Make Vintage Modern
Designer Blair Gordon tells us how he gave a vintage Key West cottage some modern style.
"Things that are worn and a little faded have a story to tell, so they make rooms more interesting," says designer Blair Gordon. The way to make these pieces really shine is to mix in a few modern elements, which is exactly the approach he took when helping a young couple renovate their 19th-century cottage in Key West's Old Town neighborhood. Here are his six tips for preserving vintage character while adding modern style.
Interior design: blairgordondesign.com.
In keeping with the look of the historic neighborhood, where houses feature shutters and decorative elements in shades such as turquoise and coral, Blair used a conch shell pink for exterior. He modernized the look by reversing the scheme, tempering the pink with with a dark wood stain on the shutters and gray paint on the porch floors. "The bright color makes the house stand out," he says.
Exterior in Touch of Pink: benjaminmoore.com.
A warm palette of cream, beige, and taupe is a natural fit for the living room's vintage style. Geometric shapes, such as honeycomb pattern on the throw pillows or the trellis motif on the rug, add a graphic punch to the muted palette. A range of textures, from the woven blinds to the brass lamp to the lacquered coffee table, also enlivens the space.
For an authentic feel, Blair chose materials, such as the kitchen's iridescent mosiac tile backsplash, capiz shell pendant light fixture, and îpe hardwood floors, for their tropical island style. "What gives them their modern edge is the way they are used," he says. Blair ran the tile all the way to the ceiling; chose large-scale fixtures; and paired the dark wood floors with all-white walls, countertops, and cabinetry to give the classic materials a touch of the unexpected.
To make the headboard in the master bedroom, Blair enlarged a photograph of an antique French mirror, laser-cut a piece of wood to match the shape, and upholstered it in a large-scale print. Nailhead trim not only echos the the detailing but also highlights the headboard's oversize, dramatic silhouette.
In the bath, Blair picked one shape—a circle—for nearly every item, from the penny tiles to the round mirrors. "When repeated, the simple shape puts a mod spin on vintage-style elements," says Blair. The juxtaposition of the custom vanity's graphic inset panels and Louis-inspired feet illustrates Blair's marriage of new and old in a single piece of furniture.
Nothing says "beach house" like a wall-mounted sailfish. In the bunk room, Blair turned that coastal icon into modern sculpture with glossy white paint. "It wouldn't be Key West without a little conch culture, but there's no reason to go overboard," he says. The nautical bunks also got the white paint treatment.