Alessandra Branca: New Classic Interiors

I admire interior designer Alessandra Branca, author of the lovely new book New Classic Interiors. She has homes in Rome, Chicago, and New York (perhaps others I haven't yet counted!), and her new book liberally shares her creative vision with the world. I find that generosity refreshing in our industry.

What's Alessandra's New Book All About?

When your grandfather is a Vatican Museum art historian and you've grown up in Rome surrounded by the greatest classical art and architecture, you're fated for a wonderful life in design. Alessandra Branca's book celebrates the classic while infusing it with everyday purpose. Her interiors are comfortable, elegant, and witty -- and her book gives a lot of inspiration for homeowners and folks in the design profession. Here are a few tips and observations that we loved.

  • Most people find red exciting. I think it's calming. To make a large bedroom feel more intimate, I covered the walls in a red cashmere-and-wool felt. It's as if you wrapped a great big blanket around the room.
  • I always start with the shell first, and I try to solve any problems that stem from the architecture. I consider the way the space will be used and plan what furniture it will need. Then we think of the styling of the furniture and finally only then do I begin thinking about color and pattern and how I will layer it in. It's a very painterly process, and I've learned a lot about color from studying art. Raphael has taught me intensity. Titian has trained me in nuance. Tiepolo, with his celestial blues, has coached me in clarity, and Caravaggio has instructed me in the mysteries of dark and light.

  • Clients don't believe me at first when I tell them this, but sometimes a small room can end up being the best room in the house.
  • I love tartan. I like the clean, crisp geometry of the plaid and the unusual combination of colors. It's a powerful symbol and a beautiful pattern, and it adds strength and warmth to any room.
  • A traditional chandelier, encased in sheer white scrim, becomes modern and mysterious.
  • It's fun to pull out the fine china and crystal for a party, or even an intimate dinner for two, but to keep the table from looking too formal, instead of candles in classic white, try orange. It's a surprise to see them in a silver candelabra. And I like the exuberance of a big bunch of a single type of flowers in one color instead of a more formal mixed arrangement, something anyone can do.

  • I think of my kitchen as a working laboratory, and I wanted to keep it simple. This is the one place where I don't like a lot of color. I just wanted white marble and old wood.
  • I like to play one pattern off another. My kind of decorating is all about layering, and I have no qualms about mixing high and low. In the same room, you will see luxurious damask next to humble ticking. That feels very fresh and modern to me. It's like wearing an elegant silk shirt and jeans. I paint with pattern. I will use it on the walls, on the furniture, and on the floor. Pattern is a way to give depth to a space.
  • Pattern is forgiving. If a client has a favorite chair where I know they are going to sit all the time, I will cover it in a pattern. Pattern wells well. It will show less wear than a solid, neutral fabric. It is practical and elegant at the same time.


Jay JohnsonComment