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Use antiques to soften modern lines. Achieve the O'Brien look with a pale palette. Paint walls, trim and ceiling white or cream. For flooring, use light-colored marble, wood like pine or bamboo, or wood painted white or cream. This is a classic modernist trick to amplify the size or light in a room. To counteract the white-box effect, decorate with well-worn and well-loved pieces. Here, O'Brien chose an antique Swedish settee to soften the starkness of the formal hallway.
Tip: O'Brien is a master at layering elegant, muted colors. When decorating with white, employ various shades to create depth. For example, use a slightly creamier color for trim than what's on the walls to create visual interest. The same applies to furniture.
When using dark colors, go for high gloss. When O'Brien uses dark colors, he goes for maximum impact. To add a muscular touch to his neutral palette, he sometimes injects dashes of black, particularly a shiny black. He often does this with doors and stair banisters, and when decorating with midcentury-modern furniture, as seen here.
TIp: Stand tradition on its head. When laying tile or brick, place the pieces on end for an ultracontemporary look.
After black, blue is O'Brien's next accent color of choice. In the bathroom of his apartment, O'Brien clad the walls with a high-shine ceramic tile in midnight blue. He didn't stop there; the medicine cabinet is mirrored inside and out and takes up an entire wall. In effect, the small space becomes doubly intimate.