It amazes me how few design inspirations there are for houses built 1900-1950. A huge number of Britain's suburban family homes date from this period, yet British interior designers and retailers seem incredibly reluctant to engage with them, and there are very few looks available to those wanting to avoid wholesale modernisation.
Either you go down the Cath Kidston route (way too girlie and twee for most blokes); or the retro Pedlars look (shabby AND expensive, a combination to make your mother weep); or the whole-hog Utility or Art Deco re-creation (the Geffrye museum via Ebay, for those who really want to dedicate years of their life to replicating an Agatha Christie stage set).
Well, folks, now there's an alternative. And it's BEAUTIFUL. 'American Modern' - which has nothing specifically American about it, and is absolutely not what Europeans would call "modern" at all - is the signature style of the book's author, a New York decorator called Thomas O'Brien, who is very famous in the US apparently, though I hadn't heard of him until now.
O'Brien's interiors have a very polished and opulent style that incorporates a ton of "stuff": piles of interesting travel relics and eclectic gewgaws surrounded by early 20th century antiques, dreamy line illustrations and photography, sumptuous upholstery, foxed mirrorglass furniture, chrome, marble, linen, silk and velvet, all in divinely muted colour palettes. (If I ever re-do my sitting room, I'm going his 'shades of blue hydrangea' all the way). Think pre-war Hollywood movies, the great grand hotels of the world, and deposed royalty living it up in Park Avenue and Cadogan Square mansion flats. Dahlink, I kennot tell you, it's etterly febulous.
This book is not for the faint of heart, or the light of pocket. Its ideas are way too luxe for owners of teeny-tiny pre-war semis and bungalows (who should check out the 'Domino' book or Ann Grafton's 'Interior Transformations' instead). And if you're a minimalist, or think 20th century modernity should be all Eames and brutalist architecture, you'll almost certainly hate it. But for those who prefer a richer and more overtly decorated look, this really is the most stunning property porn I've seen in a long while.
'House & Garden' addicts who, like me, salivate over the work of Emily Todhunter, Neisha and Charlotte Crosland, Nina Campbell or Guy Goodfellow will adore 'American Modern', and will soon be adding Thomas O'Brien to their list of design crushes (he's also absurdly handsome if his author photo is anything to go by). As for those of you who have, or aspire to have, a BIG early 20th century house, and want a glamorous, impressive, sexy yet comfortable interior, do not dare pick up even a paintbrush until you've checked out this gorgeous book.