Interior Trick with Umbrellas

Umbrella Trick Lets Humor Reign

Q: I still have the column I clipped a long time ago where you suggested using a market umbrella and table inside a loft to create the illusion of a separate dining room.

I have been wishing for a loft ever since! I’ve heard a rumor that you won’t be writing the Decor Score column next year, so I have to ask now: Did anyone ever do the umbrella thing?

A: LOL, as they say online. I can’t lay claim to the umbrella trick. Inspired interior designers have long used umbrellas to evoke a bit of frivolity and, yes, to indicate a division of space in a room.
No one has done it with more elan and elegance than Barbara Ostrom, who added fun and sparkle — and how! — to the master bedroom she designed for a decorator show house in Saddle River, New Jersey. The room was quite large with a ceiling soaring high enough to fit a dramatic canopy bed, set on an angle to the fireplace.

Barbara created a seating arrangement in the area by the windows: a sofa and two chairs focused around a scroll-like acrylic coffee table and lit from above — ta-dum! — by an impossibly opulent Baccarat crystal chandelier shaded by a large white umbrella.

Elegant, ever so! Wacky, of course — it was designed by architect Philippe Starck, whose often loony ideas have been brightening the world’s homes since he first hit fame with his iconic design for a spider-like juice squeezer conjured for Alessi.

Said to have been sketched on a pizzeria napkin during a seaside vacation, the juicer put both the Italian manufacturer and the French architect on the world’s design map and makes him a sought-after designer of everything from bath fixtures (for Duravit) to cutlery (Laguiole) and electric cars (V+ Volteis), not to mention a string of boutique hotels around the globe.

His work can be seen in major museums, both here and in Europe, and his sometimes far-out opinions can be heard wherever the future of design is under discussion — for example, Philippe was the first designer to take part in a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk.

Maybe it’s not for the faint of budget, but Phillipe’s irreverent, surreal fixture for Baccarat both lights and delights Barbara’s elegant traditional bedroom. It’s the added surprise that every room longs for, the eccentric touch that used to be known as a conversation piece.

Speaking of which, the talk you’ve heard is true: After 32 years — imagine! — this will be my final Decor Score column. We are moving on with the times to create an online magazine designed to bring you hot news and interesting views from the design world and the shakers and movers thereof.

The new magazine promises to be up and running early in the new year, but if you have any burning questions in the meantime, please get directly in touch with me at I love it when you talk design with me.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Ennis.

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