By Charleston Mercury Staff

If there is one thing Charlestonians appreciate, it is tradition; perhaps no one celebrates tradition quite like award winning, New York-based designer Thomas Jayne. The author of three books on classical interior decoration Jayne’s interiors are described by The Wall Street Journal, as spaces that “artfully embrace and refresh historical tradition.”

Jayne, who will be one of the featured presenters at the Charleston Antiques Show, March 16-18, has recently published Classical Principles for Modern Design: Lessons from Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman’s The Decoration of Houses (Monacelli Press, 2018). The book is inspired by lessons Jayne learned from the “bible” of interior design, The Decoration of Houses, written in 1897 by society matron Edith Wharton (who was a decorator before she was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author) and her Boston architect cousin, Ogden Codman, Jr.

“I define traditional decorating as contemporary decoration using historic models,” says Jayne. “We use them not because we lack imagination, but because their core elements have been perfected over two millennia.”

Jayne’s rooms reflect a strong connection to history and place. He draws upon a room’s history for inspiration, seeking details that will enhance its decoration.

While he acknowledges his appreciation of “old things,” Jayne wants them to look fresh which happens when he revisits the original source; re-thinking it in color and shape while examining its juxtaposition with other objects in a room. The end result is signature Thomas Jayne: a tailored environment that is both livable and stylish.

As one of this country’s preeminent practitioners of classic decoration, Jayne values tradition. “Tradition is not about the past or about elitism,” he says. “Tradition is now. It’s active and important and democratic.” And, says Jayne, classicism is anything but old fashioned.

“A true classicist,” says Jayne, “keeps returning to the forms, shapes and styles that have endured time because they have been proven true, and right and good.” Apparently, the market for antique furniture agrees with Jayne as so called “brown furniture” has begun to rise again in popularity and value after several years of market downturn.

The market for “brown furniture” peaked in the 1970s and 1980s and was an extremely reliable investment for generations of collectors. Interest waned substantially in the last decade as a fascination with mid-twentieth century American furniture changed buyers’ habits.

Today, the demand for antique furniture is increasing according to a recent article by Nicholas B. Nicholson, senior vice president and head of Furniture and Decorative Arts at Freeman’s. Other experts in the field agree, noting that contemporary tastes are running towards more simply designed furniture with collectors valuing form and line over ornamentation.

This resurgence in brown furniture illustrates Jayne’s point that employing “freshness and originality in decoration does not demean the importance of history. It actually enhances it.”

Jayne will be joined by leading designers Gil Schafer, Marshall Watson and Beth Webb as part of the Intimate Talks with Design in Mind series at the Charleston Antiques Show. For information and tickets, visit or call (843) 723-3405.


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