When Art Dictates Décor
In Soledad Twombly’s Buenos Aires flat, paintings took center stage, then triggered design decisions that made the apartment a home
I wanted this home to be a homage, particularly to Argentine artists,” said Soledad Twombly of her Buenos Aires apartment, “and of course to my family of painters, writers and photographers.” Consequently, the locally born fashion designer—and daughter-in-law of American artist Cy Twombly —started by hanging her art collection, and only then considered furnishings.
“Art comes first for me,” said the globe-trotting designer, known for the dresses she hand cuts and sews in her eponymous Rome atelier. Interior designers generally prioritize upholstery schemes over paintings, and artwork often becomes a predictable extension of the design—the antithesis of Ms. Twombly’s approach. Finding beauty is about digging a little further than the obvious, she said: “Matchy matchy isn’t my thing at all.” Here’s how she let the apartment’s art hold a vaunted position without turning her home into lifeless exhibition space.
1. Place pictures first.
“I hang my paintings where I want to see them,” said Ms. Twombly, who placed a low-key, personally significant poster by her famous father-in-law in her bedroom. Higher impact, color-loaded pieces, such as the Andy Warhol “Flower” lithographs in the living room, go in communal spaces. But while she curates the art as she would for an exhibit, she avoids the coldness of a gallery by introducing softening fabrics into the décor. “Textiles are transformative,” she said. “They can make any space feel homey. I take some with me when I travel to hotels. It’s the best way to turn an anonymous space into your own.”
2. Don’t make art compete.
Create a neutral setting for the pieces you’re showcasing. Wary of stark white walls, which can look antiseptic, Ms. Twombly painted hers a soft, eggshell white. Pine floors treated with a white wash and ivory upholstery don’t vie for attention either. Framing should remain simple and stylistically consistent from room to room. However, she does believe in “creating a dialogue” between artwork and objects by carefully incorporating pieces that include diagonal, vertical and horizontal patterning. “It creates movement,” she said.
3. Let colors coexist.
Ms. Twombly’s color theory revolves around grouping similarly vivid hues, or soft ones as the case may be. “The colors you use should have frequencies that don’t drown each other out,” she said. If you pair a dusty rose with fuchsia, for example, the pink will be diminished. Put electric orange next to fuchsia, though, and you distinctly see both. They have the same strength, or “frequency.” Similarly, dusty rose paired with, say, asparagus green, doesn’t struggle for notice.
SANCTUM DECORUM | In her Buenos Aires apartment, fashion designer Soledad Twombly laid a neutral foundation for the art in her bedroom. White sheets and shams, eggshell walls and a leather headboard by Argentine furniture designer Eugenio Aguirre don’t compete with the poster of an invitation that her father-in-law, American artist Cy Twombly, painted for a 1986 Paris exhibition. To keep the room from feeling gallery-like, however, she added the silk bedspread, repurposed by Isabella Ducrot from an antique kimono, a Tibetan wool rug and a 19th-century Turkish caftan. The rich reds mimic those of the poster, but the structured geometry of the fabrics contrasts with its painterly quality. A complementary and equally vibrant color, the alpine green of a French shipping trunk, holds its own amid the brights of the room, while the curves of the bent-pipe stool and iron lamp echo the poster’s gray lettering and “make the room warmer and not static,” she said.
TUG OF WARHOL | The 1964 “Flower” lithographs by Andy Warhol call for a different approach. To create a neutral backdrop for the art and textiles, Ms. Twombly upholstered the Louis XV armchairs and sommier—a bed frame, which she uses as a coffee table—in ivory canvas. The coppery orange in the Bangalorean silk saree, repurposed as a rug, and the cranberry and blue-green of the cotton fabrics draped over the floor cushions equal the intensity of the lithos’ colors. They also form a dynamic with the art work and each other (note the variously oriented patterns). In a surprisingly literal flourish, Ms. Twombly set elephant-ear leaves on the table. “They reflect what I see in the lithographs,” she said.