Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's Next?


I spend a lot of my morning personal grooming time (i.e., makeup and hair) thinking about design trends. By "trends" I don't mean trendy, but rather, the dominant styles of the day. And the conclusion that I have come to is that over the last decade or so, not much has really changed.

We started the 21st-century with the Hollywood Regency revival and the David Hicks/Swinging Sixties style. Within a year or so, these trends morphed into the WASP-y, colorful, Palm Beach look. After that, it was the exotic, boho-chic look of ikats, poufs, and Indian prints. And today, all of these looks remain popular to varying degrees.

What all of these looks have in common is that they have maximalist DNA: bright, saturated colors; bold, overscaled pattern; and, at times, a rather free-wheeling, decorate-with-abandon sensibility. The other shared trait among these trends? Their last bouts of popularity were in the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s. In a way, it is as if we are stuck in the Johnson and Nixon administrations, only with the benefit of the internet and the iPhone.

As much as I admire these aforementioned styles, I am ready for something new. It's time for a change. But of course, the big question is, what's next for design? The look to which I have gravitated for the last few years is one that was fairly prevalent during the 1970s and early 1980s. It is defined by neutral-though-rich colors (such as chocolate brown, black, and caramel, all of which look fabulous at night,) smaller-scaled pattern, glimmering accents of chrome or brass, and the pairing of elegant antiques with contemporary upholstered furniture. It's a look that I believe evolved from the fabulous chocolate brown apartment of Billy Baldwin, although Van Day Truex certainly deserves some of the credit, too.

What I like most about this look is that it makes an impression without screaming for attention. Despite the restrained color palette and small-scaled, typically two-toned prints, there is no lack of glamour, drama, dazzle, or pizzazz. And to execute this look well, one has to practice self-discipline and self-editing. I think that one of the downsides to some recent design trends is that editing and restraint have been forgotten, something that has often resulted in "anything goes"-type rooms. (I think that the designer Joseph Braswell put it best when he said, "Very often a good room is ruined by too many stories." ) Finally, it's worth noting that although all of the examples featured here were decorated by male designers, women could just as easily live in such rooms. The overall aesthetic might be masculine, but it doesn't seem overtly so to me.

Will this classic 1970s-era sensibility make a comeback? I hope so, because I do think it's a worthy successor to today's current trends. If you're like me and you're ready for a change, please let me know what you think the next big look will be.


The Manhattan apartment of Van Day Truex




Albert Hadley's living room




The Manhattan apartment of Ferris Megarity




A room designed by Kevin McNamara




The living room of Thomas A. Morrow III


The East Hampton cottage of Harry Hinson



Dining room decorated by Angelo Donghia



In the Los Angeles home of Dennis Leen



In the Sutton Place apartment of designer Joseph Braswell




In the New York townhouse of Jay Crawford and Anthony Tortora


In the apartment of designer Tom Britt

49 comments:

  1. The last, Tom Britt's apartment ( a former fellow Kansas Citian) is a perfect example, a few very special standout pieces that "make" the room! This is what I want to see more of.

    xoxo Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. Britt's apartment was, and still is, fabulous. :)

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  2. I have a couple of gallons of brown-black paint waiting to go up in my living room this weekend--though I'll confess it was a matter of pulling color from my rug than being hyper aware of future trends. I love these images.

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    1. Thank you! Good luck with the paint project. I have a feeling that the new color is going to look smashing!

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  3. Anonymous9:17 AM

    Thank you for your very intelligent blog. Who doesn't love the classics? They are winners in every decade....so easy to live with and as visually exciting as you want to make them. Good things are always good.....so far Billy B and his designer friends taught us so much about our space.....and how to live in it. Also, I really enjoyed your book and read and re-read it often. Thank you!
    Judy

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    1. Thank you Judy. So happy to hear that you are enjoying my book. :)

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    2. Anonymous8:18 AM

      One more thought about todays blog.....most of the rooms pictured have walls of mirror....I love it. Mirrors bring in the light and increase the visual space of the room. The mirrors are a major design element. Imagine these rooms without them!

      Judy

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  4. Love it. Rich neutrals which reference the architectural materials of wood and stone rather than "decoration", which is why those rooms work so well at blending furnishings and art from many eras and influences - it gives a structural base for all that goes into the room. I did notice a few constants in the pictures; the use of French chairs, which give elegance and a welcome sculptural sensuality to the rooms, a few, as another commenter posted, "standout" pieces to lend drama to the space, and finishes - lacquer, gilt, velvet, leather and mirror, that play with light and its effects. The sharp contrast of dark and light also infuse the rooms with a drama that an all dark or all pale palette could never match.

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    1. I think that with some of the current trends, the aim for drama is a bit too forced. I feel that these interiors represent a more natural sense of drama, much in part to the contrasting lights and darks.

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  5. This is personally my favorite look and the one that I find most inspiring and closest to my own personal aesthetic. I love the use of rich, saturated colors-- I have a few chocolate brown rooms in my house. I also live for the mix of masculine/feminine, traditional/modern, etc. and aim to achieve a similar look for my own clients. Great post, Jennifer! XO

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    1. Thank you Paloma. I bet your house is very chic!

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  6. It's interesting that in asking "what's next," you look to the past. I do often wonder, "has it all been done before?" Could "what's next" be something we haven't seen before? As a fan of the classics myself, I tend to think the answer is that great design, like classic architecture, has been done, and anything yet to follow is derivative. I'd be curious to hear what others think.

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    1. When decorating my own home, I always look to the past for inspiration, and then I tweak to fit my needs or my taste. Like you, I do believe that much of what is new is actually derived from the old. The new can be achieved through tweaking and adapting.

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  7. Jennifer, you've struck a chord here. Aren't we all weary of interiors that are arbitrarily composed for the maximum photographic impact? They don't age very well-- and they're actually rather boring in their assertiveness. Which isn't to say that a palette of handsome neutrals is the only alternative to that sort of miss-mash, yet some intelligent control seems to be wanted.

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    1. Absolutely, there are many other looks and styles that can be nice alternatives to current design trends. And in my mind, the worthy alternatives all have "intelligent control", as you say, in common.

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  8. I think that this aesthetic is already emerging. I see hints of it every where I look. The neoclassical mixed with asian and mid-century chic with hints of shine and sparkle. I can't wait to see this in full bloom.
    Mary

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    1. Mary, It is nice to hear that you're signs of this look. That makes me very happy.

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  9. Jennifer, I am so conflicted by this post. I agree with you that we need something new. But everything you mention about referencing the 60's. 70's, or 80's, especially Billy Baldwin's shiny brown walls, wicker and french antiques is not new. At all. At least to my eye. What seems newest in terms of 'pretty decorating' is the synthesis of the past and trends. People like Daniel Romauldez and David Netto who are inteligent, educated and know how to reference the past, understand how people want to live now, create interiors that reflect that is what's new. Modern art (or any art for that matter) is what looks newest in decorating. If we just recreate periods or rooms that were published in the past, we will never move forward and create something new. What Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley, David Hicks and all the 'icons' did then was exciting. Rehashing thier rooms is not.

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    1. Foodie, My post wasn't meant as a plea for people to rehash the past. However, I am a firm believer that current design should in some small way reference the past. There is simply too much great design from the past to ignore it. I think that what is modern is taking elements from the past, such as Billy Baldwin's chocolate brown walls, and mixing it with, for example, some fresh new fabric. But I do think that if we are ever going to see something new, we need to start discussing classic design through a 21st-century lens. It's the discussion that might prompt change.

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  10. I think the problem may be in waiting for the next big. Always the rooms I am drawn to are deeply personal. They may tell "too many stories", but stories they tell. I am sick of the all white anemic ghost rooms. I am bored with designers whose "looks" are too present in a room (and often the same look over and over again). I am ready for people to be confident in their own styles and with themselves. Yes to reading, studying, traveling and growing one's sense of self and to putting that knowledge to work in their personal spaces. No to the Next Big.

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    1. I think that the by stories, Braswell might have meant too many different points of view. My home tells a few different stories, but they all have something in common, and that is that they represent my point of view.

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  11. These rooms are still very maximalist to me - the scale and saturation, the drama, the graphic contrast. I still prefer an eclectic mix of styles and periods that speaks to the way the resident lives. I live rather casually and I crave comfort, something that is lacking in most of the early 80's styles, as well as the Palm Beach and Hollywood Glam looks. I certainly gravitate towards the more boho/relaxed look, but I agree that it's being terribly played out.
    I would love to continue to see people take the way they live, and their own history, into consideration when designing their own spaces. To me, that would provide the most original spaces if indeed we all choose to live authentically instead of copying every magazine/blog we see (which I'm guilty of trying myself!). Good grief, I sound too Oprah-y.
    As much as I love change and seeing what new thing is coming down the pipeline, I'm actually looking forward to less trends, and more originality. If that can still exist:)

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    1. Andrea, I agree that people should decorate their homes to reflect their personalities and their interests. And, comfort is utmost importance! At the end of the day, we should all want to come home to a house that is comfortable and filled with our treasures.

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  12. I so wish we could have made time to go to my house during your visit. It is very much of this design style....but I am a child of the 70's! xx.DT

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  13. Pamela2:45 PM

    Today's interiors (in Britain) are either bland (block-like) or noisy ('eclectic'). They lack warmth, personality. The rooms in this post are fun, comfortable, sexy and confident. We are about to paint the living room ceiling bronze. Had it before in the last house. Always a delight. People have always referred to the past e.g. the Georgians, Victorians. We seem to be the only ones who have an issue with it. Our loss.

    Treat yourself to an episode of Columbo. There are some fabulous interiors. They're integral to the story and represent the characters personalities. The Lt. himself studies them; the wall-to-wall carpet, expensive artwork; greed or ambition. Two episodes in particular: 'Try And Catch Me' with the stupendous Ruth Gordon and 'Publish or Perish' with the deliciously smug Jack Cassidy (he's even having a room decorated!).

    Some of the interiors and furnishings would look great today (gardens too). A wonderful modernist/Frank Lloyd Wright styled house is used in two different episodes, and I hope it is still standing: 'Prescription Murder' (c1968) and 'The Most Crucial Game.' It is overlooking L.A.

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    1. Pamela, You make an excellent point that the Georgian, Victorians, etc. unabashedly referred to the past. Also, I have seen a few episodes of Columbo (and loved them, by the way,) but I must watch more so that I can see these fabulous interiors. Thank you for the suggestion!

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  14. You forgot the POPE of all these CARDINALS...Michael Taylor! He was the ONLY one who bridged their look to our time...Dennis Leen is somewhat of a devotee, but no one used Terracotta color on walls with bleached Herringbone floors like driftwood, scattering Ancient Etruscan pots or Roman Glass vessels, while a Twig sculpture hung on a wall over a sofa shaped so Erotically topped with round ball pillows to simulate stone. This is Modern Ancient, a look I hope the SO MANY decorators/booksellers of today start to emulate and grow from!
    There is NEVER a future without the past.

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    1. Swan, You are right, I did overlook Michael Taylor. He was quite the innovator! And I agree that there is never a future without the past.

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  15. I know I am in the minority here, but Toby Worthington is correct about decorating for photographic effect. I have been to Britt's apartment and seen that room pictured, without the white slipcovers. Although an attractive room architecturally, this room is a disaster in person based on good decorating philosophy. There is nothing gracious about it; the space is like a show window.

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    1. J, I have never really understood decorating for photographic effect. Some of the most charming or beautiful homes that I have visited would probably not look very photogenic if photographed. Of course, the opposite is true, too.

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  16. Would you use a small print on curtains?

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    1. Of course! The photo in your book of Geometric prints is of curtains!

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  17. Anonymous10:48 PM

    This post really sums up some thoughts I've had about interior design for awhile. Thanks for expressing it better than I could. I've always loved some variation of this look, possibly with a slightly more modern twist. I've been saying all year that the cult of gray is going to end soon and beiges and browns are coming back-no one I know thinks that is possible!

    I think the 70's have really been unfairly stereotyped and there is so much good design that is overlooked from that period.

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    1. I think that every decade has produced examples of good design. There was some truly great and innovative design in the 1970s, as you mentioned. Just look at the work of Angelo Donghia, for example.

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  18. Hi Jennifer, I just read Foodie's comment. I think your point is that there is nothing truly new. The best design takes elements of the past. integrating them in new and fresh ways that are a reflection of current cultural and aesthetic points of view. I love that you embrace this incorporation of the past, which does not mean neglecting or denigrating the present. Go girl!
    Mary

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    1. Mary, Exactly! Taking elements of the past and transforming them into something new and fresh. Well said!

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  19. Anonymous10:44 AM

    This discussion is so interesting. I am alone in this it seems but i adore all the color we now have available! I always say color is my drug of choice! I went nuts for the mario buatta houses for hilary and wilbur ross featured in architectural digest a couple of issues ago yet my faveorite decorator of all time is without question billy baldwin. In 1993 i moved back to beverly hills from nyc and decorated my apartment in lemon yellow sofas and white chinese chippendale chairs. I would tell my friends my apartment is "palm beach circa 1972" and people would roll their eyes in astonishment. This was before kelly wearstler and long, long before ruthie sommers. As coco chanel said, "fashion is in the air". So are trends. Now that im married with children my husband (totally Brooks Brothers) does not care how i decorate as long as it is "not dreary". We have chartreuse grasscloth walls, zebra prints, chinoiserie and all the late 1960s stuff i couldnt afford when i was single. And everyone who walks in says its the happiest house they have ever been in.

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  20. I grew up in the 70s in a waterfront Frank Llyod Wright style house. It had wall to wall orange shag, a two story cork wall in the entry, and marbled metallic wallpaper in the bathrooms. Hard to see past that orange shag. I do love brown wood kitchens better that white ones.

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  21. I love the rich traditional pieces that have been with us for hundreds of years - every new variation just pales in comparison to their elegance. But I live for color, and living in a brown environment would make me feel like I was missing body parts! The pictures are beautiful but seem masculine...I hope people will experience the joy of making an interior their own...assembling the pieces which make them feel happy and serene in their home and tell their stories.

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  22. Dear Jennifer,
    For me, as a British designer based in Switzerland, this is a very interesting post for two reasons. Firstly, I agree with several commentators who point out that nothing is ever really new - most of us merely regurgitate and adapt styles from the past. Secondly, to my mind these spaces are still too brash (particularly Megarity and McNamara) to be considered "classic". I like Albert Hadley's living room best, as the brown is offset by the white furniture, but to European eyes it certainly doesn't look "classic". I associate dark brown walls either with High Victorian style or late 1960s/early 1970s, which of course was also a time when Victorian style was revived (combined with all that stripped pine furniture, ugh!), at least in the UK. I could imagine a study, bedroom or even dining room painted chocolate brown, but for a daytime living area I would find it positively claustrophobic. In my opinion, the contrast between the walls and the pale ceilings and woodwork in almost all these images is too hard. Of course, these are all deeply personal preferences. It's just interesting to see how our perceptions can differ so wildly! I am thinking of starting my own blog and admire yours very much. Many thanks, Toby

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  23. Joanne Watson10:54 AM

    I do think it is time for a change! In my opinion browns and contemporary style furniture are coming back on trend. I really like the Manhattan apartment of Ferris Megarity! It has everything I love-hardwood furniture, animal prints, the vintage mirror frames and all the pictures! I recently wrote an article about designing your own house (https://medium.com/p/eea469fbdbb5). I would be really happy if you check it out. Thank you!

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  24. Thank you so much for today's inspiration! I have enough mental fodder to plod through the rest of the day now. xoduchy

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  25. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I just re-read your post here (i commented a few days ago) and have to say the thing i realy like about all these rooms is the intimacy of the furniture placement. Look how closely chairs are placed together. Its as if the rooms were meant to have real people in them who actually look at each other and speak! In most, if not all, rooms in mags today the furniture is artfully arranged at safe shouting distances from each other. Has anyone else noticed this? There always are chairs that you can pull around in older rooms. Not really in todays rooms. This suggests to me our rooms are more for show and not really to be lived in. Was it billy baldwin or mario buatta who talked about watching how the furniture ends up in a room after a party? This shows how a room wants to be, or something like that. I think this is fascinating. Another feature i like is the scale of the furniture. Its smaller not this great big stuff we tend to see today giving todays rooms a movie set quality. These are the things i see in these pics. I dont think the next big trend is browns as the whole brown/beige/neutral/belgian/asian/zen thing has been running parallel to the jonathan adler/kelly wearstler look the whole time. I wonder if the next trend will be a return to the smallerr scale furniture and a more intimate placement? Another difference i see is that in the 70s plus or minus a decade in mags featured rooms that were shot at night. We never, ever see that anymore. It seems the most valuable commodity in todays world is light in a room and, accordingly, all photos seem to be shot at their brightest moment. I dont know why, especially, just an observation. Personally i am a morning person and so dont respond to nightime pics the way i do to the clean, crisp and bright rooms, however they are decorated. I do love these rooms but not for the browns or masculine features but rather the scale of the furniture (and style i do love each chair and sofa you featured!) and the intimate placement of things. Id do these same rooms with color for happiness.

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  26. Dear Anonymous,
    How I agree with you! As a designer myself, I am a keen observer of interior design on both sides of the Atlantic, and the work shown in the States is, by European standards at least, very rarely intimate. Perhaps it's because you have such huge amounts of space available, things can be done for effect rather than practicality. Call me old-fashioned, but I am a fierce champion of Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler - no piece of furniture should ever have to be moved when guests arrive. You must always have a light to read by and a table to set down your drink. If you follow English or French design, you will notice that the furniture is always much smaller and less heavily upholstered than American pieces, which to my eyes often look like buxom women bursting out of their clothes. The reason most rooms are shot in daylight is because daylight shows colours much more accurately than electric light, which usually gives a yellowish tinge. And: hurrah for colour, hurrah for pattern and light. However, in my view it should be quiet and harmonious, with no garish, clashing motifs. One trend I notice in the States, if I may say so, is deliberately clashing colours, patterns and historical styles. I think this is supposed to look effortlessly eclectic. There is something similar going on in the UK - washed out, faded fabrics and traditional furniture, but combined with bright red plastic table lamps or super-modern, metallic wallpaper. All very odd. So yes, I agree with you! The same rooms (some of them) with colour for happiness :-)

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    1. Toby and Anonymous, Both of you have made very thought-provoking comments. First, I do love color, just as both of you do. In fact, I live with color in my home. If you look at the interior photos to which I have gravitated lately, you'll see that most of the rooms are dark brown, black, and other deep shades. Perhaps it is richer, more sophisticated uses of color to which am I drawn at the moment? Also, Anon, you hit the nail on the head with your use of the word "intimate". Everything about these rooms make them feel intimate. These are rooms that beckon one with subtlety, beauty, and elegance, not screaming colors and clashing pattern. (Toby, I agree with you completely about the trend towards clashing colors and pattern.) I guess that at the end of the day, what I would like to see is decoration that involves more thought and more editing. And whether that entails color or non-color, morning or nighttime rooms, and pattern or no pattern is solely up to the individual tastes of the homeowner. One last thing- a resounding "yes!" to smaller-scaled furniture!

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    2. Dear Jennifer,
      Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. It's interesting that you should say you would like to see more thought and more editing, because I am sure that are a great deal of thought is put into many of those deliberately clashing rooms (I have an example in mind, the designer of which I shall not divulge): How can you combine a Tree of Life chintz on a sofa with bright red cushions, a large zebra print and frilly green-and-white striped curtains? Ugh! And just one more comment on the scale of furniture - I believe the ideal combination is a mixture of scales - never all large or all small. Indeed, in my own very small apartment I have a large sofa, which in fact makes the space feel larger, as well as a large French commode in my tiny hallway, which has the same effect. So on reflection, perhaps it's not so much the scale of things that matters, but as Anonymous so rightly pointed out, the arrangement of furniture so that people are not at "shouting distance" from each other, but can converse in comfort. In my designs this is always an important feature. I would be very pleased for you to take a look at my site, which is linked to my name.

      I look forward to many more interesting discussions with you!

      Toby

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  27. I used to have this design book that most of the old photographs are from. I lost it in a move and I have been trying to remember the title for such a long time. It would be great if you could pass on the publishing information to me. It has so many great rooms it it!

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