Unexpectedly Elegant Decor: Sea Fans

(Lonny / Genevieve Garruppo; Lonny / Patrick Cline)
Until recently, when I thought of coral and interior design, images of bright red wallpapers and beach house tchotchkes inevitably came to mind. Which is to say, I never considered the token underwater accent might look chic in my new—landlocked—apartment. Then I walked into the sophisticatedly off-kilter home of designer Michelle Smith, which, though located in the waterfront Long Island town of Sag Harbor, feels more British country cottage than whitewashed Hamptons cliché. Lo and behold: a blush pink sea fan poised above an elegant French chair in her creaky-floored dining room. Cue the turning wheels.

Flash forward to a week ago and I was pulling inspiration images for my new place, screen-shotting nearly every photo of the dramatic Houston home of antiques maven Kay O'Toole from the Lonny archive. Much like Ms. Smith, O'Toole's macabre-meets-stately style would never be described as expected, and she, too, implemented a sea fan to surprisingly elegant effect in a white tiled bathroom. At this point, I was convinced. The design takeaway? With its intricate vein-like structure in on-trend, washed-out hues, the whisper-thin coral is an organic take on sculptural art, and adds shapely and textural interest to even the most serious home—whether beach- or city-side.
I'm the former Style Editor at Lonny.
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