By MICHELE GRAHAM
Debutantes conjure images of young women in white gowns, of ultra grace. Being introduced into society may not command news like it once did but the world of refinement and glamour is timeless. The confluence of deb and developing style is a topic explored by The Local Vault, an online marketplace for new and pre-owned luxury home furnishings.
Diana Oswald – author of Debutantes, When Glamour Was Born (Rizzoli) – sat down with Alison Chase, the Secretary of the Board of the International Debutante Ball, and her daughter Becky Chase Hughes, the co-owner Greenwich Redesign, a home staging and redesign firm. Becky uses The Local Vault as one of her resources for contemporary furniture and décor, as well as traditional, vintage and antique finds.
Did you derive a sense of style and design from your mother or do you have completely different design aesthetics?
AC: I was raised by my father and stepmother who had both great style and a perfect eye. She would often say it was material, composition and proportion. I was told to look everyday the best I could manage and it’s been my motto my entire life.
BCH: My design style is a combination of what I learned from my mother and what I have developed being in the design business and through my personal experiences. My mother has a flair for color, and I have found that color is very important in a room.
My taste is a bit more transitional than my mother’s; although color is something I’ve incorporated in my design style. A neutral sofa with bright blue, green, and orange pillows takes things to a new level.
Are there pieces of furniture that have been handed down to you from your mother or grandmother that are an inspiration to your design sensibility?
BCH: We have a number of pieces of artwork that we have incorporated into our house in Greenwich that I enjoyed as a child in my parents’ house and were also on the walls of my mother’s childhood home. The painting over our living room fireplace, for example, was a piece my mother had in her bedroom.
My husband Bill and I have different sets of china and each carries an abundance memories. The plates we use for Thanksgiving are from Bill’s mother, a very special woman from Savannah, GA and also a debutante. Every time we use them we are transported to all the Thanksgivings we shared at the Hughes’ in North Carolina.
The set we use every Christmas is from my maternal grandparents. Every time I pick up the gravy boat I am transferred back to Cornwall, NY and the Christmas dinners we had there.
Is there anything about being a debutante that inspires design style?
AC: It’s not only their moment of being recognized as “coming in to adulthood,” it’s their moment in the spotlight. They are part of an old tradition and that carries over in to different aspects of their lives, including style and taste.
BCH: I think it helped me develop an appreciation of the past and how you can take those experiences and incorporate them in things you do everyday. Your past is always with you and helps shape what you do in the future; whether it is incorporating a piece of family artwork into that neutral living room or adding a pop of color to a dark paneled library.
What do you appreciate most about style?
AC: That it’s eye appealing and gives a true sense of self worth. If you look good you feel good…a large percentage of our communication is non-verbal. Impressions matter and tell a story.
BCH: Color. I love incorporating the past and the present. I am not a big fan of the word “transitional,” but I guess that is the best way to describe my style. It is important to remember where you came from and build on that as you move in to the future.
What about your daughter’s aesthetic? (Who also happens to be a debutante.)
BCH: My 24-year-old daughter Chase’s design aesthetic draws a similar design taste to mine. Her 350 square foot apartment is adorable. Neutral based sofa, rug, chair and bedding with pops of color in her accessories like magenta pink pillows on her sofa and orange in her bedroom.
She pulls from a traditional foundation and adds her touch and personality to make her look seem ageless. She appreciates where she came from and uses it as a guideline for how she designs her home and acts as a person.
You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure you do it in style!
LIBRARY: We may be in the digital age but a home library never goes out of fashion.
LIVING ROOM: Mix your favorite family antiques with modern furniture for a multilayered room that reflects your unique taste and personality.