Modern Panache

For many of the homes that line the streets of some of Mobile’s oldest neighborhoods, antique character and charming beauty are at the roots of their very foundations. It can be a challenge, however, to adapt these homes to today’s lifestyle demands and design trends, while maintaining the personality and integrity of the original structure. Here, Mobile designer Trini Bryant and local architect Pete J. Vallas share a few simple tips for successfully infusing chic style into a historic Port City home.

1. Embrace minimalism.

The best way to achieve a modern look is to pare down a design to only the essential elements. For instance, a classic Barbara Barry dining set, opposite, exudes timeless elegance. However, leather upholstery on the chairs is an unexpected, yet hip, style component. An all-white Moreno glass chandelier is styled after a historic lighting design made popular in Northern Italy. Small white plaster canvas abstracts by New Orleans artist Melanie Talbot and a linear gold leaf piece by Lizz Outlaw, of Mobile, lend texture and interest. The symmetrical arrangement keeps it clean. “Know when to stop. Less is always more, ” says Bryant. This allows a few trendy accents to really shine.

2. Choose state-of-the art materials, dramatic light fixtures and simple furniture.

Stainless steel and white marble countertops, matched with travertine floors, open up the historic kitchen and echo the home’s clean and modern vibe. A trio of drum pendants pack a one-two punch, serving as both task lighting and an eye-catching design element. A set of crisp white bar stools unifies the look while lending functional bar-side seating.

3. Create a neutral backdrop.

“White walls show off furnishings and art, instead of making the wall color compete with them, ” says Vallas. Ivory paint color and crisp sofa are a clean palette for sculptural reading sconces and a pair of funky throw pillows.

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4. Add high contrast with a few bold pieces.

Striking abstract artwork by New York painter Eric Freeman adds flair and creates a chic focal point in a black and white room. The juxtaposition makes it really pop. Bryant also points out that more traditional columns and moldings soften the edge of modern decor in an older home.

5. Try mixing vintage accessories from different styles and periods, but ground the look with streamlined elements.

“A beautiful room starts with good bones. Add white high-gloss finish walls, family antiques and good art, ” says Bryant. A salvaged antique fireplace mantle, far left, is home to a cluster of the homeowners favorite collectibles and art. The old-fashioned hearth and contemporary accents merge two eras of design into a unique, elegant look. A basic acrylic coffee table and neutral Oriental rug balance it. Monochromatic slipcovered furniture doesn’t distract from standouts, like the grand architectural fragment at left, which has been repurposed as a side table.

Trini Bryant Interiors

4302 Dilston Place. 344-7551.

Pete J. Vallas, A.I.A.

108 Lanier Avenue. 478-7383.

Abby Cowart

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