Q&A with DE­SIGNER TOM STRINGER

Décor - - All The Right Moves -

Chicago in­te­rior de­signer Tom Stringer would rather chan­nel the in­ter­ests of his clients than im­pose a “sig­na­ture look” upon their homes. Still, he claims a soft spot for tra­di­tional de­sign.

Q: How do you de­fine tra­di­tional style?

A: I like to present tra­di­tion in a for­ward­think­ing light. Think of it this way: An­tiques are bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ated when they’re ac­com­pa­nied by con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture, and vice versa. Eclec­ti­cism is where I’m at, but mine is a fairly stud­ied ver­sion. I don’t be­lieve in throw­ing all dif­fer­ent things to­gether in a room and call­ing it eclec­tic. There’s a lot to be gained from care­fully look­ing at all ob­jects and their pair­ings.

Q: What is it about tra­di­tional style that ap­peals to your clients?

A: There’s com­fort in the fa­mil­iar. There’s also a con­ve­nience fac­tor, since peo­ple in­herit stuff. I also find younger clients want to buy older pieces out of a sense of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism.

If you want to be green, sim­ply go shop­ping at an an­tiques mar­ket. It’s the ul­ti­mate way to re­cy­cle.

Q: What role does color play in a tra­di­tional space? A: I think vivid col­ors have a place, as long as they’re used sim­ply. To me, that means as solids and tex­tures, not as pat­terns. Bright col­ors feel more so­phis­ti­cated in the con­text of a fairly muted pal­ette. Think hot pink and lime green with taupe and bronze, not bright white.

Q: What’s the first an­tique you ever bought?

A: I still have it! It’s in my bed­room—a sin­gle-door, mir­ror-front French ar­moire. I bought it with a $300 birth­day check from my grand­mother when I was a sopho­more in col­lege.

Q: Name one thing ev­ery tra­di­tional room needs. A: Some­thing con­tem­po­rary. Se­ri­ously. A con­tem­po­rary glass lamp on the fussi­est an­tique will com­pletely change the dy­namic of a room.

Q: What should you skip?

A: Wildly pat­terned draperies. They’re never go­ing to stand the test of time. And if you ab­so­lutely must have cab­bage roses, put them on throw pil­lows.

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