By Linda Boronkay
I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s homes. The way we live says so much about us and they can be a powerful form of self-expression. I will never forget the experience I had as a seven-year old, wandering through Ernest Hemingway’s home in Havana. His spirit was so alive and present in his furnishings and belongings: his spectacles sat on a bedside table, Cinzano, Bacardi and other bottles were lined up on a tray next to his favourite chair, and his Royal typewriter rested on a bookcase, waiting for the author who famously wrote standing up.
We all change as we go through life, but if you choose well, your furniture doesn’t have to. I find so much joy in collecting pieces that I know will follow me on my journey and live on after me. Here I share some of my tips for sourcing pieces that have this timeless “forever” charm, using the example of this striking four-bedroom penthouse duplex in New York’s Upper West Side. The building is a modern interpretation of the grand prewar landmarks that line Central Park, making it the perfect setting to explore the allure of “forever furniture”.
Set the atmosphere
The single most important design tool is the lighting. The rules I like to follow were systemised by architectural lighting designer Richard Kelly, who illuminated some of the most iconic structures of the 20th century. His concept was simple yet incredibly effective, separating lighting into three distinct types that should always be present in a space: focal glow, ambient luminescence and the play of brilliants.
In general I like to minimise the number of ceiling lights in any space — I would rather opt for wall lights, table and floor lamps to create a warm, inviting ambience. If possible, I would avoid using spot lights and instead use stunning flush mounts or fantastical chandeliers, dimmed to offer the softest glow.
In this apartment, to create functional but atmospheric lighting I would recommend using this beautiful and versatile floor lamp by Kalmar from the 1940s. The mid-century silhouette would really stand out in this open plan living room and, as an added bonus, the height of the shade is adjustable.
Treat your room like a landscape
A room should feel like a beautiful undulating landscape with furniture and lighting of all different heights and shapes to provide a beautiful backdrop to everyday life.
The furniture for this space will be looked at from every angle, as it will be free standing rather than sitting against taller units or walls. I love how these Sanluca armchairs, designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, are so fluid and sculptural. Furniture with timeless silhouettes like these can take on many lives, especially if it is reupholstered or customised with cushions or throws.
Pay attention to finishes
Be conscious of the materials you choose for your room — opt for versatility and vintage finishes that bring an intimacy and warmth to the space. Prioritise natural stone and wood from sustainable sources, as these finishes will only get better with time. Plus if you maintain them well, your descendents will be able to enjoy them too.
I love to create interiors that feel simultaneously design-forward and timeless. To me, this coffee table from Lee Broom represents both these qualities. It’s versatile and practical as well as being a bold design statement.
Mix it up
Creating a space that feels effortless and yet perfectly balanced is one of the most difficult things to achieve in interior design. I would recommend combining beautiful lived-in textures with more architectural modern ones, mixing pieces from different eras and styles to create a dialogue of contrast and harmony.
To counterbalance the strong masculine qualities of the Lee Broom coffee table, I would pair it with a more feminine sofa from Pierre Augustin. It’s aptly called Palais Royal Froufrou. Nomen est omen.
Don’t forget the small things
Regard accent furniture as you would accessories for an outfit. Just as the perfectly selected earring or belt completely transforms your look, side tables, cushions, lampshades and throws are essential for completing a space.
I’m hopelessly in love with these side tables from Osanna Visconti. They are made using traditional artisanal techniques and you can really feel Osanna’s hand on them. It’s an approach that strikes a fine balance between originality and a more traditional, timeless elegance.
Photography: Wanda Martin; William Laird / Brown Harris Stevens; 1stdibs.co.uk; Karel Balas