What is Modern American Style? Our Designers Weigh In

What is Modern American Style? Our Designers Weigh In

What is Modern American Style? Our Designers Weigh In

American style means a lot more than red, white, and blue. Design that feel uniquely USA are on the rise, but what exactly fits that description. We asked our designers to weigh in.

Looking at interiors, it can be a cinch to identify a distinctly Mediterranean vibe or an Italian villa-inspired space. But sometimes, picking up on what feels uniquely American can be a lot trickier. In the absence of a bold red white, and blue palette, what makes a space feel American?

“Classic, all-American style is timeless,” designer Ariel Okin explains. “It’s about an appreciation for the past—finding inspiration in the painted floors of Bunny Mellon’s homes or the simplicity of Federal style exteriors and combining it with a fun and fresh take on what ‘all-America’ means these days. That twist can be anything from white lacquered Chippendale chairs to a blue and white striped runner. Regardless of the designer’s interpretation, a refined sense of polish runs through the style as a whole.”

Designer Olivia Stutz points to headline names like Ralph Lauren and even celebs like Diane Keaton as modern tentpoles of the movement. But believes the definition can be exceptionally loose.

Design by: Jesse Turek, Photo by: Sean Litchfield; (Above) Design by: Shelby Knoles, Photo by: David Berlekamp

“American style means individualism and exploring and creating a style all your own, Olivia explains. “It’s all about is reinventing what is ‘cool.’ Ask any designer, and their style will be drastically different to the next.”

With that kind of open-ended breadth, it’s about focusing mixing classic pieces with an independent take on how to pull it all together.

“This is my personal favorite wheelhouse and where I find the most inspiration for my own projects,” Ariel explains. “It’s really ‘New Traditionalist’: a mix of classic (antiques, beautifully silhouetted furniture, nubby sisals and jutes, yummy silks and wools) with a creative eye and love for color and pattern. The fabrics, trims and decor tie it all together. A few designers and architects who I think are doing it exceptionally well are Mark D. Sikes, Markham Roberts, Patrick Ahearn, Marshall Watson, Ashley Whittaker, Sarah Bartholomew, and Christopher Maya, among others.”

It also reflects nods to a uniquely American sense of craftsmanship—think well-crafted Windsor chairs and sturdy dining tables.

Designer: Helen Bergin; Photos by: Joyelle West

“I really love the gorgeous old accents in a home – the perfectly worn wood floors, a bit of antique spindle furniture,” Ariel says. “Decorative accents like beamed ceilings and picture molding also feel uniquely part of this vibe.”

But that classic vibe doesn’t have to be actually classic.

“Items of the past always feel truly ‘American’ to me,” Olivia explains. “Whether you like to call them objects of curiosity, decor, found objects, items that tell a story are always things I try to place in a home to create a sense of place and an homage to where we are all from. In addition, integrity and craftsmanship are coming back into play. A lot of products being made now are from the USA—there’s a revival of craftsmanship you can see in brands like Apparatus Studio and Cedric Hartman.”

Design by: Ariel Okin, Photo by: Seth Caplan

Of course, you can always lean on a patriotic palette.

“Christopher Maya’s take on the color scheme in Chris Burch’s Hamptons house is a perfectly chic example of blending the three shades without looking like a firecracker,” Ariel shares. “Blue and white is my favorite color scheme, and I love a few pops of red in there to liven it up and add some depth.”

Ariel suggets mixing something like white, hand-blown glass lamps with vintage rattan end table for a modern riff on polished and patina—we are a melting pot after all.  And it’s that desire for unity that might be bringing everyone back to the American aesthetic.

“I think people are craving a well-edited sense of polish in their spaces, and the modern traditional route lends itself to a crisp and elegant aesthetic.

Our resident Australian designer, Tali Roth, thinks the upswing is all about wishing for calmer times gone by.

“I think that people are feeling very nostalgic,” Tali says. “People want to feel connected to something older. When it’s done well it feels authentic and actually incorporates pieces from the past.”

If she can make it work, so can you.

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