Inspired by a top-notch art collection, this midtown Denver condo pays homage to European style. CH&L talks with designer Ingrid Fretheim.
Colorado Homes & Lifestyles: Tell us what the homeowner had in mind when she called you in.
Interior designer Ingrid Fretheim: The homeowner bought the show model of this condo building so it already had several nice features. But she wanted to make it hers. In fact, we took out walls, totally redid all the bathrooms, and added a butler’s pantry. The homeowner’s keyword was “elegant.” So that’s what drove the design.
CH&L: What was the starting point for the design?
IF: The homeowner fell in love with the piece of art that’s now hanging in the dining room. (Amazingly, the woman in the picture resembles her, but that’s just a coincidence.) She loved not only the subject matter but also the colors. We used that palette to pick the iridescent silk for the dining room chairs and the lavender crystals that hang from the chandelier. Lavender is one of her favorite colors. That picture also works beautifully with the Chagall that hangs directly opposite it.
CH&L: Since the homeowner bought everything new, how did you choose furniture that would enhance the art?
IF: I didn’t. When you pick out art that you love, it works on its own merit. That said, the real key to making it stand out is paying attention to scale—in other words, selecting the right floor plan and size of furniture.
We chose high-end French reproduction furniture that was just the right size to frame the art visually. For the designer, it’s a skill. For the viewer, it just feels right.
CH&L: Tell us about the design principles at play when mixing contemporary and classical art.
IF: Mix away. But also look for elements in one piece that converse with another nearby. Maybe the paintings share a certain color. Or maybe you’ve framed them similarly. Notice in this condo that some pieces are framed ornately, some more simply, some are merely canvases. There are no rules except what the eye tells you. We may, at some point, frame some of the unframed pieces and move them somewhere else. That’s the beauty of art—it can be changed or left alone.
CH&L: The space looks so European, but with an updated twist. Besides scale, what did you look for in furniture and architectural details to make this home classical yet fresh?
IF: We gravitated toward reproductions of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI because those periods of design have stood the test of time. The French have always been at the forefront of European design, and there are many wonderful
variations on the French aesthetic. The three King Louis styles, in particular, mean gold leaf, detailed ornamentation, luscious animal skins and sparkling chandeliers. And when you use reproductions, you must buy the best because of the attention to detail and craftsmanship. This condo pays homage to both of those qualities, resulting in a sense of classical beauty.
European Elegance: Five Ways to Add Grace To Your Space
MIRRORS These easy-to-find jewels add depth and light to a room. If you don’t have wall space, consider a piece of mirrored furniture.
ANIMAL PRINTS A very European touch, using leopard, zebra or tiger prints—great as floor coverings—can provide a sense of connection to the natural world. Smaller elements like animal-print pillows or an ottoman can keep the look subtle.
GREEK MOTIFS The Greeks knew beauty, and traditional designs, such as the Greek key pattern, add “wow” to draperies or chair coverings.
A TOUCH OF GOLD Overdo the gilt and you’ve gone gaudy, but add just a little gold leaf on a piece of furniture or some molding, and elegance reigns.
SYMMETRY European design has always relied heavily on symmetry (two table lamps, two busts, two sconces) as of way of composing space and bringing order. Overdone symmetry, however, can evoke the coldness of military precision. The goal is to appease the eye and create calm instead of chaos.
Designer: Ingrid Fretheim, Ingrid Fretheim Interiors, (303) 399-8417