Designing Luxury House
The interior design of a period house based on
historic style must be a careful endeavor as this is the most
important aspect of a luxury house.
The interiors of a
French style, Italian villa, or Gothic/Tudor must reflect the
same materials and details in flooring, wall and panel
treatments, ceiling ornamentation, arch geometry and column
Moldings in particular should be matched to the
style you are creating.
The design of interiors of a luxury
house begins with a floor plan layout that is organized in a
manner that is reminiscent of the period style you seek to
Most historic houses were NOT open plan type but
had distinct rooms that were typically not visible unless
doors were opened to reveal the contents. This is one
rule that must be gently broken for the contemporary mansion
as the size and scale of mansions today are not the same.
We have to scale down the enormous sizes and heights of rooms
that are found in historical examples to adapt to modern
The rules of the Renaissance and Period Revival
architecture were always observed in the 18th to 20th century
construction of villas, mansions and castles.
Assuming a well laid out floor plan that solves functional and
aesthetic points we turn to the actual surface treatment of 6
planes of EVERY room of the house: 4 walls, floor and ceiling.
Like the human body when adorned, there should be effort made
to highlight the most important focal point in each space
whether fireplace, bar, library wall, decorative windows, etc.
A decision must be made on the general height of floor to
ceilings in all rooms. There can be double height spaces
but the average height of rooms is based on width and length
in general. Palladio and neoclassical architects used
special formulas to establish the perfect space. A
golden section was employed in many cases.
interior design process involves drawing each wall of each
room/space by blocking out the height and width and noting
openings, projections, and other general features. If
formal rooms are connected and open to central hallways and a
Foyer for example it is better to see the entire connected
space on paper when 'building' the details of the interior
Proportions of moldings, panels, ceiling
crowns, and other elements should be blocked out and then
drawn in with more detail.
A French palace has different
details than a French country house; an Italian Villa or
palace of great spaces has a more elaborate decorative scheme
than a smaller Palladian structure. Most important is to
be cognizant that molding design is specific to a style and
that they should not be mixed.
In the most simplified
design moldings for all Formal rooms can be of similar design
and secondary rooms, for example bedrooms, can share the same
But a luxury house will normally have special and
different moldings for the Foyer, Living or Great Hall,
Dining, Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Secondary Bedrooms and down
to Powder Rooms and Laundries, etc.
The most elaborate
interior treatments are dedicated to the formal rooms and
become less intricate as the rooms are important. There
is no need for overdone moldings in minor spaces unless they
are focal points in a larger room.
It would be wonderful if
we were still in the age of Stuccadores, tradespeople who
actually ran plaster on plaster walls and made all the
decorative elements on site. You can still find trades
in Europe available for this effort and quite worth their fees
but costs may be prohibited for a medium sized luxury house.
Premanufactured moldings are the biggest 'bang for the buck'
in modern times. Synthetic plastic and hybrid plaster
cast decorative elements are available from multiple sources
in this country and can be mixed with real wood moldings
painted to simulate any finish.
Ceilings should be as
decorative or more so than walls. Consider the
importance of spacing electrical lighting within the pattern
of beams and crown and other moldings.
Stone and wood
floors are important to match to the interior elevations of
every space. Interesting patterns and bordering with
accents, sometimes using lasers or high pressure water are
Door handles, light and plumbing
fixtures should be in historic styles as well. Try to
avoid any contemporary accessory mixed with period style
decoration. Push button lighting controls are a good
option to flip switches and plastic panels.
selection between wood, stone, and interior panels, moldings,
etc. is the final touch to a great luxury house interior.
Pale colors on walls and ceilings seem more elegant but Tudor
designs have stronger splashes of color. Keeping in mind
the more open plan nature of contemporary houses you will see
many rooms at once or at the same time in close proximity.
For this reason strong colors from room to room may not blend
well in the overall impression. Specialty color schemes are
best left for rooms that can be closed from view.
Finally... furniture. There are contemporary
manufacturers of chairs, tables, and accessories that are
period interchangeable. Not as important as the interior
architecture to be consistent, nonetheless furniture must be
carefully considered to find pieces that fit the scale of the
rooms. Custom built pieces are an option that may be
required if specific period furnishings are not available.
A final note: forced air and heat should be kept hidden as
much as possible or embellished with decorative grills.
Floor registers are best used when possible. The ceiling
registers by contemporary manufacturers completely ruin the