Walking into your home, your eyes land first on a striking piece of furniture in your living room. It is bold, standing out and at the same time blending in.
This is a statement piece. A focal point, attractive and memorable, through its colours or design, that could be anything – a wall hanging, a coffee table, an art piece – in any room of your house. Think the beloved fringed orange sofa in Friends’ hideout Central Perk, the Swarovski crystal-studded chandelier in the Phantom of the Opera movie, the iconic black and white print wallpaper on one statement wall in the BBC adaptation of Sherlock (that the famed detective then shoots at during a particularly frustrating case).
Why have one? Alberto Cavalli, Executive Director of the Michelangelo Foundation and Director General of the Fondazione Cologni Mestieri D’Arte, that supports European artisans through various initiatives and runs cultural, scientific and educational programs, has an interesting take.
It can be a vase, a table and object, or it can be colours, it can be motifs, it can be materials – I think that each of us expresses himself or herself through specific items, and your home should reveal your identity.
– Alberto Cavalli
He says, “It can be a vase, a table and object, or it can be colours, it can be motifs, it can be materials – I think that each of us expresses himself or herself through specific items, and your home should reveal your identity.
“Life is too short to surround ourselves with banal pieces. And, even if we cannot afford extraordinary pieces, we should look for pieces that have a soul and have meaning to us.”
It is a quick way of transforming your room, giving it a more visual impact and drama – and most importantly, it can hold special meaning to you, imparting more significance to the narrative of your home. When guests come over, statement pieces also pose as useful conversation starters.
What statement piece should you buy? Cavalli recommends choosing a personal item, possibly crafted by an artisan from your hometown or with a story that you like, that you honestly feel represents you or your family, and interests.
He says, “A statement piece should be authentically expressive, of your own identity. You don’t have to choose it just because it creates a wow effect, you have to choose it because it represents who you are.
“And one statement piece is like the first note of a symphony, like your perfume, you know that precedes you when you’re entering the room.”
If you’re not sure where to start, here are five options for statement pieces:
1. Artwork: Whether it’s a large abstract painting or wall hanging that captures your imagination, or an an alluring sculpture, these are especially effective at becoming centrepieces in your room style.
2. Arm chairs or accent chairs: Stand-out chairs that come in pairs, boldly designed or coloured, can brighten up any room.
3. Lighting: Light fixtures, such as decorative rattan hangings, a chandelier and a lamp set, can also draw the eye with ease as statement pieces.
4. Statement sofa: This is one of the most prominent statement pieces – especially if it is a curved or asymmetric form – as the largest furniture piece.
5. Accent coffee table: Coffee tables occupy central spaces in rooms, and choosing a striking piece with textured, uneven frames or a more avant-garde design can make a statement.
Ultimately, there are no rules – it’s up to you which part of your room you would like to highlight. Some pieces are more central to your room such as coffee and dining tables, sofas, beds while others – like mirrors – are less so. If you want to make more of an impact, the central items are the ones to go for,
Eleonore Cavalli, co-founder and art director of the Italian meta-luxury design house, Visionnaire, with a branch open in Dubai, says, “When we design a room, it’s not only a room, it’s never about where I put this table – but how I can feel good living in this room.
“For instance, a dining table is a functional piece, because you have to eat on it every day. But sometimes, you can also think that the dining table is not only a dining table – it can also be a piece of art.”
When we design a room, it’s not only a room, it’s never about where I put this table – but how I can feel good living in this room. For instance, a dining table is a functional piece, because you have to eat on it every day. But sometimes, you can also think that the dining table is not only a dining table – it can also be a piece of art.
– Eleonore Cavalli, co-founder and art director of Visionnaire Home Philosophy
Alberto adds, “Maybe, you know, you bought it at a thrift shop in Berlin, fine. Maybe you paid five euros for it, and it’s something from the 60s – very simple, but never mind. It’s part of your own narrative.”
Featured as the title image is the Visionnaire collection piece Il Pavone (The Peacock throne), winner of the 2020 Archiproducts design awards that takes inspiration from the vivid beauty of the bird, designed by Marc Ange.
Favourite statement piece?
Alberto Cavalli, Executive Director of the Michelangelo Foundation and Director General of the Fondazione Cologni Mestieri D’Arte says: “The Pipistrello Lamp by Martinelli Luciana is always everywhere – I like to find it in films, it appears frequently.”
He also refers to Cedric Gibbons, whose art deco sets under the media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor (MGM) defined Hollywood movies in the 1930s and 40s: Around a whopping 1500 films including Singin in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz.
Alberto says, “He had these incredible sets with the white sofas normally for the high society or New York or Philadelphia.”
Crowning your piece
Right, now you have the piece in your house. It’s thrilling and frankly you can’t stop looking at it, eyeing it from every angle with a smile on your face. What’s next – what is the formula to pull it off in harmony with the rest of your house?
According to Alberto, this is the most important thing to keep in mind – avoiding the ‘museum effect’: “A statement piece, of course has to breathe, it has to have space. But at the same time, you don’t have to sanctify it as if it were in a museum and say, ‘Oh, look at the piece!’
“I think that the most beautiful effect that we can create is always a natural effect. Like there is a beautiful piece, but it’s perfectly integrated in your room in your home. So make it look natural, because that’s the way to make it feel special.”
There are layers to it – the placement, colours, textures and spaces surrounding it. Here are some tips from Alberto and Eleonore.
1. Complement and contrast by colour
You can use a colour wheel to find pieces that accent your statement – both in a complementary manner, finding accents and variations to the main colour of the piece, and by careful contrast. Cavalli says, “What I do think is that you should not do the matchy-matchy thing. Harmony is not made of homologation, harmony is also made of contrast – it’s like when you play the piano, the harmony is like five notes played together where all the notes are different but they have relations with one another.”
Harmony is not made of homologation, harmony is also made of contrast – it’s like when you play the piano, the harmony is like five notes played together where all the notes are different but they have relations with one another.
– Alberto Cavalli
For example, the colours of cushions or a pair of chairs could complement a prominent artwork in a neutral setting. You can also choose colours depending on colour psychology.
However, Cavalli warns that one must avoid the ‘harlequin effect’ of having too many contrasting, loud colours side by side. This is where this next rule comes into play.
2. The rule of threes for balance
This design principle says that things arranged in odd numbers are more eye-catching and appealing, than those in even numbers. This applies to colours, shapes, and even numbers of lights or artworks mounted side by side.
Choosing three colours, a main, secondary and accent colour and using the classic design rule of 60-30-10 as the percentages at which to use each colour respectively in the room – can be a good way of finding the right balance alongside your statement piece.
3. Home Sweet Home
As part of avoiding the ‘museum’ effect, a functional statement piece should fully show its use and be surrounded by complementary pieces. The beauty of the piece need not undermine its functionality.
Alberto says, “If your statement piece is an armchair, complement it with a nice coffee table in the library maybe – and you make it really look like an armchair.
“When you go to the palazzos of the noble family in Italy, you see benches in gardens that seem like they’ve always been there and you like that because sometimes the sense of newness lacks life.”
4. Less is more
What if you would like more than one statement piece? It is possible, but has to be done carefully, through complementary sets rather than very differently bold pieces.
Alberto says, “A statement piece has to breathe. So, if you put 10 beautiful people, close to one another, they would look like sardines. If you put 10 people at a certain distance, you enjoy their beauty more. I think the same happens for the pieces of furniture.”
Eleonore has an additional tip: She says, “The secret is to design the wall space behind the piece.”
And what should you avoid? Other than loud statement colours, pieces that clash with each other, and separating out your statement piece from the rest of your house, these are two other things to keep in mind:
1. Bad lighting: Alberto says, “Bad lighting kills everything – you can have the most beautiful statement pieces, and bad lighting would always make them look flat. You should always avoid bad lighting and invest in good lighting, that makes all the difference in the world.”
2. Impulsive buys: Alberto advises against purchasing something just because it is a la mode, if you don’t like it. He says, “If you buy it because you think it’s a must have, then you get bored of it. Buy it because it feels like it belongs to you, even before purchasing it.”
Whether you are looking for a regal throne is up to your personal preference, but creating a main cast crowned with lead characters in the story of your home – this one’s a keeper.