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The interior spaces of this apartment provides a subtly textured canvas for primitive artefacts, monochrome prints and colorful paintings

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Art and sculpture from African and Eastern cultures will give your interior a rich diversity. Teamed with a simple but sophisticated décor, their colors, textures and motifs can add vibrant contrast and a sense of the abstract to your living spaces.

This striking apartment illustrates the ways in which you can achieve such a look. A three-bedroom home, it forms part of a new, stucco-clad high-rise, inspired by Southern European architecture.

In collaboration with his clients, designer Bill Stewart set out to create an environment that would work well with the owners' large collection of ethnic art, sculpture, and black and white photographs.

"The owners wanted a contemporary yet classical, clean-lined look. To keep the focus on the art, they didn't want a décor that was too expressive or fussy."

Keeping this in mind, Stewart chose a restrained color scheme of browns, taupes and greys to keep the overall look neutral. The dark-stained walnut that highlights the floors has also been used to form the chunky trim found around the door openings.

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"The dark wood reinforces the thickness of the walls, giving the home foundation, depth and a sense of heavy construction," says Stewart. "This tempers the apartment's new, modern exterior. Framed in wood, the doors provide a ceremonial feel from one room to the next."

The emphasis on natural materials is evident throughout the home.

"Rather than use decorative patterns to provide contrast, I've used honest materials that are rich and diverse, in both color and texture," says Stewart.

Turkish ushak rugs in shades of brown and burgundy add a rich layer of texture to the dining room floors. In the library, another ushak rug, in chartreuse and persimmon hues, reinforces the space's cozy, intimate atmosphere. A chunky, brown leather sofa, teamed with two tapestry, pillows sits on a primitive patterned Tibetan rug in the family room. Grass shades cover the expansive windows in the main living areas; their delicate natural weave a subtle contrast to the grey painted walls. The shades also give the spaces a slightly Oriental feel. These Asian influences become more apparent in the dining room, where pieces such as a red lacquered antique cabinet have been mixed with an Art Deco-inspired dining table and chairs. Here, and in the foyer, Stewart has used silver tea paper to transform the tray ceilings into a focal point.

The technique, which involves applying pieces of silver leaf to paper and lacquering it to the ceiling, gives the rooms a sense of warmth, says Stewart.

"The metallic sheen also reflects the glow from the chandeliers at night."

In the kitchen, concrete countertops provide continuity to the gray-stained wooden cabinetry. The hood's strong, geometrical shape, custom-made by Matthew Quinn of Design Galleria, is replicated in the angular lines of the island and walnut bar stools.

Contained in one wing of the apartment is the master suite. Here, a similar, neutral color scheme – courtesy of dark wooden furniture and creamy colored carpet – allows a dynamic canvas above the bed to stand out. In the same way, taupe travertine and wood in the master bathroom provides an understated backdrop to the vivid swirls of color found in the painting flanking the tub. This contrast emphasizes the home's interior design concept, says Stewart.

"Like the other spaces, the bathroom merges polish with the rough, new with the old, primitive culture with the sophisticated. As a result, this home has a strong personality and lots of flavor."

First published date: 23 April 2004

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Credit List

Interior designer William F Stewart,William Stewart Designs (Atlanta GA)
Kitchen designer Matthew Quinn, Design Galleria
Kitchen manufacturer Downsview Cabinetry
Flooring Honed travertine from Renaissance Tile & Bath
Paints Benjamin Moore
Lighting Recessed lights by Lightolier, Athena chandelier (dining room), Art Deco chandelier fromKarl Kemp and Associates (foyer)
Kitchen countertops Concrete from Dex Studio
Backsplash Renaissance Tile & Bath
Oven and microwave Dacor
Ventilation Custom hood by Design Galleria
Refrigerator Sub-Zero
Dishwasher Bosch
Bath Kohler Revival Vanity
Cabinetry Design Galleria
Basin Kohler
Faucets and shower fittings Brushed nickel by Barbara Barry for Kallista