Friday, November 11, 2011

Elle Decor's 2011 A List - Designer #2: Alessandra Branca

Last week, I wrote my first post about Elle Decor's "A List" of designers for 2011 (see details there).

And today's spotlight is on Alessandra Branca.

Here is what Elle Decor says about her:

Call her a passionate neoclassicist. Born in Italy, Branca developed an aesthetic steeped in antiquity. Nonetheless, she’s a woman of our times. She likes comfortable rooms and the color red—also stripes that recall vintage mattress ticking. Expect plush upholstery and fabrics, as well as shapes you’d find in a museum’s Greco-Roman hall, accented with anything from Moroccan mirrors to Chinese foo dogs.

Here are some pictures.

There are a number of things that I like about Branca's designs. First and foremost, the focus on comfort and seating. All of the living room/family room spaces have been arranged for conversation. Since these are rooms where people gather, it seems like an obvious priority - but I'm often surprised by how often rooms featured in magazines seem far more conceptual than livable.

Branca's designs also have a lot of personality. The art, the textiles, the whimsical details... They all give me an impression of the person who lives in those spaces. I want to explore the rest of the house outside of the frame.

Finally - I love the fact that these rooms don't have to be perfectly staged to have the same impact. The beds don't have to be perfectly made (as pictured above), you can take away every floral could kick your shoes off and curl up in a chair. The detritus of life doesn't take away from the overall effect. These rooms were designed for people, not cameras.

The elements that don't appeal to me are more prevelent in pictures that I didn't include here (though picture #4 is a pretty good example). I really don't understand the  heavy burgundy and yellow/gold  palette. I reminds me of professionally decorated Federal homes that some of my friends lived in during the '80s. It's so dated - I feel like I just stepped into an apartment in the Watergate from twenty years ago (remember, I live in the DC area). Anyway - I won't harp on that. It just strikes me as odd.

And what's going on with all of those shaded sconces? They're featured in a lot of the images on her website - and they seem a bit superfluous to me. They add an element of clutter to rooms that are already richly layered with antiques and objets.

Many of her bedrooms (none pictured here) have the matching wallpaper and bedding style that I also remember well from the '80s. And when done in a floral or a toille, it can be a bit overwhelming. So that wasn't my favorite either - though I do love it for the daybed featured above.

The last three images appeal to me most. They are fresh and bright, with a great mix of modern and traditional elements. And strangely enough - none of them are on
While I may not love all of Branca's designs, I'd prefer to see a range like this in a designer's portfolio. And all of these images convery a sense of comfort and personality, with an emphasis on bold textiles, unique accessories and art. It takes some serious talent (and experience) to bring all of that to the varied personal styles of her clients.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them (especially if you have some in favor of the burgundy and yellow...)

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