Design by the Details: Christmas Trees

What: A festively decorated Evergreen (or faux Evergreen) tree.

History: Adorning a tree is thought to have started in Germany possibly as early as the 15th century.  The first trees were likely decorated with candles and food such as nuts or apples.  Germany is also credited with crafting the first glass ornaments due to their long tradition of glass blowing.

Use: Acceptable for Christmas holiday decorations no earlier than Thanksgiving and no later than New Year’s Day.  Overdecorate or keep it simple, have one or many, use the rainbow or have a color palette, use white lights or colored, use whatever adornments make you happy.

Happy Christmas!


Design by the Details: Inlay


What: Decorative technique in which contrasting pieces are nestled into the base object flush with the surface. Base object and contrasting inlaid pieces are most commonly metal, stone, or wood.

History: Civilizations around the world have been using this technique for millennia. From ancient China to the Mayans to Native Americans have all made things more beautiful using inlay.

Uses: Almost anything can be inlaid.  Purchasing a piece that has inlay is sure to add another layer of depth and texture.  Light will bounce off metal inlaid in a lamp base, a solid piece of furniture will have dimension with multiple wood species inlaid in a geometric pattern, or a small decorative box can add pattern and color with inlaid stone.

An inlay coffee table adds a hint of playfulness in this Mexico City home of Alejandra Redo.
Bone and ivory inlays in the ceiling of Richard Mishaan’s Colombian home provides visual interest on an otherwise dark space.
Inlay floor takes center-stage in this Barcelona home.
A pair of Moroccan inlay side tables flank the sofa in the home of John Robshaw.
Designer Gerri Wiley uses this Syrian wedding chest for pattern while keeping the colors cool and calm.

Design by the Details: Fretwork


What: Cut-out or relief typically in metal or wood.  Most often a geometric pattern.  Also used to describe a two-dimensional pattern (in wallpaper or tile for example) that looks like a cut-out or relief.
History: According to Solar Woodcuts, fretwork started thousands of years ago by adorning Egyptian furniture.  It was immensely popular during the Victorian era when houses were dripping in fretwork designs.  Work was done by intricate hand saws until the 1920s when electrical motors were introduced.
Use: You can put fretwork designs on furniture, walls, use as architectural details, as window covers, as screens.  As a pattern it can be put on wallcovering, curtains, bedding, rugs, and tile.  Fretwork patterns are immensely popular right now, but to keep them from looking dated later, stick to timeless patterns and materials.  Or else you may have to wait a decade or two before bringing it back from the attic (hello brass!).  This is a wonderful way to add texture and pattern into a space.
Can you tell this home designed by Scott Snyder is located in Palm Beach?
A Chinese fretwork desk stands in for a bar in this home.
I love the shadow cast on the wall from this fretwork screen designed by Dorrington Architects in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fretwork wallpaper envelopes this bedroom designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber.
fretwork screen in Candia Fisher apartment designed by James Aman
Fretwork screens add an architectural element, allowing for privacy as well as light in this apartment designed by James Aman.

Learn more Design by the Details



Design by the Details: Lucite

What: A lightweight clear plastic, also known as Plexiglas, Acrylite, and Perspex.  

History: Developed in 1928, this material is used for lighter weight applications and is more economical than some heavier duty plastics.  During WW2 both sides used this material for windshields and scopes in machines and tools.

Use: Lucite is used in making almost all furniture types – tables, chairs, case goods, upholstery.  It can disappear in a room or adds structure and shape without visual weight.  It works well in juxtapositions – Lucite in rustic or traditional interiors create lovely and unique combinations.  If you have a space that looks too cluttered with a traditional table or chair, try a Lucite piece to give shape and use without adding clutter.

Bunny Williams uses a Lucite coffee table in New York apartment featured in Elle Decor.
This Lucite desk balances the dark walls in this study designed by Amy Morris.
HGTV featured Lucite table in this traditional space in a traditional shape by Charles Faudree Interiors.
The Lucite console table takes backstage to the over-scale poster in the home of Devin Kirk.
Eclectic Swedish Home on The Style Files  has pair of modern Lucite chairs paired with rustic workspace.


Design by the Details: Busts


What: A sculpture of a person’s head, shoulders, and chest.

History: Before photographs busts would be carved to forever capture a person.  Used since antiquity, busts can be carved from wood, stone, clay, or metals.

Use:  A very traditional detail, busts can be reimagined to fit into any decor.  Modernize with color – painting it yellow like designer Jimmie Karlsson does below.  Or modernize with location – forego the traditional pedestal and place in a fireplace, under a console, or place on the floor like Lee Stanton does in his home pictured below.  Busts can be more than decorative objects – use one for hats, necklaces, or a revolving display of accessories.

Elle Espana featuring home of Jimmie Karlsson and an electric yellow bust.
Lee Stanton‘s home in Architectural Digest features two busts.
The bust near the fireplace is quiet company in the home of Ellen & Portia.
A bust of Antonius Pius is featured in this home designed by Michael Smith in Elle Decor.
This bust does some heavy lifting as decoration and storage in the Spanish home of Sofia Saavedra.