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Elegance is not easy to define, but we know it when we see it—and any interior by designer Jessica Lagrange fills the bill. We asked her to try describing this elusive quality. “Elegance is understated, pure, and natural. It’s simple,” she said. “It looks effortless and timeless. It’s something innate in people. It’s not trendy, flashy, or showy. It’s tasteful, graceful, and it comes without trying too hard.” So of course our next question was: If you don’t have it naturally, how do you fake it? And she gave us some excellent ideas.
Bring nature inside. “Fresh flowers and branches with leaves and blossoms are always elegant.”
Decorate with neutral colors or shades of one color. “Black and white is very elegant, very pure. So is white alone. Bright colors—pinks and greens—are not elegant. A red room can be elegant, but it has to be just red, not a bunch of different colors. Varying soothing colors are fine, but jumpy colors are not.”
Invest in beautiful drapes. “Long pieces of fabrics can add elegance. Use fabrics that are sensual and textural. My drapery guy puts something called bump—a heavy, felt-like interlining—into some of my drapes so they’re very thick, and have a hand to them.”
For upholstery, use linen, silk, wool, or other natural fibers. “Natural materials are inherently elegant and timeless. Layer them in various textures throughout the room. Contrast soft with sleek, like plush wool with silk.”
Display collections coherently. “A personalized space is elegant.” For groups of family photos, Lagrange suggests using frames that have a relationship with each other—for example, all silver ones.
Don’t try too hard. “I hate it when a space feels too decorated. Phoniness is never elegant.”
CONTACT Jessica Lagrange Interiors, 312-751-8727, jessicalagrange.com
NEXT: Jessica’s School of Elegance »
Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp