American Modern

I am a voyeur.  I have a good eye, and usually I do no harm, but I am quite aware that what I am doing is amateur.  Enjoyable.  Pleasant.  But not great.

So when I find something great I go over it and over it and over it.  Flip.  Squint.  Check.

Pick, pick, pick hoping to discern the thing that he has that I want.

The pictures help, of course, but what I want to do is read about the process.  Explain it to me.  Take me with you.  And Thomas O’Brien does this in American Modern, which has been sitting on either my desk or bedside table since it arrived at my door shockingly early one morning.

The pictures are wonderful and the projects are fresh – including both renditions of his apartment that you may have seen before – as O’Brien describes them with such care.

O’Brien does that thing, that thing with a mix of furniture and often traditional fabrics that communicates fresh and modern.  So often that Rorschach test in my head for O’Brien is black and white and vintage, but look.  Antique settee, two kinds of velvet, nailhead, a contrast welt and, yes, Brunschwig & Fils Tiger Velvet on the pillows.  One of O’Brien’s favorite fabrics.  Who would have thought?  He had planned to keep these as his own, but they seemed at home here. 
American Modern is shipping now.  
I did receive an advance copy of the book, but no other compensation for wholeheartedly endorsing it.  All images courtesy of Abrams; photography by Laura Resen.
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18 thoughts on “American Modern

  1. Reading about the process is half the fun. Often disappointed with design books, I've quit buying them. Your post about American Modern has inspired me to try just one more.

  2. Beautiful, O'Brians work is just lovely and so pleasing to the eye a soft palette, never harsh,

    Art by Karena

  3. I can just picture you with your very own "monocle!"
    I love the way you find things, you always have such a wonderful "eye" for pointing out the obvious.

  4. I received my pre-order copy last week and it is really good!! I, too, love the thought process that O'Brien reveals–especially the way in which he chooses objects to compliment spaces, use of trays to organize, and the fact that everything is not perfect. I'm about to start the second go-around to filter out more goodies.

  5. I am ready to buy this based on the bench photo alone- is it me or is the cushion tufting placed in groups based on the "fretwork" (for lack of a better term) of the bench back? Love.

  6. I'm a studier too. There is always something to learn or appreciate from other people's work. That's what makes design such a fun career. I can't wait to see O'Brian's new book. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thomas O'Brien is amazing and the book brings together his amazing insprational talents. We at Hickory Chair are celebrating the 10th year anniversary of his furniture collection at the spring 2010 market with a brand new collection of pieces! These will be in stores by early summer.

  8. This book has been on my list for a while, not only are the photos and explanations absolutely wonderful, but the book itself is such a chic addition to the bedside table!

  9. I just received a copy yesterday from my nephew, Keith Kancar, Thomas' right hand man. I was so excited to get into it…like a little kid opening a birthday gift. The book is WONDERFUL!! Thomas' 'Vintage Modern' is so ME!!! I love that I now have a name for it. You nailed it when you said that the photos and explanations are perfect. I've been so inspired that since last night I've been adding to one of my art walls, being even bolder than I was to start. I love Thomas' style…it says so much on it's own!

    Carole Kancar

  10. I don't know – I just saw your playroom. Seems pretty great to me. Just got turned on to SRT so it was a delight to listen to your interview which led me to your playroom. Or I should say your sons' playroom! BTW, I'm a big fan of the "unfortunately named" bloglovin'….

  11. These rooms are so liveable Patricia – the chairs are made for flopping onto & squishing up a cushion or two. No an ounce of 'preciousness' here, but oh so stylish. The arrangement of the furniture so conducive to good & meaningful communication. TOB is a rare talent.
    Millie ^_^

  12. Yup. I am constantly frustrated by the gap between my good and studied eye and the actual creative process. Count me in.

    These rooms are good, very good, and the clever mixes prove once again my argument that good design is how you use it, even more than what you use. And O'Brien uses it well.

  13. like EAC, who commented earlier, the antique settee with velvet cushion is reason alone for me to rush and get this book. it has been on my amazon wishlist, and is now headed for the cart. thanks for sharing these beautiful images.

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