt in the workroom well into his eighties. He always smiled, never complained or missed a deadline.

imageMy private box of custom trims. It was so much fun to select all the custom colored thread to create something special.

When clients need trim that the stock houses don’t have a custom coloration was necessary. Many of my clients don’t want formal draperies any longer, you can see how Merwitz might close their doors. The demand isn’t there to remain open when very few clients need the source. How many historic homes,  museums or period rooms need to redo their trim? However, there are contemporary trims that aren’t fussy or formal. Many contemporary furniture pieces have brush fringe on the leading edge of a cushion. I have been working on a historic home that has become much more contemporary than its previous iteration. The new modern window treatments have a trim detail that is fun and playful.

imageThis pom-pom trim was the perfect choice for our fun-loving client.


imageReady made tassels and flat tape (above), colorful brush fringe and ribbon guimpe (below).

Attention to detail can be seen in ultra contemporary buildings and interiors too. A building designed by minimalist architect John Pawson, Richard Meier or Renzo Piano is rich in sophisticated detail, just not fussy. The spare, clean and rich details (yes rich!) remain nonetheless.

imageThe spare detail in this architectural masterpiece is stunning.

imageContemporary yes, but the details are rich and abundant.

imageContemporary, warm and cozy without being fussy.

imageCleaner lines, yet warm and contemporary in feel.

Whether you are traditional, contemporary or something in-between we can create something special for your space. The end result will be created just for you. It will be an honor to be your guide along the journey whether you need a full redo, a minor facelift or a little face time (consultation). Now the question remains, how can we transform your environment?

I look forward to helping you become a patron on your terms!


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Kenneth Walter is a professional Interior Designer who sends design tips, ideas, and inspiration by email. Sign up today (double opt-in so you must confirm).

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