Lessons in Design

Nikolas Koenig

How to navigate four distinct styles.

Organic Minimalism

The Philosophy: With roots stretching back through the 1960s California studio movement, Danish Modern, Bauhaus and Arts and Crafts, this 21st-century style asserts that natural components—fine woods, metal, leather, wool, sisal—and sleek artisan-crafted shapes create warmth in even the sparest of settings.

The Dean: Australian architect Craig Bassam and creative director C. Scott Fellows partnered a decade ago to pursue their idea of Craftsman Modern: interiors and furnishings that emphasize clean silhouettes hewn from traditional materials, like the home pictured here. The New Canaan, Connecticut–based Bassam Fellows (bassamfellows.com) has since created furniture designs for McGuire and Herman Miller.

The Honor Roll: Clodagh (New York; clodagh.com). Commune (L.A.; communedesign.com). Lawson Fenning (L.A.; lawsonfenning.com). Terry Hunziker (Seattle; terryhunziker.com). Christian Liaigre (Paris; christian-liaigre.fr). Emily Summers (Dallas; emilysummers.com).

Neo Baroque

The Philosophy: Nothing is over the top for disciples of midcentury designers Tony Duquette, who defined more-is-more, and Dorothy Draper, who decorated the Greenbrier in West Virginia. These modern-day maximalists layered classical rooms in exuberant print fabrics, elaborately carved furniture and exotic tableaux of decorative accessories.

The Dean: The San Francisco area residences designed by Ann Getty (anngetty.com) are marvels of ornamentation—chinoiserie cabinets, Middle Eastern furniture, gilded antiques and scenic silk wallpapers. Her painstakingly crafted period reproduction furniture and upholstery are available in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Dania Beach, Florida.

The Honor Roll: Muriel Brandolini (New York; murielbrandolini.com). Charlotte Moss (New York; charlottemoss.com). Michelle Nussbaumer (Dallas; ceylonetcie.com). Carleton Varney (New York; Palm Beach, Florida; carletonvarney.com). Hutton Wilkinson (L.A.; huttonwilkinson.com).

Heirloom Moderne

The Philosophy: Old Money interior decorators have long called Heirloom Moderne “the mix”—a blend of Continental, Colonial and even Gustavian antiques with modern art and furniture. The latest twist on this storied style dials down cluttered rooms and fussy fabrics, creating spare, neutral-toned settings to showcase curated pieces.

The Dean: Beltway-based Darryl Carter specializes in architecturally embellished, gallery-white interiors that set the stage for Americana, European classicism, farmhouse simplicity and crisp, contemporary upholstery. His line of Urban Electric Co. lighting, Benjamin Moore paint samples, custom furniture and fabrics can be seen at the Darryl Carter boutique (1320 Ninth St. N.W., Washington, D.C.; 202-234-5926; darrylcarter.com).

The Honor Roll: Jeffrey Bilhuber (New York; bilhuber.com). Lars Bolander (West Palm Beach, Florida; New York; larsbolander.com). Thomas Jayne (New York; jaynedesignstudio.com). Jan Showers (Dallas; janshowers.com).

Disco Luxe

The Philosophy: Taking cues from 1970s jet-set modernism, which referenced Art Deco motifs, this style creates high drama with spaces defined by geometric floors and architectural millwork. Jewel-box interiors glisten with reflective materials—mirrors, polished metal, marble, lacquer, even patent leather—and sleek Italian and American minimalist furniture.

The Dean: Since the late ’90s, L.A.–based Kelly Wearstler’s design firm (8440 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; kellywearstler.com) has revived the Hollywood Regency look (Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel) and French neoclassical glam (Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Restaurant in New York). Wearstler’s ever-expanding empire reflects a kaleidoscope of references, from classical architecture to contemporary couture to the design influences of Ettore Sottsass and Mathieu Matégot.

The Honor Roll: Steven Gambrel (New York; srgambrel.com). Judith Lance (L.A.; judithlance.com). Peter Marino (New York; architect.com). Steven Volpe (San Francisco; stevenvolpe.com).