ABOVE: The living room, which steps down from the foyer, has white painted floors. Furnishings include a vintage Pewabic Pottery vase on the mantel, 19th-century French Louis XVI-style chairs (part of an en-suite group that also includes the settee by the window). A 1970s John Dickinson cast concrete African side table provides stark yet comfortable contrast to the chairs. To the left of the large window is a framed Willem de Kooning piece. “There’s not a lot of art on the walls, but what there is, is quality,” Lonski says. In front of the de Kooning stand two cloisonné cranes. At the window is a Blackamoor candelabra base that once graced a downtown Detroit theater. A 1970s Italian table at the center of the room displays an antique lead sculpture of a boy originally from a fountain, a Lalique bowl, and a seated Chinese nodder, whose head and tongue move — “the original bobblehead,” Lonski says. At the far right end of the living room, a grouping includes a pair of ’70s chrome-and-leather chairs.
Like an artist composing a scene, interior designer Daniel L. Lonski’s work with an avid collector requires an eye for framing a view. The task is one for which Lonski began preparing as a painting student in college, setting up still lifes. He also worked in retail, styling vignettes, before embarking on a long career in interior design.
“As we walk through life, we can only take so many things in at one time,” Lonski says of his role in editing diverse elements.
The ravine-view home of a longtime Birmingham client of Lonski’s has been a challenge in creative editing. “This wasn’t a design I laid out,” he says. “She finds something new and it’s my job to fit it in.
“Sometimes, I get the call: ‘Guess what I just bought?’ ”
The 1935 house, architecturally credited to the noted Wallace Frost and his staff, has a look that’s both European and Californian.
“In California, particularly in Beverly Hills, there are many similar homes of that same era with an Old World look,” Lonski says. His client has an affinity for Southern California white and was influenced early on by the shabby chic trend, which explains the slipcovered Le Corbusier chairs. “I think they’re quite successful,” Lonski says.
The expanses of white on the walls and floors form a “blank stage,” he says. “Everything really shows up.” The overall effect of the palette, he says, is “ethereal.”
Lonski says the home is one of his favorites, partly because it doesn’t fit any preconceived design template. Furnishing combinations are fearless. On the second floor, ceilings were raised into the attic. The original steel-casement windows were never replaced. “A lot of people have them taken out because they conduct cold,” he says. “But they’re beautiful.”
The result, he says, is an accommodating backdrop for assembling the homeowners’ varied objects of affection. Making the diverse elements feel cohesive for a living space involves maintaining a fresh perspective and an open mind. “I say, ‘go for it’,” Lonski says.
Just don’t call the look eclectic.
Lonski says: “I would say collected.”