Furnishings: Warming Up to Contemporary

Kerry Joyce prefers to blur the lines between contemporary and classic forms. “I guess you could say I’m a chameleon in terms of the styles I do,” the Los Angeles–based interior designer says of his eponymous furniture collection, which DessinFournir of Plainville, Kan., produces. “I create modern pieces for a modern house and traditional pieces for a more classic setting, but when you see them in one room, they look quite happy together.” This harmony between diverse elements owes to the designs’ clear proportions, beautiful lines, and, most important, simplicity. The latter trait is particularly apparent in Joyce’s La Brea bookcase, a five-tiered mahogany unit as unstudied as a set of stairs, and Freston rosewood dining table with six mahogany legs, two of which are set dead center so that they can support an added leaf.


Such elegant restraint recalls Jean-Michel Frank’s spare yet sumptuous aesthetic, but Joyce is too self-effacing to compare his work to that of the master of early-20th-century French furniture. “When Jean-Michel Frank did modern, it was always warm and luxurious, which is the antithesis of how people think of modern,” says Joyce. “He went against the norm by being luxurious, and yet it couldn’t be more simple most of the time.” In characterizing Frank’s works, Joyce just as easily could be describing his own straight-backed, upholstered Camard side chair, or his Barrett settee with scooped arms.

Joyce notes that his intent is not to mimic the work of Frank or anyone else, but he does count the Shaker, Colonial, Scandinavian, and Biedermeier styles as influences on his designs. “There’s a satisfying feeling that comes with buying something from the past, even when it’s not,” he says. “It’s about owning something beautiful, not something new.”

This is not to say that Joyce shuns innovation. On the contrary, many of his designs are novel responses to challenges that clients have brought to his interior design firm, Kerry Joyce Associates. He created the chunky, circular, anigre veneer Weber coffee table to serve as a Japanese-style dining table, a workstation, and a children’s game table. “A lot of coffee tables are designed so you can’t put your legs under them,” says Joyce, who solved the problem by recessing the four stocky, carved maple legs. And he devised Sculley, a three-tiered, anigre veneer piece that features an end table on one side and a bookcase on the other for maximum efficiency.

Although Joyce’s designs may serve current purposes, they nevertheless distinguish him as an American traditionalist more than as a progressive modernist. His designs reflect his preference for furniture that, though it may be contemporary, embodies a sense of history and in doing so adds to the warmth of any room. “You should have a sense that the furniture has been collected,” says Joyce, “not purchased.”

Kerry Joyce Collection for DessinFournir



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