For Bill Brockschmidt and Courtney Coleman of the NYC-based design firm Brockschmidt & Coleman, leaning on historical references can result in interiors with a totally modern sensibility. This Elle Decor A-List design duo, both of whom trained as architects, have tackled everything from posh libraries on Park Avenue to a horse farm in Pennsylvania, and each time the result is expertly layered with color and pattern for days. To go along with their curation of Chairish finds, we asked the pair to share some of their favorite design tricks, cool color combos, and the patterns they love to play with.
What do you love about shopping on Chairish?
Finding furniture and decorative objects on Chairish is as close to old-fashioned antique hunting as is possible on the web. There’s a feeling of discovery just like finding treasures at a local flea market, antiques show or estate sale.
Is there any particular product category where Chairish is your go-to?
We search for most anything on Chairish, but especially for vintage or quirky furniture and objects that don’t look too refined or slick. Recently we sourced almost the entire contents of a beach house from the site, including mis-matched sets of 1970s rattan patio furniture that we painted black, a pair of groovy mid-century Danish armchairs that got upholstered in a bright Indian cotton print, and cute table lamps that looked like they had been passed down in our client’s family for generations. The whole effect is so charming and stylish and not cookie-cutter!
Favorite items on Chairish right now:
BB: I have an ongoing search alert for “Sicilian”… But right now I have fallen for an Italian neoclassical creamware soup tureen with beautiful detailing and a quirky eagle that adds great charm.
CC: A Bohemian-style table lamp with green glass beneath white opaline overlay, adorned with gold painted scrolls. None of this – especially Bohemian glass – is usually my thing, but this lamp is darling.
Favorite way to add drama to a room:
Unexpected color…Wallpaper…Interestingly displayed collections.
Favorite pattern (and how you love to use):
BB: Early 19th century geometric patterns like Adelphi Paper Hanging’s “Adena Pin Circles” wallpaper and Raoul Textiles “Limoges” fabric are both bold and charming, but giant-scaled damask, beautifully printed chintz, and exotic Indian block prints are also favorites.
CC: Anything with a bird, anywhere. Handmade-looking Indian block prints for wall and furniture upholstery. Stylized neoclassical motifs for architectural detailing. And even though it’s not a specific pattern, I’m thrilled to see that embroidery is having a renaissance.
Favorite source for design inspiration:
Historic house museums have always been an inspiration. It’s fascinating how new discoveries in the fields of interior and decorative arts history are often bold and surprising – for instance the newly restored bedroom at the Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston, with its vivid ochre color distemper painted walls. We can’t wait to try that on a project.
Favorite design rule to break:
We love to mix warm and cool versions of the same color. Early in our career we were asked to design a few custom colorways for Adelphi Paperhangings, whose in-house design team protested that you can’t mix warm and cool green – they clash. However, we were so enchanted with the results we have been mixing with abandon ever since.
Favorite paint color:
BB: This changes constantly but I’m excited about using Emery et Cie’s “Absinthe 29” in a current project.
CC: Right now, I’m really into “Green Bonnet” from Historic Colors of America. This would look so fresh and cool in a matte finish, with accents in high gloss white and khaki color.
Favorite color combo:
We will try almost anything. Least favorite normally is the “Catsup and Mustards” scheme – to be avoided. Olive and turquoise is an old favorite.
Favorite thing about designing with vintage pieces:
A goal in our work is for the personalities of our clients to shine through in interiors that are beautiful, comfortable, and unique. In this era of labels and signature housewares, this often means finding distinctive vintage pieces that are hard to place rather than recognizable. In addition, we love to find pieces that aren’t so precious that they can’t be painted or cut down or otherwise modified for a new situation.
Favorite way to mix high and low:
Fancy antique furniture with humble textured fabrics, or in a humble setting, perhaps with painted plank walls. Palatial-scale wallpaper in a cottage-size room. Or just a funny, personal piece in an unexpected setting. A favorite example is a clay model of French fries that one of our client’s kids made at summer camp, and which sits prominently on the desktop of a formal secretary in the Living Room. From far away it looks like cool modern sculpture, and close up it makes everyone smile.
Favorite way to work a bit of vintage into a room:
For us it’s the opposite! We rarely work on projects where there aren’t some or mostly antiques or vintage furniture, so for us the challenge is often how to incorporate contemporary pieces so they look purposeful rather than just provocative. When we do mix in contemporary pieces, whether rugs or furniture or lighting, we are looking for pieces that aren’t necessarily showstoppers but are unexpected and complementary.
Are there any childhood design influences that you weave into your current work?
BB: Childhood visits to old houses and house museums in Virginia and ancient Roman classicism from five years of Latin class taught by a favorite teacher, Susan Shearer (who has visited us in our house in Sicily!)
CC: A huge influence on my sense of color and love of eccentric furniture was my great aunt Mary Jane Lyle, a decorator in the Mississippi Delta. All the rooms in the turn of the century cottage where she lived were beautiful, but her bathroom with white painted floor, purple and orange Braquenie cotton curtains and tub skirt, and French washstand with a tall crystal table lamp was one of the chicest rooms I have ever seen.
Can you share with us any big projects you’re working on in 2018?
A glamorous Sutton Place penthouse with high ceilings, boiserie, and terraces in New York, and a super exciting project in New Orleans – our new B&C branch office, scheduled to open in an early 20th century shotgun house on Magazine Street in early 2019.
You designed the dining room for the Southern Style Now/Savannah Showhouse. How was that process and were there any surprises that you can share along the way?
BB: The Southern Style Now/Savannah Showhouse was a fantastic experience and everyone involved was so professional and cordial and interested. So many antiques dealers and workrooms helped us out. We learned all about 19th century English chandeliers for the Indian market while the dealer put on each crystal of our extraordinary chandelier. I also learned how to hang exquisite curtains high up on a ladder due to a field dimension snafu and modifications that had to be made after the curtain installer left.
CC: Not only was it fun being in Savannah with people so passionate about design, but the room planning was incredibly educational. We dove down the rabbit hole and learned all about the glazes and shapes of 19th century Japanese Awaji pottery from Tom Libby, the expert dealer specializing in it, and about French Majolica and Russian fruit-shaped compotes and Eastlake plant stands, among many other things. Also surprising – although I guess it shouldn’t be, since it was in the south after all – was that every single room in the showhouse had a bar!
Favorite travel destination:
BB: It will always be Sicily where my husband and I have had a house for 12 years.
CC: I’m working on perfecting the art of half culture/half beach vacation, and just returned from a fantastic few days shopping and going to museums in Mexico City, followed by a blissful few days of doing nothing at all on a remote Oaxacan beach.
Favorite hotel to check into:
BB: Maison d’Hotes Hotel Verhaegen in Ghent, Belgium was remarkably lovely and personal. I also love to rent houses or apartments if I’m staying for a few days – more into local atmosphere than pampering.
CC: Completely agree about renting houses when traveling. However, two hotels to which I’d love to return are Les Deux Tours outside Marrakesh and Hotel Escondido on the aforementioned remote Oaxacan beach.
BB: Google Translate
CC: Is Google Translate an app? I think it’s a website! Anyway, the flashlight app rules!
Favorite thank you/hostess gift:
BB: A small vintage or antique object that’s very personal: a little piece of pottery or a pretty box
CC: The best thank-you gift ever was one that my cousin Austin and his fiancé gave me for organizing a family trip to Italy last year. They found a model remote-controlled Volvo station wagon like the one we rented, and plastered it with funny stickers and sayings from our trip. It deserves a glass case and a spotlight.
Favorite adult beverage:
BB: I’ve been enjoying an Italicus Spritz made from Rosolio di Bergamotto in a beautiful faceted bottle.
CC: Really cold Sancerre.
BB: “You’ll never work in this town again.”
CC: “One day a peacock, the next day a feather duster.”
Favorite entertaining essential:
BB: I’ve been admiring for a few years the work of Belgian artist Pierre Bergian.
CC: My niece Emma-Lyle Dampoux, who has a studio in Versailles, France. Her colors and figures remind me of young Gauguin.
Favorite thing to collect:
BB: It may be cliché, but Grand Tour souvenirs. Imagine in an age before photography and the internet going to see the world that you’d only seen in paintings or engravings or objects and then taking home remembrances to last a lifetime.
CC: Bright 1960s and 70s needlepoints of mother and baby leopards.
Local Favorites: New York City
BB: Really one favorite??? Atla, Villanelle, Babu Ji, Snack Taverna and I just had one of the best things ever at Flora Bar at the Met Breuer: Purple endive, pecans, Bayley Hazen Blue and sorrel dressing.
CC: The original Shake Shack in Madison Park. It’s a treat to visit with friends outside in the beautifully restored park, plus it’s quiet enough to talk!
Favorite hotel to recommend to visiting friends:
BB: If only my visiting friends all had the same taste and budget!
CC: The Surrey, so my friends can invite me to the gorgeous private rooftop bar for a drink.
Favorite local culture hub:
BB: Metropolitan Opera but also smaller opera companies doing baroque.
CC: Lincoln Center. Two favorite productions were the supremely silly/serious ballet Whipped Cream, with kooky and delightful costumes, and Theatre des Bouffes du Nord’s production of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, one of the best and funniest shows I’ve ever seen.
Favorite local attraction:
BB: I love to explore the Metropolitan Museum just for a quick visit or drop-dead marathon.
CC: Highline – but only in bad weather or late at night in order to avoid crowds. It’s amazing to sit at the north end near Hudson Yards and take in the sky and the river and the huge construction cranes nearby. I also can’t wait for Flushing Meadows and the US Open every September.
Favorite local flea market/vintage hunting ground:
BB: I used to do the flea market every weekend when it was on 25th Street. Now we more often go to Stamford for antique hunting.
CC: 10th floor gallery at the New York Design Center.
Lead photo by Simon Watson