High Style

Only the essentials: Create a home to rival celebrity pads

If floor to ceiling windows, walls covered with original art and a doorman 20 floors below doesn’t sound like the average home, think again. While a doorman might not be easily replicated, high-rise style is making its way to the ground floor and beyond. In her book, “View From the Top: Grand Apartment Living” (The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd, 2008), author Janelle McCulloch features the work of architects and designers in high-rise spaces across the globe, and how each achieved their desired aesthetic.

“Anyone can achieve elegance,” McCulloch says. “A sense of style is very personal. Trust your instinct. If the space feels wrong, it probably is. So simply rearrange it until the lines feel right.

“There does need to be a delicate balance between functionality and form, at least for me,” she says. “But this can be achieved with clever 'cupboard work’ – use armoires to hide the necessities of life away.”

Mark Janson, partner at New York City-based Janson Goldstein LLP, recommends choosing key pieces with a strong sense of aesthetic. “If you have a neutral sofa, get a unique chair to work with it. It’s more about accents. And then you can look for beautiful shapes, beautiful colors, beautiful material.”

McCulloch also recommends using certain pieces to evoke a particular feel in a home or apartment that reflects high-rise design. She recommends everything from Barcelona day beds and Noguchi cocktail tables to simply rearranging a collection of books. “Look for any piece that is considered a collectible,” she says. “You only need a few pieces to lift a room and make it zing with life. Then have one really good statement piece … an amazing painting or photograph, or, the latest thing, a statement chair beside a library-style wall of books.”

To pull this look off in your home, Janson offers a few key points worth remembering: “Less is more. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Edit – you have to edit yourself. And you have to be consistent.”

Between families, work and pets, however, some households might find total simplicity hard to achieve. And while McCulloch, like Janson, still recommends minimizing clutter to make spaces appear bigger, she suggests even using color in a simple and effective way. “Limit yourself to three colors only. Decorating is like packing to travel overseas: Limit it to the essentials. Color co-ordinate everything, and only have what you really, really love,” she says. “Everything else should go. Be ruthless about it too.”

But if your kids or work dictate the presence of clutter, McCulloch suggests this tactic – “keep it hidden in well-organized cupboards and sideboards. This means the eye is not continually challenged when you're walking through the space. All spaces need to be pared down to achieve harmony. Clutter is terrible for the mind. Terrible.”

It’s true in every home, McCulloch points out, space is valuable. “Look at how you use each room,” she says. “If it is a wasted space, consider reconfiguring it.”

She also recommends thinking beyond the walls. Whether it’s a twinkling skyline or a grassy backyard, McCulloch suggests drawing the eye toward what’s beyond the window. “Windows are often forgotten about, but clever designers use them for drama.” Place appealing visual cues just beyond an unadorned window to entice the eye beyond the clutter, through the room and outside.

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