'Postmodern' elements merge with technology in designer show room

"Postmodern" is the latest word in architectural and interior decorating circles. And each architect and designer who likes the idea defines and adapts it in his own way.

Alan Scruggs and Douglas Myers, who did this study-sitting room for the recent Kips Bays Boys' Club Decorator Show House in Manhattan, describe it as "contemporary with strong postmodern elements such as the black lacquered coffee table which resembles the inverted capital of an Ionic column, the modern sculpture by Tim Pollock which follows the ancient obelisk form, and the architectural rendering of a George II Coronation Arch, done in pencil on canvas , and now filling a whole wall in a very sleek modern setting.

Postmodern, says Mr. Scruggs, is now replacing the cold, hard, sharp approach to both interior and exterior design "by taking historical references to any, or many, different periods of architecture and using them in clean, fresh ways to give softness, form, and depth to spaces. Thus, our use of the Ionic capital, the rounded column, and the architectural wall drawing, which we combined with a modern leather sofa and oak university chairs by Ward Bennet, and a Scandinavian chaise by Paul Kjaerholm, each of which is a modern classic in its own way."

Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Myers think the "postmodern movement" is only beginning and that it will develop enormously over the next five years. They see the industrial high-tech look declining or being softened by postmodernist elements. These elements include such authentic architectural artifacts as antique classical columns, ornamental fireplaces, cast-iron gates, fancy fountains, carved doors, baroque or Federal moldings, Grecian urns, neo-deco mirrors, and Victorian balustrades. They are often added with a distinct sense of humor and playfulness, and they do a lot to warm up and humanize stylish but cool modern interiors.

The designers used the attractive double-hung windows (which they considered to be the only redeeming architectural feature in an otherwise dull room) as their focal point. They boldly gilded the movable parts of the windows with gleaming gold leaf in order to frame the view of the patio. The device works in the same way that a gold frame enhances a painting, and a budget version, they say, could be done with gold or silver paint, even the kind used for refinishing radiators.

This room proved to be a showstopper, too, because of its electrically operated moving walls, which converted, via push-button controls, from a soft celadon green in the morning to dusky blue after dark.

"As space shrinks in homes," explains Mr. Scruggs, "people will want their rooms to express different moods at different times. Changeable walls and adjustable lighting will help do the trick. Again, what is shown as an expensive device, could be done inexpensively through the use of manually operated fabric window-type shades around the room, which could be pulled down at different times of the day, just as a theater drop curtain, or scrim, is used on the stage."

The plump rounded half-column in the wall accomplishes two things, say the designers. It breaks up a long stretch of wall, hides an ugly jog, and divides the study area from the sitting area. It adds curves to an otherwise angular room, and its textured stucco finish, painted a terra cotta or clay color, rounds out the color scheme of celadon green and dark slate blue. The wall-to-wall carpeting is the slate blue, the ceiling is glazed celadon. During the day the walls and the ceiling match. At night, the planes of the room appear to be inverted, and the walls and the carpeting match.

The walls are covered with fabric installed over Dacron batting for decorative appearance as well as keeping heat in and controlling the level of noise.

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