Q&A with DESIGNER TOM STRINGER
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.