Design Details Make the Difference
They're key to turning a house into a home that's uniquely yours, as interior designer Steven Gambrel demonstrates in his first book
When you're feeling short on inspiration for touches to personalize your home, think of Steven Gambrel. The celebrated designer is constantly taking note of, sketching, and filing away architectural fragments, floor patterns, door casings, paneling styles, and the like, creating a rich, personal design library that he can draw on. "I love finding details in old buildings all over the world and giving them a new life in my projects," he explains. Inspiration also can be found close at hand, of course, in local historic houses, say, or nearby city centers. In every case, Gambrel refreshes the traditional elements he so loves with an approach that makes them feel right for today. Witness the rooms—and architectural details—shown here.
In redoing a 19th-century house in Sag Harbor, New York, the designer added a built-in bed with planked surfaces all around, wrapping them in a luxurious old-world blue. The unusual sliding window shutter, copied from one seen at the Custom House museum in town, makes the cocooning complete, ensuring a good night's sleep.
The panels in these cabinet fronts designed for a guesthouse kitchen were inspired by chevron doors Gambrel saw in Virginia, where he studied architecture in college. Their graphic lines give the small space major decorative appeal. The open shelves above, with their stepped-block brackets, and the simple paneled wall behind, add supporting layers of interest and detail.
Striking black silhouettes with graceful curves make a dramatic statement at the head of these guest beds. Inspired by Flemish facades that Gambrel sketched while walking the streets of Brussels, the poplar beds are coated with black lacquer made even glossier with the traditional multistep shellac finish known as French polish. The pared-down bed linens and drapes set them off to great advantage.
Pro Advice: "Detail in moldings and millwork, coupled with thoughtful use of paint and wall coverings, can really create a substantial, special space. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive."
—Steven Gambrel, S.R. Gambrel Inc., New York City