When a young couple with two daughters decided to purchase a new, already-in-progress Metairie house, they knew they wanted to work with interior designer Chad Graci of Graci Interiors. The wife, a friend of Graci’s sister (also a designer and artist) since their school days, is an admirer of Graci’s 21st century brand of New Traditionlism. “I’m a fan of everything he does,” she says.
According to Graci, the couple wanted a “grown up” house rooted in tradition but fresh and fun. While “brown furniture” was anathema to millennials for the past few decades, Graci observes that younger generations are once again interested in the depth and longevity that antiques bring to a room and in classic elements of design.
“For some younger clients, what is old is new again,” he says. “They’re reconnecting with brown furniture, antiques, more color, more pattern. But we’re not recreating color palettes and furnishings from 30 years ago. We are looking at things with a new lens.”
Against the pared-down traditional architecture of the four-bedroom, four-bath house being built by Brett Wynn of Quigley Construction, the clients wanted a white framework, and within that framework, an impactful mix of color, pattern and texture. Graci helped select timeless finishes so that the house wouldn’t read as brand new and worked with a serene palette of cream, celadon, peach, brown and pale blues, punctuated here and there with splashes of unexpected color. While trendy colors date themselves quickly, a neutral backdrop with strategically placed accent hues is easier to change over time.
“Chad is so talented and decisive, I just let him guide me in the process,” says the wife. “Everything he picked out was not necessarily something I’d pick out on my own, but I ended up loving it even more than if I had.”
Graci describes the project as an “organic process” that started with the two main living spaces downstairs – the kitchen and family room and the sitting room that doubles as a home office. He began with quality upholstered pieces that anchor the spaces with streamlined takes on familiar forms and maximize the amount of comfortable seating for the young family.
“The roll of an arm can set the tone for a room,” says Graci, who is consummately attuned to details.
Graci believes firmly in the importance of scale, the value of custom designs and the necessity of supporting local artists and artisans when working on client’s homes. Furniture and art by local luminaries include pieces from Kathy Slater Designs, Christopher Wynn, Chris Wynn, Amanda Tally, Kevin Gillentine Gallery, and Palm Orleans, as well as contemporary abstract paintings by Graci’s sister Christina Graci, now based in Houston. He also frequents auctions, estate sales, consignment stores and other sources for one-of-a-kind pieces – even when on vacation. For this house, he picked up a porcelain Chinoiserie lamp, an African stool, a Chinese console and a couple of bamboo rattan-topped tables, among other things.
“It’s really about the mix,” says Graci. “The one-off things make it interesting and layered and complete and keep us from defaulting to the easy sources. It keeps my mind sharp and my projects moving forward.”
Subtle repetition of shapes and colors ties the overall scheme together. The celadon of the lacquered front door is also applied inside the house. The oval shape and dark/light contrast of the modernist Saarinen dining table is repeated in the backs of the antique Louis XV-style chairs paired with it. The Philippe Starck ghost counter chairs at the kitchen island reference the Louis chairs at the adjacent dining table. The blue of the master bedroom’s alcove ceiling is echoed in the worn painted patina of a Swedish-two door armoire and the Chinoiserie panel that hangs next to it. At the same time, there are moments that are intended to provide contrast to the restraint. For instance, a pair of long-necked azure blue birds that Graci found through an Asian antiques dealer recalibrates the living room’s calm tones with a lively jolt. Graci also likes to use leopard prints, which he describes as a new neutral.
Several pieces that the couple already owned gained new importance in the finished design. The vintage gold velvet upholstery of a 1940s chair that belonged to the wife’s grandmother now looks daring amid the powdery blues of the master bedroom, and a mirror inherited from the same grandmother was incorporated into a gallery wall display rising alongside the stairwell.
Aesthetics were key to the choices that Graci presented, but they were also intended to be flexible and functional and to stay within the couple’s budget. The Saarinen table in the dining room is minimal enough to work with a wide variety of styles and is durable enough to be used as a workspace for kids doing homework, while the acrylic of the counter chairs at the kitchen island makes them easy to wipe clean. When the front door’s glass panes felt exposed to the clients, Graci provided a one-and-done solution that maintains the open feel but also provides privacy by adding a sheer shade made from a gray basket-weave fabric with a black thread running through it.
Graci stresses that knowing where to put the budget is essential to achieving a look that is both current and lasting and is a pro at mixing high and low. The key, he says, is finding quality designs, which are available at a variety of price points.
“First and foremost is quality,” says the designer, whose mien is as refined as his interiors. “Then scale and color.”
Graci adds that a thoughtfully-designed room is well proportioned, intentional in its details, and balanced, the last of which doesn’t require matching and symmetry. Asymmetry also can be balanced and can bring an edgier aspect to a space.
“It’s so important to align yourself with someone you truly trust,” says the wife, who credits Graci with making decisions easy and creating the kind of comfort and continuity that make this family home a calming place.
“It makes me feel at peace,” she says.
Contact: Graci Interiors, 1055 St. Charles Avenue, Suite 222, graciinteriors.com, @graciinteriors.
GET THE LOOK
The vivid yellow of this lamp satisfies a yen for color, while the organic shape adds a natural element of design. Jade, jadenola.com.
Simple, clean lines, neutral hues and natural wood grain make these dining chairs easy to pair with a variety of styles. Jade, jadenola.com.
Benjamin Moore’s Winthrop Peach (HC-55) is described as having dusty undertones and nostalgic appeal. Helm Paint, helmpaint.com.
It doesn’t get more classic than a pair of sketched prints by Renaissance Master Leonardo da Vinci. Lulu and Georgia, luluandgeorgia.com.
The signature patterns of local artist Amanda Talley’s wallpapers and fabrics range from swirling ribbons of color to symmetrical bands that call to the geometric designs of a kaleidoscope. Amanda Talley, amandatalley.com.
A celadon accent imparts a whisper of color rather than a shout. This ceramic barrel garden stool also delivers a touch of Chinoiserie. Lowes, lowes.com.
Chic, neutral and classic, an easy to change leopard pillow adds pattern and texture in one fell swoop. Jade, jadenola.com.
Trade in the trendy and rely on the retro instead with Mid-century barware that makes mocktails, cocktails and all manner of libation an historic event. Merchant House, merchanthouse.co.
In a soothing blue and embossed faux crocodile pattern, these placemats are a must for the well-layered and well-laid table. Maisonette, maisonetteshop.com.
The exotic trifecta of painted floral decoration, parcel-gilt oak and burl ash wood make this Chinese style console a great find for a well-traveled look. Chairish, chairish.com.