Sometimes whimsy can work where mere prettiness cannot


Passing judgment on the work of one's peers is one of the most difficult assignments. I feel this acutely just now, because I have just returned from a daylong session of evaluating entries in a competition of projects executed by professional designers.

How does one choose the best of hundreds of gorgeous photos and written descriptions submitted by the contestants? In the end, the judgment has a lot to do with personal taste. But these days we're not supposed to do anything as elitist as categorizing something as being in either good or bad taste. So the proper criterion, I guess, is whether a project represents successful design.

A number of factors have to be weighed here. First of all, interior design is not like art. Some successful paintings are doubtlessly created as art for art's sake, but successful interior design is never an expression purely of the designer's creativity. It is determined by the fashions of the times, the functional needs and aesthetic preferences of the client, and the limitations of the existing space and budget.

On the basis of this definition, a merely pretty room cannot be judged a successful work of interior design.

After looking at scores of carefully arranged rooms and picture-perfect color schemes, this photograph caught my eye. In my opinion, high seriousness and absolute precision are not necessarily prerequisites for successful design. A bit of whimsy and some second-hand decorating can qualify, too.

I suspect that designers Lyn Peterson and Pat Farrell, both ofMotif Designs, proceeded from such an attitude when they put together this model for the company's Vintage Rosie II collection. The fabrics and wall-coverings in this series are interpretations of favorites from the '30s, '40s and '50s, always executed with contemporary wit and verve.

Here they put a little printed crepe pattern of flowers and fruit on a wicker settee that's been painted bottle-green. Fabric from the same collection is used for the pull-back curtains. Add a few needlepoint pillows for comfort and color and, oh yes, attach a fringe to the bottom of the settee.

This isn't the sort of thing one learns in design school. But that's one more reason why it rates, in my estimation, as an example of successful and inventive design.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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