Julia Buckingham is wild about design, but her approach is a meticulous philosophy that pulls from the past and mixes cleanly with the present. The Chicago-based interior designer is renowned for her genuine admiration for antiques that she seamlessly combines with her eye for modern and trendy.
Her trademarked design aesthetic of mixing the past and present is evident in her new coffee table book “Modernique: Inspiring Interiors Mixing Vintage and Modern Style.”
The “Modernique” style anchors her brand. It allows her to perfect her vision on a daily basis as she tours the country on speaking engagements and style hunting.
“It’s a different type of book,” Buckingham said. “It’s a little more whimsical.”
Many designer books showcase large rooms and homes that are somewhat out of reach of most people who want to flirt with different styles.
“We wanted to take bits and parts and make it a descriptor of the elements we use,” she said. “ ‘Modernique’ shows how to get personality in your space without spending a zillion dollars.”
Her Julia Buckingham for Global Views collection pairs heirloom-inspired pieces with unexpected contemporary touches.
Her book is replete with more than 100 hand-chosen pieces of furniture and covers how to decorate a room from rug to chandelier. She mixes metals, ceramics, glass and textured woods throughout the 288-page book.
“It’s a curated, creative journey,” she said.
The book is a visual feast, based on Buckingham’s scrupulous direction. Her design philosophy is to offer ease and inspiration to all who want to design without anxiety and relish in the visual aesthetic of their home.
Her travels and constant search for design inspiration allow her an opportunity to share her opinion on why certain things work and how to parlay favorite items with new trends.
“I’m lucky to work with clients that have really educated themselves about what they like, want,” Buckingham said. “I’ve been so lucky to work with amazing people who also inspired me.”
The antique dealer and renowned interior designer hadn’t considered adding author to her growing titles. She had been approached by several publishers after speaking engagements at which she discussed her design philosophy.
“I never said to myself, ‘Julia, you are going to or want to write a book,’ ” she said. “But it was an opportunity that continued to come up.”
Publishers found her take on style for the home unique, but it needed a name.
“It was an evolution of a process,” she said. “I’ve been doing my aesthetic in my head for 20 years. Is it high, low, antique, modern? I couldn’t ever describe it.”
That is until six years ago when she was asked to speak at a relatively new style of home store that brought in antiques and mixed them with modern furniture in High Point, North Carolina. The little town of just over 100,000 people swells twice a year when architects and designers descend for the annual markets that showcase the latest and greatest in design from around the world.
“I bit my nails to the quick, I was so nervous to speak,” she said, “But it went very well, and that’s where the ‘Modernique’ came from.”
Her husband, John, created the label that would later define Buckingham using a mix of the words modern and antique.
“I just loved it, my editor loved it, and my husband said trademark it,” she said. “And that was it. It all came together from there.”
Once the name fell into place, her brand began to truly form.
“It became a concept, and we were lucky enough to have it resonate,” Buckingham said. “It’s a how-to, as in a how to collaborate between the modern and antique worlds. It’s been great to see that more designers are doing this in the last few years. It’s innate. It is something we have had in our souls and need to express it.”
At the summer Las Vegas market, she wound her way through the hundreds of designers that leaned toward that blend of past and present.
“I’m always excited to go to market, and don’t tell anyone, but the Las Vegas market is my favorite market,” she said. “It’s so accessible, so easy to get around, and it’s always very exciting.”
Designers are starting to get edgy, leaving the standard browns and basic textures behind for more bold facades.
“Over the years there has been a plethora of the same-old, same-old,” she said. “I was really excited to see a lot of rules had been broken in design. There was a real emphasis in a mixing of material like wood and glass, natural stone. We’re really not afraid to pull all of these together in a big crockpot and see what comes out of it, and that was so much fun for me to see.”
The latest trends pull texture such as velour and velvet from the ’70s and ’90s and mix it with sleek modern lines. Geometric shapes are back with a vengeance, taking shape in tables, chairs and art.
“We hated the ’90s, and then here we are itching to recreate it,” Buckingham said. “But it’s a much more modern spin and really elegant.”
One of Buckingham’s favorite new trends floored her when she experienced them at the Las Vegas market in August.
“Rugs are becoming the new art of the floor,” she said. “This idea of mixing multiple materials and textures is gorgeous. The different construction of mixing of rug textiles, loops, everything, is really more adventuresome.”
She wrote “Modernique” to help design enthusiasts with updating and uplifting their look in every room.
“Aesthetic has a lot to do with how I would approach a project,” she said. “If it’s visually appealing to you, play with it and make it work.”
And don’t be afraid.
“Spice something up, try something different,” she said.
Start slow and simple if you are nervous about trying a trend that has your eye.
“You can’t go wrong with the addition of wall coverings,” Buckingham said. “Just seven years ago people were saying wall coverings were so outdated and so passe.
Now we can’t get enough of it. It’s not just for the powder room or dining room. It gives a terrific amount of play.”