January 24, 2012

Tommy Clements Talks Personal Style

You're Never Too Old to Be a "Bright Young Thing"

Guest Editor
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I'm absolutely thrilled to have Tommy Clements writing for us this week. I'm a huge fan of Tommy's on many different levels. He's one of the most versatile and talented designers I know; he has a great style that makes every room seem fresh, alive, and personal. In addition, I absolutely adore Tommy's showroom The Melrose Project. For those of you who haven't been, make it a point. It's one of the most stunning places in all of Los Angeles.

Having grown up in a family of interior designers, Tommy's interest in design and antiques began at an early age. His professional career began at Architectural Digest in New York, but he was quickly brought into the family business when he went to work for his mother's Los Angeles based firm, Kathleen Clements Design. Tommy's extensive portfolio (featured above) includes projects in Los Angeles, Manahttan, New Orleans, Miami, and The Hamptons. He has also designed and launched Gypsy/Maturin, a unique line of hand embroidered turkish kilim, plush hemp, and mohair rugs. In 2010, Tommy opened The Melrose Project, a 9,000 square foot showroom in the heart of the LA design district housing some of the most distinguished and reputable antique and fine art dealers from across the country.

Currently, Tommy continues to build his residential design portfolio and serve as Creative Director for The Melrose Project, curating the space with pieces from top dealers and art galleries in LA, New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans. His work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Spanish AD, Elle Décor, Veranda, C Magazine, and Angeleno Interiors, among others.

One last thought: I have read and re-read Tommy's gorgeous article he wrote for us many times. I'm so excited to be able to share it with you. It's inspired me in not only a few housekeeping issues (I really need that new lamp, and I never much cared for that sofa to begin with!), but also because Tommy's words and their lessons should remind us that it's never too late to change a house ... or a life.


As is my ritual when things start feeling stale, I recently delved into my archive of magazines and books in the hopes of being moved. Back issues of Vogue and The World of Interiors, books on Beaton and McQueen, old Annie Leibovitz photographs of Patti Smith and Mick Jagger….you never know where you might find inspiration. After a couple of hours digging deep into the stacks, I came across a book I hadn’t thumbed through in quite some time, Bright Young Things, which showcases the homes of some of the chicest doyens of Manhattan society. Wedged in between images of Soledad and Alessandro Twombly’s bohemian pied-a-terre and Plum Sykes’ charming Greenwich Village flat was a quote that got me thinking:

The most important thing when you talk about personal style is knowing that the most aging word is ‘no’ and that the youngest word is ‘yes.’ I think it is so important to say ‘yes.’ To have curiosity, energy, to want to know everything…There is nothing more than aging to be idle.” -Oscar de la Renta

Having grown up in a family of interior designers, and being one myself, I found this quote incredibly relevant. In the backroom chats I have with all of my designer compeers, the discussion can shift quickly from sofas and swatches to general complaining about the unwillingness of clients to take risks (I admit that cocktails are usually a catalyst for the topic change). So many decisions that clients make throughout the design process seem to be driven by fear. Fear of imperfection, fear of the bold choice, fear of not fitting into the mold of what is deemed proper. What many people don’t realize is that you need the imperfections, the oddities, the bold choices; these are the key ingredients that give a home its character, these are the things that save you from the dreaded world of vanilla and utter tastelessness. Without them, you might as well pack up and move to a McMansion in Brentwood. Me personally, I don’t like going west of the 405.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the home of my forever favorite design client. Peggy was in her mid-80’s, living in a beautiful historical estate in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. I pulled up to the house to find her gardening in the front yard, slip of a thing that she was, clad in an oversized straw hat, Gucci sunglasses and knee high hunters. She greeted me in her southern drawl and led me into her home, which, by the by, was the most drop dead chic thing I’ve ever seen. I half expected to see Diana Vreeland smoking a cigarette on the red leather chesterfield in the drawing room. And talk about bold choices: faded raspberry oushaks on the ground, a giant stack of antique Louis Vuitton steamer trunks in the entry, canary yellow silk drapes on the windows, black lacquered cabinetry and stainless steel counter tops in the kitchen. Sister had it goin’ on. I wasn’t sure how the house could possibly look better, so I asked Peggy plainly, why would you want to change anything in this house? She took hold of my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said in that voice, sweet and smooth as molasses, “Honey, it’s time to shake things up. I’m feeling for something new. Surprise me.”

Well Peggy may have been 86 at the time, but if what Oscar de la Renta said is true, she could have been right up in the mix with all those 20-something year old bright young things. Here’s hoping that more people will start taking a leaf out of her book.



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