“I’m one to look back in order to move forward”- Thomas O’Brien


photograph by: Lauren Gries

Last week I wanted to write a witty post about how as we celebrated our independence, we should also be remember how much of England we owe our lives to American in interior design, music, fashion etc. Well I didn’t get around to it soon enough to do the post so I just decided to forget about it. However, tonight as I was reading through the new Thomas O’Brien book American Modern, his introduction basically explains my thoughts perfectly.

“Although I’m often referred to as a modern designer, my job is, I think, more about editing what has come before and making it into something new. I’ve always felt you can’t move ahead unless you know where you’re coming from, in order to really decide what you want to take with you and what to leave behind. In American design, that entails a particular debt to English and Continental influence, filtered through colonial assimilation, rural enormity, and the intensity of the city. Remixing those ingredients – making that mix your own – what I like to practice. I do believe there is something in that process which is quite American in spirit, ultimately modern in implementation.”

O’Brien goes further to say

“Practicality, industry, boldness, scale. Simplicity and sincerity. Innovation. These are the ingredients of American modern style.”

Betsy Burnham’s dresser seen on Decor Demon

Maybe it doesn’t fully explain what my post would have been about, but it describes the ideas I would have liked to evoke. I have grown up in America and fully appreciate what this country has to offer and has given me in my life. However, I feel that there are too many people in America who forget about where and how this country came about. If it weren’t for England, we wouldn’t have America. There would definitely be a country here now, but it just wouldn’t be the same. In any case, whether it be an understanding of our country or just anything that we enjoy in life, I think it really important to have an understanding of where and why that came from. I would see it so much in college where people would want to make something that referenced a certain style of design, or just ‘liked’ something, but never actually took time to research what that style was and why it even existed. I have to say, that would drive me crazy!

Design can be many things to many people, but to me, it has always been about tradition in modern life. I am guided by traditions, both inherited and studied, which I will bend to the moment I’m living in. I’m one to look back in order to move forward.” – Thomas O’Brien

On a lighter note, I’m really impressed by O’Brien’s new book. Although I’m only a few pages into the text (there is more than the usual design books), I have flipped through the photos and have already chosen a few favorites. Above are images pulled from aero studios and Laura Resen, the photographer.

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