Designer Portfolio: Thomas O'Brien

Inside Man

Thomas O'Brien is one of those designers whose interior and furniture designs look discovered, not created. His work is timeless, drawing from a variety of periods and styles, and it never looks studied. The O'Brien style is both comfortable and exquisite, calm and eclectic. Let's take a look at this prolific designer's portfolio of inspirational interiors.Thomas O'Brien interiors typically use a limited color palette of creamy neutrals paired with darker wood furniture. This chromatic discipline makes for spaces that are incredibly peaceful and airy without being at all minimalist or cold. It is virtually impossible to tell which furnishings are antique or vintage and which are new, since he blends old and new so seamlessly, never including anything too fancy or precious to be useful.
Indeed, despite the stylishness of O'Brien's interiors, functionality is obviously paramount. The sofas and chairs in his rooms look comfy and inviting, for one thing, and even though there is always an inspired mix of objects and furnishings, there is never anything resembling clutter.
His recent redecoration of his own loft reveals a shift towards collecting and eclecticism. In the above images, you can see O'Brien's home at three points in time, June 1998 (image 6), July 2006 (image 5) and November 2007 (image 4), and the progression towards texture and variety is unmistakable. But again, the objects enliven the space without overpowering it; the neutral backdrop is maintained throughout, preserving that trademark O'Brien calmness and sense of place.
Luckily, O'Brien has created several opportunities for us all to access his designs, in case hiring him to design your home isn't in this year's budget. His amazing housewares shop, Aero, combines O'Brien's original designs with well-edited antiques and international finds, and is probably the only store you will ever want to live in permanently (Seriously. I call dibs). Hickory Chair carries a line of O'Brien's designs (many of which are available at Aero), which perfectly walk the updated-traditional line. And you can accessorize with his tableware and decor from Target or Reed and Barton, depending on your price point. O'Brien has also designed Aero and Aero Retro bathroom hardware collections for Waterworks.
Thomas O'Brien's first book, American Modern, came out earlier this year.
Images: 1-4 Photos by Martyn Thompson for House & Garden Nov 2007; 5 & 7 William Waldron for Elle Decor, July/Aug 2006; 6 Thibault Jeanson for The New York Times Magazine, June 1996; 8 Laura Resen for Elle Decor, Aug/Sept 2004; 9-11 Laura Resen for Town and Country, June 2003; 12-14 Eric Boman for House and Garden, May 2005; 15 Hickory Chair. All images via Aerostudios.com.

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