Atlanta designer rings down the curtain on minimalism

Charles Gandy, after years of living with bare windows and a minimalist interior, says he is about ready to soften the look and add draperies. The 38-year-old Atlantan says he will not, however, change one of his modern classic pieces by such great designers as Mies van der Rohe, Charles Eames, and Le Corbusier. ``I may change the hard-edged background, but never the furniture,'' he says.

Mr. Gandy lives in a high-rise condominium apartment, which he says is ``fine at the rate I travel - and besides, I don't live nearly as complicated as most of the people I design homes for.''

``In addition to adding draperies,'' Gandy remarks, ``I may also convert my second bedroom into a home office - something I swore I'd never do, because I didn't want to bring my business home.''

Now he sees a home office as the only way to go.

``I used to design one office in a home for clients. Then I was asked to make it work for two. Now, husbands and wives each demand separate and fully equipped work spaces.''

Husbands and wives, he finds, are now equally involved in decorating. This may have something to do with all the ``high-tech stuff'' that goes into some homes today, such as entertainment centers and expensive media rooms.

Gandy says his clients are spending a lot more time at home, curled up with good books, good music, and VCR movies. Some refer to this as ``cocooning.'' But whatever it's called, it makes people more willing to spend money to make their home more comfortable and inviting.

He also sees a need for people to have private time and private places that they can call their own. Most want their very own desk or work station. If it is a family desk, he says, even eight-year-olds demand their own drawer with lock and key.

Gandy's favorite analogy is that having a good, long-range decorating plan is like having a good road map. The better the map and route you thoughtfully mark out, the better the journey.

The map, he says, will always tell you where you are and where you are going. And the more research you do about the places you want to see along the route, the more intelligent your planning will be for the trip - and the greater its satisfaction.

His advice to newlyweds, however, is not to make a map for a year or two, but to sit tight until they have settled in, know what their daily routine is going to be, how they will entertain, and how they expect their life style to evolve.

``I like to feel that by the time they want to consult with me, or any other interior designer, we can sit down together and carefully and honestly analyze how they live now and want to live in the future. I will need to know whether they plan to have a family, what their likes and dislikes are, what styles they like, and how much they are willing to invest in their home.

``I help them think, and talk it all out. I find that couples are often not good at communicating either their immediate or ultimate goals with each other. So we get everything sorted out.''

Then, Gandy says, they begin to work on the road map, or overall plan. To make the trip more worthwhile, he urges them to visit museums, read decorating books and magazines, and tear pages out of magazines to show him what they like and what they can't stand.

Gradually, he explains, ``we set the priorities and determine the background color, around which we develop a scheme.'' He points out what quality is, and isn't, and shows them that quality is often seen in the way an object is used, rather than in its monetary value. Then a plan emerges.

Gandy thinks it's bleak and tiresome to live for years with bare, empty spaces while you save up to buy one knockout antique. He says it is far better to spread your initial budget around and make a place to your liking as quickly as possible, and then upgrade later.

This designer, like many others today, works on a fee basis, for both plans and goods purchased. ``Since there are many different ways of charging, it is important for a designer and his client to thoroughly discuss financial matters - and that letters of agreement be signed and contractual arrangements agreed upon.

He decorated the Atlanta home shown here for a young couple who wanted a simple background for their growing art collection and a capacity for all types of entertaining. They wanted only contemporary furnishings and a neutral palate of beige on beige.

The stunning interior earned Gandy an award from the American Society of Interior Decorators for outstanding design.

Gandy is currently president of the society. Its 28,000 professionals, students, and allied members include designers of homes, offices, hotels and clubs, yachts, ships, airplanes, lobbies, health-care facilities, and homes for the elderly and handicapped. They are part of the gigantic $40 billion-a-year interior design industry.

Charles Gandy teaches at Auburn University School of Architecture and Fine Arts, and is now writing his second book, ``Contemporary Classics - Concepts, Theories, and Influences.''

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