AD 100 interior decorator Miles Redd once said “Juxtaposition: high/ low; shiny/matte; refined/crude; grand/humble; modern/ancient. It is the essence of chic.” Designer Friederike Kemp Biggs recently followed this approach in renovating his New York penthouse. Biggs paired such stylistic opposites as neoclassical architecture and floral English needlepoint rugs so beautifully, his rooms got featured in Architectural Digest. We can be excused for fearing that mixing objects of very different styles will create a confusing hodgepodge. So it is an eye opener to see how chic Biggs home looks with its mix of floral needlepoint rugs and neoclassical architecture.
The entrance hall immediately impresses us with beautiful neoclassical columns and ceiling and Zoffany hand-screened wall paper with a laurel wreath pattern. Image courtesy Architectural Digest. Photo: Derry Moore
The dark wood floor has a most subtle neoclassical pattern that echoes the round ceiling. Warm apricot-beige walls and ceilings and dark brown wood give the space a warm and inviting feeling. Such inviting warmth is unusual for neoclassical interiors and makes a visitor hopeful that there may be more surprises awaiting in the rest of the home.
A closer look yields even more juxtapositions of different styles such as the English Gothic hall table, Chinese porcelain urns and vases, English ceiling lantern, Queen Anne mirror, Victorian chair and Regency bench.
The entrance hall leads to the living room where we are immediately taken by an antique Japanese screen whose shimmering gold leaf background is balanced by a navy floral needlepoint rug. Image courtesy Architectural Digest. Photo: Derry Moore
The screen is mounted on an apricot-beige wall and the warm colors of the wall and screen are balanced by cool blue fabrics on the sofa and chair and a navy floral needlepoint rug. The light colored floral sprays in the needlepoint rug reflect and amplify the light in the room. At the same time the white and gold accent colors in the rug connect with the white kimonos and gold of the Japanese screen.
The room would not be as attractive if Biggs had not created a pleasing contrast by introducing black tones through the Yamaha piano, floor lamp and neoclassical chairs. Biggs also balanced the floral pattern of the needlepoint rug with a blue and white striped pattern on the upholstered chair which also creates a contrast with the blue floral fabric on the sofa. A child’s French chair upholstered in white introduces a note of fairy tale fantasy. Needlepoint pillows and porcelain in blue and white and other colors add warm touches throughout the room.
A hallmark of a well-designed interior is that different objects resonate with each other. Here the floral pattern of the needlepoint rug links up with the rooftop garden visible from the French windows. Image courtesy Architectural Digest. Photo: Derry Moore.
The blue and white Chinese porcelain jars on pedestals on either side of the French window connect with the navy blue of the needlepoint rug to the garden view outside. The choice of dark colored wood for the window frames forms a continuity with the dark background color of the rug and the dark woods of the piano and chairs. The neoclassical columns introduce architectural geometry which balances the floral patterns.
The kitchen holds even more delightful surprises with stunning navy blue lacquered neoclassical columns and cabinets the derive their color from a navy needlepoint rug with floral bouquets laid out within a geometric grid of squares. Image courtesy Architectural Digest. Photo: Derry Moore.
Blue and white china plates and blue cooking pots add interesting shapes and shades of blue. The needlepoint seat cushion on the dining chair provides final proof that Biggs loves needlepoint in many forms. But Biggs also is knows how to balance floral patterns with neoclassical architecture and dark, fashionable colors. At the same time Biggs makes sure that he large amounts of navy does not make room feel cold by bringing in warm tones of gold and brown through the breakfast table, birdcage, drawer knobs and picture frames. The room would have looked dark with all the navy and black, if Biggs had not found ways to reflect and amplify light by painting the ceiling white and placed many blue and white plates on the wall and choosing a needlepoint rug with white floral bouquets which reflect light from floor level.
White walls and ceiling create a well-lit feeling that contrasts with a navy floral needlepoint pattern carpet in the bedroom. Image courtesy Architectural Digest. Photo: Derry Moore.
The pink floral fabric on the ottoman surprises us with its fresh colors, but then we see it connects with the red flowers in the rug. Our eyes move to the sinuous curves of the blue upholstered chair and sofa, noting details such as the contrast between the geometric pattern of the chair fabric and the floral pattern of the sofa fabric.
Black is again used for contrast- black bed posts, headboard and table stand out against the white walls and ceiling and at the same time they continue the dark background color of the rug upwards. Warm colors are introduced with gold in the needlepoint pillow, picture frames and light fixtures.
Biggs inspires us to be imaginative and juxtapose objects and use contrast colors in a way that not only surprises and delights us but also gives a fresh look. Biggs interiors offer us a wonderful lesson on how we can use the things we love, in Biggs’ case it is needlepoint rugs and neoclassical architecture by combining them in fresh and imaginative ways. Biggs example encourages us to try unexpected juxtapositions of objects of different styles and periods and not to abandon what we love for the latest magazine ad which inevitably leads to sameness.