A proper Old Fashioned is my absolute favorite cocktail. I love the balance of flavors – the smokiness of the whiskey mixed with the sweetness of the sugar cube and tempered by a few dashes of bitters. There’s an air of sophistication to this stately drink. The simple ingredients are stirred artfully, requiring balance and skill...I mean, have you ever tried flaming an orange? It’s no joke. There’s a reason this drink has withstood the test of time. It’s solid. You know what you’re getting. You don’t mess with it. It stands on it’s own! If you’ve ever had a bad Old Fashioned – read: soda water, Sprite or muddled fruit – GASP! -then you understand why when it comes to this quintessential beverage I’m a bit of a purist. Understated is the name of the game.
Now that you understand my love for the Old Fashioned, it should come as no surprise that I’m able to draw some parallels between my favorite drink and some of the design methods I employed in my living room. I believe good design is all about creating spaces unique to the individuals using them. Tying together the way that someone uses the space with some of their favorite things, whether presented concretely or abstractly, makes the space inviting and comforting. In my home I tried to combine a few simple pieces to create a space that is balanced, timeless and simple. This translates as an oversized wingback chair for reading, accompanied by some lamps that provide soft lighting and ambience, as well as a comfy couch that envelopes you in a soft embrace, inviting you to enjoy a nap or a movie or a bit of knitting, all while being wrapped in a soft throw. Combine those ingredients with some warm, rich wood tones and layered rugs to create texture, depth and color and you’ve got yourself a room!
When making an Old Fashioned, we've tested lots of ingredients, but we always come back to a few favorites. Personally I love Bulleit Rye Whiskey as a base, with Angostura bitters, a sugar cube and a Luxardo Maraschino cherry. Similarly, when designing a room, it’s important to take a few solid pieces that will stand the test of time and combine them to create something wonderful. I've got a bookshelf that has intricate carvings down the front; it's a real statement piece. I added some fun things to it, like my turquoise record player and lots of books...one of my other favorite things! My husband and I love going to an old record store on the weekend and picking out a few albums. There’s something so timeless about the graininess of a record on in the background while you’re reading a good book or entertaining friends...or sipping on an Old Fashioned! Another one of our favorite quirky pieces and a key ingredient in my living room design, is our 5’ tall vintage popcorn machine. It’s a great conversation starter and it's always ready at a moment’s notice should we need some delicious popcorn...which seems to be a frequent necessity!
You don’t have to be a boozehound to design a warm and inviting living room, but you would do well to take a few tips from the mother of all cocktails. As Robert Hess so eloquently states, “When properly made, this cocktail [Old Fashioned] can represent the pinnacle of the bartenders trade. When done improperly, which is more often the case, it can be a disaster of mediocrity.” Take some time to evaluate the spaces where you spend the most time. Are they a brilliant reflection of you? Do they hold up over time? If not, make some adjustments. Keep it simple and intentional and always aim to have a thoughtfully designed space that never dips into mediocrity. Cheers!