Formal is defined as being in accordance with the usual requirements or customs.
Fabulous, by my design definition, is being anything but in accordance with the usual requirements or customs. Pairing the formal with the primitive such as dining chairs and dining tables creates a surprising contrast, becoming the focal point of the space.
I highly recommend seizing every opportunity to show and express personal style through home decor and home furnishings in an original way. There’s a place and a time for keeping with well, that’s the way it’s always been done, so…
The cure for decorative complacency can be found in the mixing of styles.
House Beautiful rated the above example by Designer Suzanne Kasler as one of their top kitchen tables. Formal meets primitive in a traditional setting- how many design styles can you identify in the above image? Flattering in presence and stunning in design execution, the pairing formal Louis XV-style dining chairs with a 19th-century French farm table is a stroke of tasteful genius.
As showcased in Atticmag, formal Chippendale dining chairs paired with a primitive three plank farm table equals a comfortable formality that steps out of the expected comfort zone.
The first primitive dining table I purchased was at an antiques auction in 1999. Dave the Builder and I previewed like it’s 1999 the night before the Saturday afternoon auction, and as my eyes zeroed in on the mark, a late 1800’s primitive harvest table in pristine condition, my antiques loving heart began to race.
Dave the Builder, who questioned my judgement, thought I was crazy as I wrote the item number down in my notebook. “Why do you want a picnic table?” he asked.
That picnic table, which I won at the auction, turned out to be a magnificent addition to the Hopefully Classic inventory. It sold within the week, and remains the primitive piece that got away. I definitely regret selling it.
The next year we purchased a late 1800’s Cypress farm table. The grayish patina threw me a curve in the pairing department. I recently brought in a set of six Mahogany Regency Sabre leg dining chairs, not really knowing what piece to pair them with, but knowing I could not pass them up. Dave the Builder was arranging items, and I was with a client so I was not paying much attention. Dave had placed the chairs around the farm table and the look blew my mind. The woods, patinas, and styles played perfectly off each other and hit a note of design accord. The set sold the next week. The Regency dining chairs and Cypress farm table were great stand alone pieces, but when matched together the look was flawless.
Dave the Builder and I were drinking coffee one evening and found our conversation focused on a recent buying trip. Authentic antique farm and harvest tables are becoming more scarce and prove difficult to locate. Artisans, custom wood and furniture makers, and DIY aficionados are rising to the occasion to produce gorgeous interpretations and meet demand. Dave the Builder has built farm tables for 4 of our clients. Our school of thought is to introduce a new twist on an old way of doing things. One custom table was built from Victorian square grand piano legs and Louisiana reclaimed Cypress planks. He dry brushed the piano legs with paint to match the patina of the Cypress. The table now resides at a cattle ranch in West Texas. Talk about formal meets primitive!
The table featured below is the most current one he has built. We purchased the antique legs and married them to our first choice, Louisiana reclaimed Cypress planks. The patina is achieved with a two step process. He begins with a dark stain application until the desired patina is reached. The formal introduction was complete upon returning from a friend’s antique shop with the finest set of six formal white washed wheat back rush bottom dining chairs. A designer friend scooped the set up for a client. The chairs did not stay in the shop long enough for me to photograph. I like that!
The final step is the trick. We recommend and use Johnson Paste Wax. Available at hardware and home improvement stores, Johnson Paste Wax gives furniture a safe, hard, and protective finish with a soft luster.
Don’t be afraid to blend formal with primitive pieces. The contrast surprises, complements, and is easily capable of becoming the focal point of the space.