In the world of interior photography, William Abranowicz is like the Beyoncé of his peers—the incredibly talented and highly successful professional that's leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. For 40 years, countless homes of celebrities painters, poets, rock stars, designers, tastemakers, politicians, and performers have been photographed under his watchful eye. This month, he releases his latest book, American Originals, a collection of over 260 never-before-published interiors and the personal interactions he's had with the homes' owners.
What goes into the perfect interior photo? Light, form, and composition are at the core of every great interior image, but these don't stop at the edge of the frames. Each photograph demonstrates a knowledge of what makes interiors memorable: the scale of the objects, the vibrant colors, and the negative space. A common thread in his book: Never make your interiors feel too perfect—beauty is found in the small imperfections that a home evokes. Here are seven styling lessons we learned from Abranowicz's book—try them for yourself before posting your next #InMyDomaine Instagram post.
Learn to Mix Periods and Styles
The art of mixing old and new is something we incessantly try to drive home, but Abranovicz seems to have understood the tension that this dichotomy creates—and how important it is to creating (or framing) a great interior. For instance, he says of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's 1930s Santa Barbara home: "The sheer beauty of the architecture, and the design and art of high and low provenance that these structures contain, is hard for me to describe except through the lens of my camera."
Decorate With Iconic Pieces
In interior designer Cliff Fong's home, Abranowicz dives deeper into the art of mixing old and new: "Objects possessing no known provenance or high price mingle with the modernist forms of Prouvé, Perriand, Royère, Adnet, Knoll, and Wegner," he writes. Fong is responsible for much of the magic that occurs in DeGeneres's home, so it's unsurprising that the common thread carries through from one home to the next. At the heart of Fong's designs: iconic modern furniture—even if just one piece—proves that great design stands the test of time.
Decorate With Vintage Rugs
Fashion stylists have their own approach when it comes to decorating, something that translates in Lorri Sendell and Mats Hakansson's home. "By watching her, I learned to instill in my fashion work an atmosphere of ease and emotional reality, a lesson that carried over into my photographs of interiors," Abranowicz recalls. He describes this casual imperfection as "a perfect little mess,"—which essentially means embracing a small amount of disorder—a pile of books, an antique rug—to make interiors appear more inviting.
Draw Upon Your Home's History
Jeweler Federico de Vera collects art—lots of it. In his upstate New York home—a section house that once housed railroad equipment or workmen—antiques and paintings are artfully arranged as if to portray the beauty and history of the region's past. "Federico's home, evoking this patina of memory, rescues an unsung piece of American life from obsolescence, injecting it into a new and poignant cultural meaning," remembers Abranowicz. This shows that by visiting a local antique store every so often, one can create a collection of objects that speak to a home's history and past.
Think of Color Composition
A bold personality like Bette Middler needs a colorful interior to match. In her weekend home in upstate New York, a citrine floral wallpaper stands against a red-and-white diamond-patterned stair runner and vibrant light blue chairs. "From its rich mahogany interior to the ubiquitous wallpapers in a graphic style reminiscent of the Wiener Werkstätte, to the antique green piano in an upstairs room, photographing the features of this home felt for me like a portrait session with the inner life of one of my heroine," says Abranowicz. It goes to show that any color composition goes—if you're brave enough to try it.
Embrace the Beauty of Imperfections
NYC-based interior designer John Derian has mastered the art of artful composition and authentic finishes. In his apartment, where others would have replastered the walls and fixed the floors, he embraced the imperfections, something Abranowicz admired: "The walls were stained in that uneven beautiful ecru tone that only decades of smoke, time, or a great set designer can produce." In it, original finishes were left intact to leave space for artful compositions to shine.
Pick a Neutral Palette
In Fong's home, Abranowicz also remarks on the importance of a calming neutral palette to act as the backdrop for an impressive collection of art and objects: "His palette tends toward calming tones that range from middle gray to deep blue to clean, warm white," he writes. Against it, graphic art, and colorful coffee table books and furniture can truly shine.