Leslie Saul: Always in Style

June 4, 2013

When clients request “timeless design,” I always answer that good design stands the test of time. Styles and trends come and go, but the best examples of any style are worth preserving.

Some styles become stale because they are monotonous or because they are visually unintelligible. The balance of a full color and saturation spectrum of both cool and warm colors, an eclectic use of things new and old that are meaningful to the occupants, and a variety of spaces/proportions, are the ways that projects stay interesting over time.

In general, keeping building materials that are more permanent in more neutral and authentic colors, and taking more color risk on things that are more easily replaced, such as wall paint and fabrics, will make a project more experimental and will extend the lifespan of its design.

This brings up the discussion of what should and will be preserved twenty years, forty years and 100 years after a project is completed. My idea is to take the old and loved (i.e. tired) and refresh it in a new way; updating with current ideas about design, lifestyle and sustainable practices. This may be the way to continue the timeline / longevity of the property. Below are a few studies in “timeless” design in different forms and mediums, all of which illustrate how great design can always be appreciated.

A recent article about a waterfront home in South Florida does a good job of making the point. 

“It was built in 1997, but it doesn’t seem old,” said real estate broker Joyce Schneider, describing the Hillsboro Beach, Florida property, below. “The house was built in a timeless design. It has an open floor plan with walls of glass. The home was kept impeccably…In 1997 the design was way ahead of its time.” The interior design is ordinary: the colors neutral, the furniture somewhat traditional, the walls of glass are ordinary set-in windows. But the lot is 1.2 acres set between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal waterway. Property like that never goes out of style!

Photo courtesye of bizjournals.com

The aptly named Timeless Designs applies the principal to jewelry. The company’s mission statement is, “we strive to take something old and beautiful and make it new, to be valued and embraced for generations to come.” Their bridal jewelry can be seen at timelessdesigns.com, where you will see new jewelry designed in a vintage style.

Photo courtesy of Timeless Designs

Back to architecture and to our friend and much admired Cape Cod and the islands-based Mark Hutker. Mark calls timeless design the work of “creating heirlooms worthy of preservation.” He asserts that his projects have an emphasis on high-quality craftsmanship, use of honest, simple materials and designs that create homes worthy of preservation.” Hutker’s work is anything but ordinary, but manages to be at once original and timeless.

Photos courtesy of Hutker Architects

The current governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, made the restoration of the Victorian era State Capitol building a priority of his administration. The New York Times has a great slide show that demonstrates the Governor’s passion for all things original and historic in the structure, including tile, paint colors, artwork and windows that have all been restored into a history lesson for all citizens.

The Assembly Staircase during renovation. Photos courtesy of the New York Times

And after completion. 

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth brings back Paul Rudolph’s color palette. Sometimes the original architect knew what he was doing when he used bright colors to relieve the eye from all of the gray cold concrete. (Before pictures to show the boring dull carpet and the poor lighting to compare with the new version with bright colors and bright lighting).

-Leslie Saul

Leslie S. Saul, IIDA, AIA, LEED AP®, founded LS&A an Architecture and Interior Design firm on December 21, 1992, with the following mission: to make the world a better place in which to Live, to Learn, to Age, to Work and to Play. lesliesaul.com