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Publication Date: 2018-01-29

Design Insights

How Modern is Classicism?

Styles come and go, but principles last forever. At least that's the conventional wisdom. But does it still apply? Thomas Jayne puts the idea to the test in his new book, Classical Principles for Modern Design (The Monacelli Press). His touchstone is a text that has inspired American design education for more than a century, The Decoration of Houses. Written by Edith Wharton, long before she became a famous novelist, and young architect Ogden Codman, who went on the fame as the interior designer of many grand Newport "cottages," the book laid out the basics for an updated and fresher take on decor than was prevalent during the Gilded Age. 

Using images of his own work, as well as other examples from the 18th and 19th centuries, Jayne not only demonstates how the precepts that Wharton and Cogman championed still apply, he even follows the structure of their book, with chapters on walls, floors, ceilings, and yes, dining rooms and ballrooms. Designers today may not often get the opportunity to style a ballroom, but Jayne proves that in this case, at least, the wisdom of the past still applies.


The living room of a New York apartment by Jayne Design Studio, with freshly glazed 20th-century boiseries attributed to Henri Samuel. 

The drawing room of Crichel House, in Dorset, England, designed by architect James Wyatt in the 1770s.

The hallway of a country house in the Hudson Valley, designed by Jayne Design Studio, with paneled archways and oak floors stenciled with classical parquet patterns.

The cover of the new book.


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