Wow, I have been blown away by the positive response anti-trend month at The Glam Pad has received! There are so many of us who are tired of trends and are looking for more stability when it comes to interior design. I found an article from Savoir Flair (September 2017) that dissects the surprisingly short life cycle of a trend, and it really hit home. It was written about the fashion industry, but its findings are also applicable to interior design…
“Trends do not occur by chance. They are the product of careful calculating that takes place at every level of the fashion industry, from forecasting and manufacturing to production,” Savoir Flair reports. “So when a noticeable pattern emerges – like the sudden ubiquity of the tropical-leaf print during Spring/Summer 2016 – we can thank manufacturers (who are producing these prints en masse) and trend forecasters (who are advising brands and other companies about the pattern’s popularity).”
Regarding social media, Savoir Flair says, “Ironically, this type of immediate and global saturation of a trend is the root cause of ‘consumer fatigue’; seeing a cool new ‘It’ bag a dozen times a day on social media can actually make a potential buyer weary of it before they’ve pulled the trigger on a purchase. This also contributes to the speed at which fashion now moves, as the modern consumer demands more options, styles, and colorways at faster and faster retail delivery times.”
But how do you define a “trend” and why do “classics” ebb and flow in popularity? My beloved chintz, for example, has been a design staple since the 17th century. Of course we all remember the chintz-filled Mario Buatta days of the 1980s – 1990s. But sadly, chintz all but disappeared by the 2000s, booted out of the forefront by companies like Ikea who in 1996 promoted its modern Scandinavian look with the line, “Chuck out your chintz” (source). Fortunately, it is slowly reemerging after a long hiatus.
And don’t forget toile, the French favorite dating back to the 18th century that was all the rage in the 2000s (source). Around that time, designers such as Charles Faudree and Dan Carithers helped usher in the French Country Look. What happened to toile? I rarely see it anymore, yet I have not stopped loving it. Let’s also ponder the antiques market. In the 2010s “brown furniture” suddenly became a bad word, and the price of antiques fell to an all-time low. Mom and Pop antiques shops around the country were forced out of business. All things “pretty” and “traditional” were replaced by “edgy” and “modern.” Grey and beige were all the rage, and wallpaper was “out.” Fine antique furniture was cast aside for new foreign imports. The dressmaker details from the Mario Buatta days became tailored and streamlined… no frills.
Today, Chinoiserie and #blueandwhiteforever is all the rage. On Monday, I posed the question, “has blue and white become saturated?” and the response was tremendous! The majority of the 1,000 plus comments indicate that there is an insatiable desire for blue and white… there can never be enough! Of course it is a timeless and classic combination, no one would argue that it is not. However, there is a growing contingent who fear it has recently become overused. And it truly is everywhere, more now than I ever remember seeing before. Those who expressed fatigue pointed largely to the overabundance of mass produced blue and white porcelain as having become overdone. Designer Suzanne Tucker aptly responded, “I still love blue and white – it’s timeless and classic. But to go out and buy a bunch of cheap blue and white knock offs just to cluster them together because one sees it in magazines qualifies for ‘trendy’. Collect what you love and edit with a discerning eye!”
Julia Amory of India Amory responded, “Blue and white is and always will remain my favorite scheme but we’ve got to give it a break – we’ve put in jeopardy exactly what we all love about it from overuse. The crispness is gone. I’m pairing back – think Bunny Mellon – time for lots of WHITE, green, chintz and antique (or as Mario Buatta calls it ‘old brown’) furniture.”
Interior design blogger and designer Nine and Sixteen responded on Instagram, “I have always loved it. And always will. Can never have too much! But I won’t hate it when places like Ballard and HomeGoods have had their fill and move onto something else. Blue and white is a classic and deserves to stay that way, not trendy and mass produced and marketed.”
So where do we go from here? Will blue and white become the next chintz only to be “chucked out” when the big box stores move on to the next hot ticket? Is Chinoiserie the next French Country, another beautiful and classic look that has unfortunately been largely forgotten? Sadly, design has become disposable… to be tossed aside every few years… out with the old, in with the new… and mass produced from China. And let’s not forget the Santa Fe, Tuscan, and Shabby Chic crazes! I think “timelessness” is open to interpretation and personal opinion, but for me, Mario Buatta (aka The Prince of Chintz) is the Gold Standard. Of course I am biased, as I was a young girl during the height of his popularity, and I grew up loving anything floral, English, and covered in bows. But I have never stopped loving his look… I strayed away from it for years, following the siren song of the trends, but now I am back and determined to never stray again.
You may recall from my interview with Mario Buatta earlier this month, that he was responsible for bringing English Country Style to the United States. He told me, “I look at my book, and I look at my past jobs and they all look the same to me because they all have the same feeling – they don’t have the feeling of having been done yesterday. You can’t put a date on them.” As one of the most highly celebrated interior designers of all time, Buatta has enjoyed a 50-year-plus career, and his allure and relevance has not waned.
Designer Linda Kerekes commented, “During Mario Buatta’s heyday in the eighties, we designers had the privilege of having clients who would put money and thought into the purchase of the best fabrics and beautiful silk trims. We would use custom workrooms to create wonderfully crafted draperies and upholstery. This was because the classic design favored by the upper class society figures of the day were meant to be permanent, timeless, and forever. They were the models that others wanted to exemplify. Designers were creating permanent backgrounds for the clients’s collections of art, things from travels and family photos, their history. Interiors were not changed like couture gowns. They were curated and replaced only as they were lovingly worn out. Clients were willing to invest in the best quality because these things were made to last forever. It would be lovely if we could get back to quality over change.”
Interestingly, this has historically been the English way of doing things… “Good decorating should only be redone because you want to, not because it looks dated and you have to,” said Alex Papachristidis. “Always changing things is an American sensibility, not a European one.”
Another key takeaway is the importance historic knowledge plays in creating classic, timeless rooms. Mario Buatta’s rooms are still timeless today in part due to his vast knowledge of 18th and 19th century design. “So many people don’t know what they are doing, and they place furniture in the weirdest ways. They become decorators over night, and they don’t know the history. They don’t know what was made in 1950 or 1850. They don’t learn it and they don’t study it. Young people today have no reference. They don’t want Grandma’s furniture, they don’t want anything brown, they don’t want anything old,” he said.
One of Buatta’s clients is Patricia Altschul, and I had the privilege of interviewing her on the subject of timeless interiors. Buatta has designed four homes for Altschul, and her now iconic Charleston home happens to be my favorite of all time. “I never get tired of these things… I’m not one of these women who always changes everything. I will never redo my home,” she said.
For further expertise on the subject of creating a timeless home, I turned to two more of my favorite designers: Leta Austin Foster and Holly Holden for their tips. After speaking with Leta, Holly, Patricia, and Mario on this subject, one thing that resonates is the use of antiques. Antique furniture and mementos add to a sense of timelessness and that “collected look” of having “always been that way” as Mario would say.
“Forget your fear of brown furniture,” said Leta Austin Foster. Most antiques are brown furniture and the brown looks wonderful when it is contrasted with painted furniture. and chintz. and wallpaper. and beautiful curtains and rugs and so on and so on and so on. Look at Winterthur or the Metropolitan Museum and see how masterfully print fabrics and beautiful rugs, and painted furniture look with brown furniture. Get over it!”
To further emphasize, historic knowledge is not to be taken lightly! In his newly released book, Classical Principles for Modern Design, designer Thomas Jayne resurrects The Decoration of Houses, written in 1897 by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. and widely regarded as “the Bible of interior decoration.” He presents a new case for traditional design. “I define traditional decorating as contemporary decorating using historic models,” he said. “We use them not because we lack imagination, but because their core elements have been perfected over two millennia.”
In conclusion, succumbing to trends is a very expensive cycle carefully calculated to drain your pocketbook. I personally am guilty of falling prey to so many of them! How can it be avoided? “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken,” Oscar Wilde would say. Invest in the classics. Don’t break up with them just because they are no longer popular with the hipsters, and don’t feel compelled to participate in every craze you see on Instagram. “Make your house a scrapbook of things you love in your life; your memories…Nothing is better! Treasure those memories,” said designer Penelope Bianchi – a mantra Mario Buatta has perfected. And most importantly, buy what you truly love, and you can never go wrong – whether that is a priceless antique or a HomeGoods ginger jar. Be judicious with your purchases, and invest in the best you can afford with the intention of keeping your treasures for a lifetime.
One reader commented, “It is difficult to avoid succumbing to trends when you are drawn to a fresh idea and are convinced it’s an original one. Quickly, and sadly, you see it ad nauseum on the net and soon you can’t post shots of it on Instagram for fear of boring and dismaying the movers and shakers who will unfollow you. YOU get bored with it and ashamed you ever went there. Instagram is so intimidating and powerful that I feel it almost dilutes and halts imagination. So many options breed creative inertia. At least in me. That’s why I agree with you that it’s time to drag out my Mario or my Tony Duquette volumes and reassure myself that true beauty stands the test of time!”
And by the way, what did my hero Mario Buatta have to say about blue and white in response to Monday’s little query? “It’s such a hit with me from when I was 8 years old,” he said. “My Mother took me with her to see her Brother’s new wife’s house and when we looked at the breakfast room and Kitchen all blue and white tiles and accessories with bright yellow walls and white trim- I gasped to my Mom, “Why don’t we have a blue and white and yellow room in our house?” She hushed me and said “It’s too Irish” ! I’ve had the Irish look for the last 60 years and I’m not going to give up!!!!!”