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A Former Antiques Dealer Sifts Through the 20th Century to Decorate Her 1980s West Hollywood Condominium


For years Antonia Hutt's life and work revolved around antiques. In the early '80s, as a "runner," she haunted flea markets and antique fairs across Europe for furnishings to supply tony London antique stores. When she moved to Los Angeles later in the decade, she outfitted her Melrose Place antique shop, Harris & Hutt, with similar items. She filled her Beverly Hills rental apartment with 19th century Indian antiques, creating a playful noveau-raj decor by adding a mosquito-netted bed and a canvas rug painted to look like a Bengal tiger. "I was totally steeped in the world of antiques," she says.

But when Hutt became a homeowner, settling on an early-'80s condominium in West Hollywood three years ago, she made a dramatic shift in eras. "I knew from the moment I bought the modern condominium, my world of 18th and 19th century furnishings wouldn't work," she says. "Everything should be true to what it is . . . you shouldn't turn an '80s condo into an Italian palazzo."

Inspired by the era in which her new home was built, the designer began cruising through the 20th century for furnishings, focusing her eye on objects that would become the collectibles of tomorrow. The criteria, not surprisingly, remained the same as with antiques: well-made, handcrafted pieces with beautiful proportions. "I'm also interested in the love that's gone into the making of a piece," says Hutt. "It has to move me." And 20th century pieces are still affordable--a 1950s Bertoia chair, for example, is a fraction of the price of an 18th century George Jacob bergere.

But where other decorators might have zeroed in on one or two modern decades--like the now over-exposed mid-century--Hutt turned her condo into an anthology of 20th century design, borrowing from almost every decade, from Art Deco to the '90s. An ethereal mural of female figures, depicted in fluid outline, recalls early 20th century artist and author Jean Cocteau and sets a sophisticated scene for the living room. "I've always loved the way his drawing suggested mass through line alone," says Hutt. Four low-slung mid-century leather chairs by Billy Haines, the silent film star who became a decorator, add a bit of Old Hollywood glamour and make the ceiling appear higher. "Designers think women look better taller and thinner--I think rooms with a tall, vertical line are more elegant as well, " says Hutt.

Silver accessories from the '40s--a coffee set and candlesticks by Tommi Parzinger--and a high-pile Moroccan carpet from the same era share space with 1950s wood lamps carved into the shape of torsos and a 1960s Van Keppel & Green lacquered dining room set. A 1980s Aldo Tura coffee table of lacquered parchment recalls a material often used in the '20s, while back-to-back sofas Hutt designed for the living room and library sport a decidedly Art Deco profile. Completing the look is her collection of contemporary art, which includes Yuki Hirao's bench of nails and Blair Townsend's moody black-and-white photograph of a demolished building. "The art gives you an awareness of where we are in time," says the designer. "It anchors everything in today."

Color gets equal billing in the designer's home and offers a perfect foil for her mix of 20th century collectibles. An orange and coffee-bean brown palette recalls a '70s color scheme, to which Hutt added more contemporary pink, lilac and gray. "Color speaks to me when I'm in a space," says the designer, who painted the ceiling a soft pink, while lacquering the new cork tile floors a dark brown for drama. "I never meant to do an interior with orange in it, it just came to me," she says. "I found the Van Keppel & Green dining room chairs upholstered in orange, then I fell in love with Ray Richardson's 'Tangerine' English bull terrier painting."

Hutt, who once studied silversmithing and jewelry design at London University, takes inspiration from the world of fashion, often applying custom tailoring to her home's furnishings.

"I have a fascination and devotion to elegance and quality. I love Givenchy--his classically beautiful tailoring and sumptuous materials." The custom silk shades on her lamps add a couture touch not unlike a stylish hat topping off a pretty outfit. In the master bedroom, the recessed platform bed is upholstered in mohair, its satin headboard trimmed with leather.

"A house filled with beautiful furnishings is a lot like a haute couture dress . . . you see the hand, the craftsmanship and the thought behind it," says Hutt. "Design fascinates me. Nothing is more beautiful than something that is well made--no matter the century."

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