Driven by Daring: Inclinations of Modern Maximalism

For the contemporary tastemakers of today, to-the-max is more of a fine eye than a riotous palette. Through different stylistic endeavors, each vibrant and distinct, design stars Alexandra Loew, Tara Shaw and contemporary brand CB2 look to the past to animate space with a fresh, sumptuous feeling.

Sumptuously Seventies

As an architectural movement, Brutalism was not widely embraced. The raw power of the vernacular and its profuse use of concrete resulted in many hulking structures, but stylistically, its shelf life was short. 

Looking to Brutalist buildings, au courant brand CB2 created a collection of furnishings and accessories based on a style it describes as “soft brutalism,” combining “rough shapes, organic textures, and a calming neutral palette.” Materially, the line references the style’s trademark concrete and features traces of thickness, but the applications are fresh and surprising. Tension underscores the collection, which includes the Carve Travertine Cocktail Tables by Studio Anansi and the Tablon Snow Sofa in a luscious linen blend, along with other decadent designs that have maximalist appeal.

The thread line throughout is the tension of tempered opulence between 1970s Italian modernism and the clean and sinuous contemporary aesthetic. Along with the line’s aforementioned furnishings is a marble accent table with a disc-shaped top; a curvaceous, 1970s-inspired Brace Leather Sofa by Jannis Ellenberger; a variety of seating with different shapes; almost dystopian oval dining tables, and accents including the Rouge glass taper holders, Troy Large White Vase and Faux Antelope Hide Rug.

True to the collection’s brutalist mood, all pieces pronounce themselves, whether used separately or together in a striking tableau, with a decorative force that transports one into the arms of a plush, cosmopolitan salon. While not timid, the collection is still very much refined, speaking to both sophistication and the return to a more vibrantly imagined space.

Photo: courtesy of CB2

Alexandra Loew: Cool & Collected

Designer Alexandra Loew channels her flair for the decorative arts to creating spaces with a sense of curation, elaboration, and joy. Trained in architecture, Alexandra Loew tends to look at decorating as an extension of a building where she takes “direction with furnishings that creates a healthy tension or at least engages in pithy conversation, with the architectural shell,” she says. “I never want a home to look precious, but I do want there to be both a clarity and a sense of the unexpected.” 

Alexandra Loew subscribes to the idea “that interiors benefit from a narrative as a driving force.” To that end is The Collector, a project conceived for an artistic client with a vast and ever-growing collection. Given the number of objects to showcase in a relatively small space, and the fact that the collection was a reflection of what Alexandra Loew describes as the client’s “exceedingly good eye rather than simple acquisitiveness,” she referenced the London home of Sir John Soane, an architect, and collector who “by virtue of necessity devised clever ways of hanging, displaying and reflecting his excessive collection for maximal impact. In a way, the project is a homage to decadence, which we are both fascinated by.”

Alexandra Loew draws her aesthetic from a rich tapestry of influences and creates a grand tour of “unexpected groupings across periods, styles and artistic movements” that reference her love of history and detail. “And yes,” she says, “I believe all designs are best when taken to their max, even if that ‘max’ is a form of extreme restraint. Maximalism without disciplined editing teeters into chaos. And that’s the thrill—taking it to that precipice.”

Photos: Simon Upton/The Interior Archive

Tara Shaw: Contemporary Classic

The neoclassical residence of designer and antique dealer Tara Shaw shows her deft hand at making the Old World new. In her book Soul of the Home, with its collection of custom furniture and antique reproductions Maison, and a variety of interior settings, designer and antique enthusiast Tara Shaw has proved herself an expert practitioner of giving timeless design a modern bespoke air.

Mixing a refined European sensibility and a luxuriously light, easy beauty, Tara Shaw’s sumptuous neoclassical home is a pristine example of her mastery in blending designs of different eras into a decadent, cohesive whole. Rich in antiques and modern indulgence, the space is signature Tara Shaw, juxtaposing old and new with effortless grace. Yet much is at work in the richly collected and highly curated space, which is brimming with an extravagance of glamourous textiles and textures, Old World antiques, and a neutral palette whose warm tones are exquisite against white painted walls and moody, romantic art with an Old Masters vibe.

The home in its entirety is a larger example of Tara Shaw’s philosophy, which she writes about in her book: “A sophisticated room will have layers of influence: eighteenth-century French or Swedish chairs with contemporary consoles and cocktail tables; painted Italian candelabras and midcentury modern lamps.”  

The character of her home is distinctly Tara Shaw, exquisitely appointed and undeniably deluxe. Fittingly, the New Orleans residence marinates in the decadence and exploration of the city it calls home and also features an overriding French feel with pieces ranging from a 19th-century Italian chandelier, antique Swedish chairs, and a sculpture by David Lapin to sheepskin throws and various Tara Shaw antique reproductions. The result of this assortment of places and periods animates Shaw’s beautifully synthesized aesthetic.

Photos: courtesy of Abrams Books

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