My midcentury design taste is loosening its grip the longer I live here.
By Abbe Aronson
Guess what’s not comfortable for snuggly Sundays in front of the fireplace? Florence Knoll sofas.
There was a time when a statement like that would cause me to roll my eyes and gently set you straight, maybe even telling you that with the proper oversized decorative pillows (an Alexander Girard motif?), any sofa was ripe for snuggling. But that’s all changed, because in the nearly two decades I’ve lived in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains, I’ve morphed from a strict modernist to—dare, I say it?—a design maven who embraces any number of styles and periods, from Primitive Americana to French boudoir. To my eye—and to the eyes of others whose taste I applaud—strictly modern is, well, strictly boring.
Case in point: my dear pals, the writer/editor Jonathan Van Meter and his husband, editor Andy Young, once shared a downtown Manhattan address with me and made the move to the country a few years after I did. The three of us lived in various apartments in and around NYC and while none of us were what I would’ve called minimalists, we most certainly lived in homes that were camera-ready for casting directors desperately seeking “SoHo/NoHo lofts.”
I was the first to move Upstate, and settled into a home that in fact looked a lot like my former Great Jones Street address, a mid-century modern ranch. Much of the furniture from my former loft looked great in that house. And then we began to live in it. Really live in it. And slowly my desire for another Bertoia chair shifted into a deep lust for a leather club chair. My aforementioned Florence Knoll sofas? Well, sure, they were great for sitting, but not for hunkering down. My taste started to change, from modern to…mushier. And when I downsized to a smaller home a few years back, a 1920s Arts & Crafts Cape with rooms (actual rooms), decorative trim over doorways, lower ceilings and a peeling-paint front porch, I went full bore into what I call Lady Décor—I want it to be pretty, cozy, snuggle-ready and slightly over the top in terms of layering texture and color.
Likewise, the Van Meter-Young abode is cheekily referred to as “crumbly mansion chic,” with about a billion perfectly decrepit lamps, lots of pattern-on-pattern rugs and floors and a repurposed original built-in book nook that showcases Van Meter’s years of writing celebrity features for Vogue.
Modernists, we’re not yucking your yum, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something about country living that softens your edges. The livin’ is easy. And if you want me to tuck you in with a quilt, all you have to do is ask.
Like what you see? How to get there:
- Yes, light colored rooms make smaller spaces seem bigger (something all of us former city-ites know), but if you have a hankering for a deep-toned room, the country is the perfect place to try it on, given that your windows open to, well, the great expansive outdoors
- Give up the ghost on perfectly level floors and the rest of it. We spend an inordinate time on my sloping front porch, on rocking chairs, no less. Utterly addicting
- Even the most severe furniture can take on new life via a luscious coverlet to take the edge off. The faux fur throws I bought at Nest Catskills in Livingston Manor are yummy personified
- Ever been to the Brimfield Antique Shows in Massachusetts? Just a stone’s throw away. Literally everything under the sun. My last visit yielded a French enamel kitchen canister set from the ’40s, a wooden genie lamp from the ’20s and yes, an Atomic ceramic ashtray from the ’60s (some habits die hard)