To Clutter or Not to Clutter.......???


image I am drawn to two different design looks: the cluttered look and the uncluttered look. My house presently is definitely done in the cluttered look. I love the cluttered English Country Home look where slipcovers are the norm and seagrass was first used. I love textiles - the suzanis and the ikats, once so fine and unusual until Target and Pottery Barn discovered them this year. I love blue and white porcelains and blue and white striped dhurries, and books piled high on everything except the bookcases. Show me a room with a crystal chandelier and a cotton indienne fabric used together and I'll show a room that is perfection. If you mix in a piece of chinoiserie and some papier mache furniture from the Victorian era, I'll be in love! Thrown in a few French antiques to mix with the dark English antiques and the brew is delicious!

That is, until, the new Veranda comes out with some achingly beautiful, sparse, uncluttered pseudo Swedish or Belgian interior with a heavy dose of French furniture, done all in shades of soft aquas or celadon greens or just plain whites and creams. And then, it never fails to happen, I want to chuck everything I own, have collected and saved for for years - chuck it right out the door and start over fresh with a home that looks like it could be in the middle of Provence.

Bow-windows avec vue sur la plageActually, the two interiors - the cluttered vs. the uncluttered, the English vs. the French, share some similarities and I suppose that's why I drawn to both: both looks are heavy with antiques. Both use seagrass and striped dhurries. Both use checks and linen fabrics, but the uncluttered French look eschews patterned fabrics on the whole. The uncluttered palette is serene and calm, no jarring reds or yellows. And so, in truth, both looks are beautiful. and I'm in a constant state of flux: I want both looks and yet it's impossible, short of having two homes, one cluttered and one, pristine. Hmmmm......not a bad idea! Actually, it would be a lot cheaper to just cancel my subscription to Veranda and Southern Accents. Can you relate to this? Are you torn between two looks, one cluttered, one not? Do you suffer like I do? Do you lose sleep over this dilemma?

Above, is a picture of Nancy Lancaster's famous butta yellow library in England - this room is the epitome of the English Country Manor's cluttered style. To the right, compare Lancaster's library to a library in a French country chateau. And hence, the question: to clutter or not to clutter?

Here are examples of both styles of decorating, cluttered vs. uncluttered, English vs French. While older, established designers favor the cluttered English country manor look, many younger designers have taken up the cause. Below are examples of the younger generations' interpretation of the English Country House style:

The Cluttered Look:


The "cluttered" look: By Alex Papachristidis. Here, a beautiful mix of textiles and fabrics: Fortunys, indiennes, ikats and suzanis all mixed together. This Anglo influenced look is stolen from the English country house and dressed up for the American home. No English country man0r would be so perfect and orderly as this. This is stylized clutter - everything is placed here by design, not accident. The elder statesman of interior design, Mario Buatta, perfected this look. Notice the wonderful mix of fabrics and especially note the exotic sconces.


The dining room with a suzani covered table. Books and porcelains vie for eating space. Notice how even more books are piled high on the spare chair on the left. The antique crystal chandelier pleasingly shares the space with the inexpensive indienne fabrics.


A chinoiserie bookcase separates the living area from the dining area. No English manor house is complete without a piece of chinoiserie or black papier mache furniture somewhere.


Seagrass - a staple in England for decades - has finally become accepted in America, thanks to Pottery Barn. The fabric lampshades recall the English workhouse Colefax and Fowler.


Vogue editor Carolina Irving lives in this NYC apartment with her art-collecting husband. White slipcovers, textiles, blue and white striped dhurrie rug, seagrass, and books all play an important part in this apartment's design. The cluttered effect is much more "real" in this apartment and is less stylized.


A close up of the ottoman/coffee table in the Irving apartment. The fabric and ottoman is by England great, Robert Kime, interior designer to the Prince of Wales.


The dining room shares it's space with the library. An antique suzani covers the dining room table.


The apartment is home to grand art work, similar to what would be found in English country homes.


Here an antique ikat covers a table. Jewelry hangs off the walls and an assortment of accessories clutter up the top of the table.


Art work covers every inch of wall space that is not already covered by bookcases in the Irving apartment.


A glimpse of Carolina Irving's own country home. Rather than decorate her second home in a different style, Irving stays true to her cluttered roots. An antique textile hangs behind a mirror.

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Another devotee of the cluttered look, also named Carolina, is Ms. Herrera, Jr. Here is her city apartment's bedroom: all textiles and fabrics and clutter. Again, the look is not stylized clutter, but a normal outcome of it's owner's lifestyle. Note how two different fabrics cover the french settee. Antique suzani covers a cluttered table top.


A close up of the bed, with it's textile canopy. Carolina Herrera Jr. sits in the French settee.


In sharp contrast to an uncluttered all white tiled and carrara marbled bathroom, Herrera's is, instead, a study in clutter. Red patterned wallpaper covers the walls and a large cow skin covers the floor.


Herrera too has a country home, an estancia in Spain. Here in her studio in the country, a suzani covers the desk, while an antiquw shawl covers the chair. The walls are wallpapered in toile.


Another view of Herrera's estancia in Spain: a suzani inspired fabric from Brunschwig & Fils hangs at the windows.


English born, now living in California, fabric and interior designer Peter Dunham practices the cluttered, English country manor look. Here, his paisley fabric covers the walls and the french antique chair. Other textiles cover the bed.


Here Dunham uses bright yellows and red, typical of a cluttered design. The sofa is covered in his indienne inspired fabric. Seagrass layered with a dhurrie completes the look.


Here, Dunham mixes African art with contemporary art. Apple matting is on the floor, layered with a cow hide. An antique suzani covers the table, topped with the clutter that adds to the charm of this room.


The real deal: Chatsworth, a quintessential English country manor home. Here, the private living quarters are a study in what Americans try to emulate with their cluttered look. Slipcovered furniture, fabric ottoman piled high with books, and paintings cover the walls. Nothing is styled here. Every generation adds their own stamp on the castle, so that layer upon layer of clutter is piled high.


The former Lord and Lady of Chatsworth sit waiting by the back entrance underneath a gorgeous portrait of one of Chatsworth's horses.

The Uncluttered Look:


Veranda, the magazine that brings such pain! Here on the cover, a home designed by Houstonian Jane Moore for her daughter and husband who live in Dallas. A pseudo Swedish design, heavy with French antiques, this home is in direct contrast to a cluttered, English country home inspired interior. Sparse, devoid of clutter, pattern, and bright colors, the look here is soothing and tranquil.

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The walls are stuccoed white and the wood floor is bleached white - both provide a calming canvas upon which the furniture sits. Here, two Swedish chairs, upholstered in white, sit beneath an antique screen. Note how the accessories are sparse and oversized.

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The living room - French chairs upholstered in linen. The only pattern used is a muted seafoam green and cream check from Chelsea Editions.

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The other side of the living room, with its antique Swedish chairs and tables and Chelsea Edition checked sofa. Even the rugs are serene and plain - here, an antique celadon green dhurrie.


Close up of the living area, serene and uncluttered: you won't find any jarring reds or bright suzanis in this house. Note the choice of lamps here. Somehow, the contemporary pieces are just the right touch.

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The dining room with a french inspired iron table, french dining room chairs and a french light fixture. Hard to call this Swedish, though a Swedish Moro clock stares down over the scene.


In the entry hall of this Houston home designed by P. Joe Shaffer, a French settee covered in a seafoam linen sets the quiet tone of the home.

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Another French settee, this time in the living room.


Another view of the living room. The only pattern is the antique Fortuny curtains.

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The dining room - an iron table similar to the one in the previous Dallas home wears a cream slipcover. Blue and white striped dhurrie rug - similar to one used in a cluttered home, here the rug calms rather than stimulates.


The beautiful bedroom - French draped bed, blue and white garden seat, blue linen fabrics - all add to a serene, quiet interior.

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Another view of the sitting area of the bedroom. Though sharing in elements with a cluttered look - the blue and white striped dhurrie and porcelains - here the lack of pattern and color gives the room it's quiet and restful appearance.


This Houston house, also featured in Veranda, is the home of designer Pamela Pierce. Again, white walls, plain linen upholstery, and oversized accessories, combine to make an interior that is a complete opposite of the cluttered, patterned, and stimulating English inspired interiors.

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Another view of the living room in the Pierce house. French day bed is seen on the left.

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View into a sitting room with white slipcovered chairs and antique French fireplace mantel. Large santos on the left.

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In the library, Pierce hides the cluttered books behind a drape. Seagrass matting. Again, the only pattern is a Chelsea Edition brown and cream check on the slipcovers.

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The breakfast room with it's light limestone floor and antique table and benches.


The kitchen. Plain, uncluttered. Large lantern and cow's head are accent pieces.


Pamela Pierce's daughter, Shannon Bowers lives and designs in Dallas. She, too, favors the French inspired country home look. Here in a client's living room, large accessories and plain fabrics lend an air of uncluttered serenity.

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Bower's client's dining room. All creams and whites, slipcovers, linens, and pale painted woods - this room could just as easily be in a French country home.

The Real Deal: A French Country Home that inspires the spare, serene, and cool palette of the uncluttered homes of America.

The dining room in the French Country Chateau. Limestone floor and mantel, all creams and white, crystal chandelier and rustic furniture living happily together. Spare, oversized accessories are in direct contrast to the clutter of the English Country Manor.

The living room in the French Country Home. Cream upholstery on antique French chairs. The armoire is painted in whites and creams. Linen curtains and creamware dishes.

Which look do you prefer? The patterned, suzani and ikat textile interiors with it's vibrant reds and yellows, cluttered with small accessories and books piled up everywhere? A look that take its cues from the English country manor? Or, do you prefer the uncluttered, patternless, white walls, soothing greens, blues and aquas, linens and checks, cream painted furniture and oversized accessories? Interiors that are based on country French homes, homes with a Swedish or Belgian influence?

Myself, I can't decide. Can you? I'll let you know if I make up my mind.

Cote De Texas #8



This week, Cote de Texas names Atlanta designer Suzanne Kasler to the #8 spot in its Top Ten Designers list.  Extremely prolific, Kasler has blazed her a trail through the Interior Design world.  Her houses 28are published at a rate that  must make other designers extremely envious.   It seems that almost every other month, another Kasler designed home shows up in one prestigious magazine or another.  Young and vibrant, Kasler's designs are as colorful and full of life as she is.   Even with  a "look" that leans towards eclectic, Kasler always seems to add a French antique to each room.  She says she can do  "high" or "low" design, but prefers to mix up the two spectrums despite the budget.  And indeed, a typical Kasler room will have at least one priceless antique and at least one item sourced from a catalogue.  Not one to design strictly neutral interiors,  she loves to use blues and pinks and often mixes the two colors together.  Even a predominantly monochromatic room will usually have a few pops of color to give it a spark.  

Kasler's popularity stems from the accessibility of her designs.  Her rooms are fun, not stuffy, inviting and always warm.   And, her designs especially appeal to woman.  Kasler brings a definite touch of femininity to her work.   Her career took off after she,  her husband and daughter moved to Atlanta in the early 90s.  Veranda and Atlanta Homes were early to recognize her talent.  But it was the Southern Accents Showhouse, Water Mark in Santa Rita Beach that catapulted Kasler to national stardom.   The project was immense: a beach house mac mansion located in the trendy Florida panhandle.  Kasler chose blues and aquas as the building blocks of the showhouse and it proved t0 be an instant boost for her career.

Kasler likes to paint her rooms in creamy or white tones and she brings the color in with accessories and fabrics.  She advises painting the walls, trim and ceiling in the same color and says she never paints a ceiling builder-white.  She strives to make her rooms comfortable and user friendly.   She enjoys using her client's own possessions and encourages client participation in the project.  Kasler likes to mix "beauty with comfort" and her rooms certainly reflect this.

This year, Kasler's star reaches it's pinnacle with the debut of a line of furniture that she designed for Hickory Chair.  Also in the works are a line of fabrics and lighting fixtures.  She cites John Saladino as an  inspiration and her favorite books include ones written by Rose Tarlow, Bunny Williams, Sillis and Huniford, and a personal favorite of mine:  the Belgian based Beta-Plus library, which she keeps at her office for daily referencing.  Thanks to Kasler's youth, her stamp on interior design will be long lived.


The Southern Accents Showcase home, Water Mark, in Florida, which brought Kasler to national attention.


In the entry hall, Kasler set up the room as a combination dining area, reading area, and stair hall.  The walls are bathed in white, yet pops of blue from fabrics and accessories bring in the color.


This picture from Water Mark made the cover of Southern Accents.   The beautiful slip covered chair with its dressmaker details, the tranquil abstract painting, the striped dhurri rugs - all added together to give the house its fresh, updated look. This isn't your mother's beach house.


The showstopper of the house:  the kitchen.  The wall of aqua blue glass tiles on the back splash brought  blue into the room.    Note the gorgeous white carrara marble, the double sink, the beautiful, oversized hardware.  And, also notice how Kasler put woven shades on the windows to add texture in order to tone down all the room's slickness.


Another view of the gorgeous beach kitchen with the soothing blue glass tiled back splash.


For one of the bedrooms, Kasler mixed a black sleigh bed with mirrored furniture and cool blues.  Overscaled stripes and checks are favorite fabrics for Kasler window treatments.


Another important project for Kasler, this time a Georgian home.  The stately entrance with the black and white marble floor and impressive moldings.


The living room:  all neutral with pops of blues and pinks.   Note how Kasler brings pink in with the trim on the chair skirts and the velvet on a french chair.  The blues come from the lampshades, the trumeau mirror, and the porcelain dishes.


A closer view.  Kasler layered an antique rug over sisal:  highs and lows, a Kasler trademark.


And in this corner of the same room above, Kasler used a Saladino shelter sofa paired with a large, dark antique screen.  I particularly love this vignette.  Just beautiful.


Classic Kasler:  hand painted de Gournay wallpaper is matched with slip covers on the English antique chairs.   The slips keep the formal furniture from seeming stuffy.  As  a result, this room appears fresh and young enough for a lively family with children.


Another view of the dining room, showing the fireplace and more of the slip covered chairs. 


The breakfast room in the Georgian home.    Printed linen fabric used for the french chairs and curtains. 


For a lake house, Kasler used overscaled furniture and accessories to fill this cavernous room.  Note the stools she pulled up to the library table instead of chairs.  As usual, seagrass was used.   Large, custom cut seagrass layered over hardwood floors is a great and inexpensive way to warm up a room and provide texture and color at the same time.  Additionally, layering antique rugs over a larger seagrass rug allows the use of a smaller antique rug - economical especially in oversized rooms.


The dining room at the lake house.  Kasler paired two tables in this large room.  Casual chairs and a striped dhurri rug keep the room informal.


At the second table in the lake dining room - Kasler installed a banquette between the built-ins for casual dining.


The public rooms from an Atlanta home:  here, the blue dining room.   The blue walls are a departure for Kasler who usually paints rooms a neutral white.


The living room of the same home.  Done in raspberry  and cream with the famous  Kasler silk striped fabric.  Both rooms are exercises in symmetry. 


In another home, this dining room proved extremely popular with bloggers - showing up in everyone's pictures.  Again, heavily symmetrical, Kasler mixes the highs and lows:  Antique tables versus Oly Studio raffia chairs.   This picture made the cover, one of Kasler's many.


Another view of the above dining room.  The back wall was painted an accent pink.


In this same house, the breakfast room:  again a banquette is placed between built-ins. 


And in the same home, an upstairs playroom:  striped fabrics, trendy coral pillows, and a leather chair to juxtapose against all the lightness of the room.


A recent home in Atlanta designed by Kasler.  The entry hall.  


The living room:  neutral walls, pops of blue color comes from fabrics.


The other side of the living room.  Antique rug layered over seagrass.   The collection of sunburst mirrors above the sofa is, to me, a rare misstep by Kasler.  I don't think the mirrors are properly balanced.  The top right mirror is not connected to the group and appears to be floating up and away from the group.  In my opinion,  a large single sunburst would have been much more effective and pleasing.


In the library, four chairs take the place of a sofa. 


In the hallway, an antique painted Swedish sofa sits beneath an antique tapestry.


In the dining room, two different chair styles encircle the table.  Fabric on chairs is the same as on the curtains.


I love this kitchen with the eat in breakfast table.  Dressy French chairs juxtaposed with farm table.


In the master bedroom, a Michael S. Smith bamboo bed takes center stage.  Color comes from the curtain and chair  fabric.  Wall to wall seagrass flooring.


Beautiful desk serves as a table between chairs in the bedroom.

       27 In this Showhouse, Kasler decorated the dining room using two different chair styles.  Saladino shelter sofas sit beneath the bookcase built-ins.


In another house - a dining room with a Niermann Weeks chandelier and skirted table.  I love the slips on these chairs with their small mini pleat hems.


A picture of the entry hall in another Showhouse designed by Kasler.  Here, again, she used oversized stools under a library table.


Here, Kasker used two seating arrangements in the living area.


The other side of the living room.   These interiors are more contemporary than Kalser usually does.


The bedroom in the Showhouse.   Plain linens and printed linens, seagrass, and comfortable seating work together to make this a serene room.


Suzanne's personal home:  her living room, bathed in neutrals, again color comes from pops of fabrics and accessories.  At this time, this home has been sold and Kasler is completely renovating an older home in Atlanta to move into.


Kasler's entry way:  french day beds and chairs mixed with abstract art.  Typically Kasler.


The Kasler family room:  horned table with zebra top placed in front of an antique tapestry - echoes of John Saladino.  Eclectic mix of antiques and contemporary pieces.


The other side of the family room, showing the fireplace and Rose Tarlow chairs.


The adorable Kasler in her msater bedroom with it's Rose Tarlow four poster bed.  Suzanne is dressed as usual in her favorite tailored white shirt and long skirt.

A vignette in the Kasler home:  antique French mirror and console.  Beautiful.


 Kasler's dining room:  linen skirted table.  French chairs, french settee, pink taffeta curtains.   Simply gorgeous.


A preview of the furniture line Kasler has designed for Hickory Chair due out this spring.

I hope you enjoyed the #8 pick for Cote de Texas' Top Ten Designers!!!  Be sure to check in for #7 - the excitement is rising, it's building, it's palatable!