"WE DON’T DESIGN HOUSES for fearful peop1e," says designer William Diamond, as his partner, architect Anthony Baratta, chuckles. Indeed, it takes a passion for color and a thirst for the unusual to live in a space that pairs yellow plaid with a glossy blue-and-white check and pools of cobalt blue, golden yellow, and barn red. This is signature Diamond & Baratta: taking traditional elements such as wing chairs and area rugs and jolting them attention with unexpected colors and patterns.
"It’s American, classic, and steeped in tradition, but newer and fresher," Diamond terms their design style. And the owners of this Westchester County, New York, home were ready for whatever Diamond & Baratta could dream up. "They’re very secure people," Diamond says about the couple, parents of three young children. "They said, ‘We love what you do, and we want you to design our house.’"
"I could imagine myself living in just about anything they did," says the wife. "I wanted the house to be cheerful, friendly, and comfortable. And since children are such as big part of our life, I wanted every room to be usable."
The homeowners didn’t flinch when the duo created designs for three very bold, very different plaid fabrics in the family room, and huge blocks of barn red and bright white flooring throughout the foyer. "Either you love color or you’re afraid of color. These clients weren’t afraid," says Baratta.
But this house is about more than just color; it’s also about detailed architecture, which is another key element of a Diamond & Baratta project. In this situation, the team had the opportunity to totally transform the interior details and layout. "This is a 1911 Colonial [-style structure] that through the years was bought by people with a penchant for renovations," the homeowner says.
"The house was built in the late 19th century in a series of three stages," says Baratta. "A 1950s renovation wiped out the original design."
The designers added a wing in the middle of the house to give a sense of order to the interior. Then they went from room to room, creating unique details: fluted columns in the foyer, a strip of chunky dentils in the family room, a double cornice in the living room, a web-patterned oval window in the master bedroom. "All the details are done loosely so it doesn’t look like someone just picked out the moldings recently," says Baratta. Instead, the designers say, it looks as if a "crazy carpenter" from the early 1900s has been let loose.
Co-founders of their own mutual admiration society, Diamond and Baratta each credits the other for a particular piece of unusual design. Their combined skills are put to the test with every project, for which they create overall designs, as well as plans for flooring, furniture, and wallcoverings. "Tony has a wonderful sense of architecture," says Diamond, while Baratta praises Diamond’s dynamic eye for color. Together, they enjoy turning the world of design on its proverbial ear. "We always try to push the envelope a little more," says Diamond. "We believe in joie de vivre."
IT’S A CLASSIC: THE WINDSOR CHAIR. In early 18th-century England, Windsor chairs were made specifically for gardens. With plank seats and turned spindles on legs and back, they were highly portable, yet sturdy. It didn’t take long for Windsors to make their way into British homes, or to have relatives pop up across the Atlantic. American craftsmen put their own spin on the design, creating highly ornate turnings or opting for unadorned tapered legs. The reproduction sack-back Windsors, shown here, represent one style. Others include low-back, fan-back and writing arm.
IT’S A CLASSIC: THE WING CHAIR.
The "wings" protruding between the back and arms of this chair are more than decorative; they were designed to protect against drafts. The wing chair has been an American favorite since the late 17th century, but labor-intensive upholstering often made early models very expensive. By the l8th century, it was cheaper to buy a factory-produced wing chair than to reupholster an older one. Today, a wing chair with or without a skirt still Invites one to curl up with a quilt and a good book.
IT’S A CLASSIC: PLAIDS!
Generally, plaid is defined as a fabric woven of colored yarns in a cross-barred pattern. According to Scottish tradition, a plaid was a long, rectangular piece of cloth worn across the left shoulder by Scottish Highlanders. These cloths were in the tartan pattern, with bands and lines in colors representing a particular clan. These days, the terms plaid and tartan are used interchangeably. In home furnishings, the colors of a plaid usually reflect personal taste, not family heritage.