Combining Styles in One Space
Question from Susan:
I had recently decided to decorate the downstairs of my house in a western motif, mid
1800's type theme. I had an old buffet with an old mirror hung over the buffet, a swag of
old lace, two vintage saddles, dishes and other items when we my mother-in-law gave my
husband her beautiful baby grand piano. The only place this piano can go is downstairs. It
has the shiny black finish and the whole nine yards and I just can't recall any baby
grands sitting in a saloon in the "old west." Is there any way to combine
the two ideas using pieces I have or should I scrap the western thing and go to something
more classical and elegant? I do not mind elegant at all but the rest of the house tends
to be that way and I was proud of myself that I was branching out and do something a
little different? Also, the room I'm working with is a long rectangular room with a study
off one side. Let me know what you think. Thank you, Susan
Although, this is a very specific situation, I believe this is a common problem. Many
homeowners face the dilemma of, "what to do with an item theyve received, that
is not in keeping with their current style." Do I find a way to make it fit? Do I
accept its uniqueness? Or, do I scrap the current d้cor, to accommodate the piece?"
I think, we all have more than one style we enjoy. And, if we wish, we should exercise our
taste differently from one space to the next. Therefore, I would not recommend changing
the d้cor. I would either, (a.) accept the uniqueness of the piano, or (b.) try to add an
element that makes it more compatible with the current d้cor. (Of course, I am not
suggesting, when two rooms are open and adjacent to one another, that they not be similar
This is an "eclectic
" space, which an old textbook of mine defines as, "the
borrowing and combining of art forms of various past periods adapting them to contemporary
conditions." Here we are mixing old with new, and formal with informal. People are
often uncomfortable with "eclectic
ism." "Mixing it up," goes against
what they have been taught, and that is that "everything must go together." As
long as a room is balanced, in terms of the scale of objects and the relationship of
colors and finishes to one another, it can be attractive. I believe people should be free
to follow their initial instincts, or design concepts, as long as they adhere to basic
I scoured the library, the bookstores (on and
off line) and, unfortunately, I did not find examples of 1800s interiors or saloons.
Nor did I find an example of a grand piano that was in a room with contrasting
furnishings. I did find two good online articles about eclectic
design. Here are
descriptions and links.
Styles, Old Gives New the Softer Look." This article discusses how to keep a
balanced look by watching color and lines.
- "Some Tips for
Pulling off the Eclectic Look." From the Holland Sentinel. This is an article
about how to succeed in combining objects, by utilizing a single unifying factor, such a
So, what to do about your specific situation? Perhaps your could use
lace, similar to what is hung over the mirror by the sideboard, to adore the piano? This
would tie the objects together. I am unsure of how this will work when the piano is open.
Perhaps you could use a lightweight material that could be folded and stored when the top
is up? Here are 3 suggestions for how to drape the fabric, (a) like a table runner, (b)
like a table cloth, or (c) as a fabric cut to the outline of the top, with finished edges.
I checked my Architectural Graphic Standards book for the dimensions of
a baby grand. It said the piano is 4-5" deep, by 4-7" wide.
(Architectural Graphic Standards is one of the best references for dimensions for interior
planning. I have provided links, below, to different editions readers can view
online.) Because of the size of the piano, and the limitations of fabric widths, here are
some ideas on materials that could be used, in addition to those youd find in fabric
stores. (Susan, I know you probably have access to lace, locally. But, other readers
may have similar needs, and need resources.)
- As mentioned above, a ready-made tablecloth, or table runner.
- A drapery panel.
In closing, I hope I have answered your question, and given you some
ideas to work with.
Sincerely, Catherine McGivern,
Here are the links to Architectural Graphic Standards, I mentioned
above. There are three different editions:
Graphic Standards, 9th Edition, Hardcover, $210 (wow!)
Graphic Standards, Student Edition, 8th Edition, Paperback, $85
Graphic Standards for Architects, Engineers, Decorators, Builders and Draftsmen: A
reissue of the classic 1932 edition. Paperback, $49.95.
Permission is granted to print or reproduce e-zine material if the following
Author: Catherine Foust McGivern, NCIDQ Certified, Principal