When it comes to creating classical interiors that will withstand the test of time, and not feel stale, designer Robert Passal knows a thing or two. It's about balancing classical and a touch of contemporary. It's about finding pieces that exude character and mixing in treasures that are rich in history and story, yet combing them with elements that feel current and fresh. It's taking elements that will excite an old soul yet still feel incredibly relative and new.
Designing classical interiors is somewhat of an art form that requires knowledge in art history so that you can respect the elements you're designing with, whether they're true antiques or inspired by bygone eras. Classical, meaning inspired by Greco-Roman, is very different from traditional and is not to be confused! Classical design brings in the true opulence of rich materials, finishes and elegant lines of classical elements where traditional may make a nod to neoclassical inspiration, but still uses more common materials and finishes. We spoke to Robert to get his tips on how to achieve this luxurious classical look, and feel current, to get the look that his clients and fans love and crave!
When designing homes or commercial projects my end game is not only to create spaces that stand the test of time, but spaces that I am proud to look at ten years down the road knowing that they represent my clients aesthetic and lifestyle and remain livable and timelessly current. Good design represents who we are as people. It’s the mix of familial and innovative that seems to capture that spirit. Classic proportions never go out of style, but innovative finishes or fixtures add a bit of edge keeping homes fresh and forward thinking.
1.Define your design goals
"Be clear about who you are as well as your design goals and aesthetic. Good design has a narrative and tells a story about the homes inhabitants. "
This tip rings true to any design project! Being able to be clear about your goals and what you want your home to say about you is key. Are you someone who admires art, travel or history? Are you someone who has a passion for nature, animals or literature? Or, are you someone who loves modern pop art, relaxed family time and loves your pets? Design your home around who you really are, not who you just want to be!
2.iGNORE THE LATEST TRENDS
"Ignore the latest trends and focus on furnishings that are undoubtedly modern or those that have truly classical lines. Creating the right story and mix for your home takes time."
Starting with pieces you love because you love them, not everyone else, is key to avoiding falling into the pitfall of being trendy. While the blush pink sofa was all the rage a few seasons ago, it may feel dated if the overall room doesn't speak to your true style and passions.
3.Steer clear of transitional furnishings.
"It’s the transitional elements that are neither contemporary or traditional that always spoil the space. They have no perspective and tell no stories."
If you're truly going for the classical look, it's important to select pieces that are purists when it comes to their style roots. Either truly classical, or truly contemporary or modern elements know who they are versus trying to bridget the gap of time like transitional pieces tend to do.
4. CONSIDER UPHOLSTERED CLASSICAL FURNISHINGS
"Upholstered classical furnishings in updated fabrics make them feel fresh and current. Choose colors that you or your client love. Classical case goods, tables, etcetera, can be updated in finishes such as paint, lacquer, and lime washed. It is okay to allow antiques to look antique and aged and be proud of their past. Most Americans like their antiques to be perfect upon delivery, that often defeats the purpose of buying antiques! It’s the warm paint and aging that furnishings develop over time that tell a story and make a house feel like a home."
We agree, aged and a touch of wear can make the antique stand out as a true antique! Be proud and age gracefully. No one wants to live in a showroom, even with treasured antiques, showing a bit of wear is what adds character to an item. Especially when it evokes a story about its origin or makes you wonder about the history of homes it's traveled through before it found it's way to you. Classical antiques tell a story, don't cover up their beautiful tale with too much newness!
5.MIX IN ACCESSORIES AND ART THAT FEEL CLASSIC
"Art and accessories also tell stories as do furniture collections. Mix accessories and art that feel classic in with contemporary environments to create tension and juxtaposition. The reverse also works for traditionally furnished spaces. Adding classic contemporary art and accessories to the space will keep it current and make it feel alive. It is also important to mix in personal objects so that your home becomes a true reflection of you, your aesthetic and your history. "
Are you a classicalist at heart? Or do you love many layers of art, art history and fashion? Weave in all of your interests and passions into your home, all beautifully elements and facets of your life and personality should shine though.
“Good design has a narrative and tells a story about the homes inhabitants.”
Timeless Classical Furniture Favorites
Meet Robert Passal
Robert Passal is well-regarded for his luxurious, livable signature style and client-centered approach to design. His interest in people and how they want to live translates into a personal process of working with clientele. Robert brings out the best in his collaborators — from Fortune 500 CEOs to music industry execs, fashion magnates and professional athletes.
Renowned for his unerring eye, Robert balances fine art and antiques with custom contemporary pieces to create singular interiors. Each project reflects its owner’s individuality, yet the edited tailoring of a classic, informed, and memorable designer is ever-present.
From residential to retail and commercial projects, interiors take a luxe view of modern, international life. Homes vary from a classic Fifth Avenue apartment to an exotic villa in Portugal to a 20,000 square foot compound in Houston. Commercial projects are equally diverse, ranging from a modern restaurant for NYC’s prestigious Core Club to an upscale fitness center in Greenwich, Connecticut and a menswear boutique for Christopher Korey in NYC.
Robert’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Luxe, Cottages & Gardens, Lonny, and Elle Décor. He is the recipient of the coveted Innovation in Design (IDA) Award,Traditional Home’s Top 20 Designer Award, House Beautiful’s Rising Star Award, and was recently included in the international publication Best Interior Designers on the Planet.