The Secret to Mixing Pattern, Colour, Old and New
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The Secret to Mixing Pattern, Colour, Old and New

Here’s how the interior designer got it done.

By ELIZABETH QUINN BROWN
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 11:30amGrey Clock 3 min

FORMAL BUT but whimsical, the dining room in Chris Barnes and Maisha Closson’s home in Los Angeles’s West Adams neighbourhood bursts with wildly disparate design references. How did local designer Dee Murphy, founder of Murphy Deesign, convince a wavy-fronted mahogany buffet to coexist with chairs as rigidly linear as Pierre Jeanneret’s 1950s designs; a live-edge dining table with an antique Turkish oushak rug? Shouldn’t the mix be as jarring as it sounds? Expert layering, said Ms. Murphy, comes of pairing hues, materials and shapes, not periods. “Anything that has history and has stood the test of time, those pieces you can always use no matter what,” she said.

The aesthetic glue that unifies the dining room’s seemingly random components begins with the choice of William Morris’s Strawberry Thief wallpaper. The Arts and Crafts pattern, from 1883, features rhythmic flourishes of flora and fauna in enthusiastic colours. Its rich blues and luscious pops of berry red led Ms. Murphy to choose pieces with companionable hues and forms. “When I look at this room, what’s really tying it in and calming it down is the paint, wallpaper, window treatments and rug. Those were the base pieces, the starting off points.”

Here, the other decisions that helped this obstreperous collection of elements cohere.

Botanical Engineering

Ms. Murphy admits she would normally set the finely detailed Indian chests against a less hectic, larger-scale wallpaper pattern. “But there was something about these chests and the black-and-white nature that felt neutral enough with a paper that’s just as busy,” she said. The camel-bone inlay, which depicts flat-petaled blossoms and spirals of climbing plants, also helps the little dressers jibe with the wall covering. Just as you can use a consistent palette to make a motley assortment of elements feel familial, she said, “you can use consistent themes to tie pieces in.” Scalloped-edge sconces from Nickey Kehoe allude to the red berries in the print, and the painting’s lyrical arches and colour palette similarly reinforce the motifs of the paper.

Dissonance and Harmony

The brass base of the walnut-wood dining table has been fashioned into a butterfly, or wishbone, shape. “It’s about a contrast, right? And a tension,” explained the designer. “The table slab has a more masculine feel because it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. Then, you have the curves of the legs supporting it, and that’s more feminine.” An industrial or hefty base would have been much more predictable and created a cluster of angled legs. The modernist chairs and boho mirrors, meanwhile, respectively masculine and feminine, resolve their tension via matching organic materials: cane and wicker. “It’s very subtle, but it’s something that a discerning eye can pick out,” said Ms. Murphy. “There’s a reason why it feels fluid.”

Curve Balls and Line Drives

Interior designer Dee Murphy carefully weighed the formal qualities of the furnishings she included in the dining room of this home in the West Adams neighbourhood of Los Angeles. “Most rooms are square or rectangular, so you want to offset that and put some beautiful, curvy movement into the room,” she said. The undulating wallpaper pattern, the bow-front Federal-style sideboard, the looping wicker mirror frames, all contribute roundness. At the same time, angles and lines are needed to create dissonance. The sharply edged chairs were an inspired addition to the heart of the dining room, as was the slender, horizontal contemporary chandelier. Of her decision to hang a series of three petite mirrors from France she explained that repeating a single object allows you to make a statement but stops short of being garish. “If I had tried to add in a vintage, French, gilt gold mirror, that would have taken that moment a little too over the top.”



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What We Fight About When We Fight About Money

New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it

By JULIA CARPENTER
Mon, Nov 27, 2023 3 min

When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.

Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.

To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.

By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.

The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.

While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.

“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.

Recognise patterns

Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.

Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.

“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”

Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.

“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”

For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.

“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”

Money talks

Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.

“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”

Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.

“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.

A sense of mission

When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.

“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.

And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.

“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.

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