By Design

Accessories and texture back in design fashion

by Patricia M. Cove
Posted 10/22/21

It seems to be the natural course of things that once the pendulum goes to one extreme, it reverses its swing.  I am happy to report that the minimalist aesthetic that has dominated the field of design for more than 15 years appears to be in retreat. 

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By Design

Accessories and texture back in design fashion

Posted

It seems to be the natural course of things that once the pendulum goes to one extreme, it reverses its swing.  I am happy to report that the minimalist aesthetic that has dominated the field of design for more than 15 years appears to be in retreat.  As we hope to approach a post-pandemic era, the austerity of our surroundings has taken its toll, especially after a year of homebound sensory deprivation.

(I actually have been bemoaning minimalism since 1998…. but I digress)  So, if a scantily furnished room is on its way out, what is on its way in?

As much as I loved the design excess of the 1980s, with billowing draperies of cabbage roses, oversized bows, and gold ormolu everything, that is not what is on the horizon in the look of interiors. Back in 1987, the year I first participated in what used to be a beloved yearly event called the “Art and Design” Designer Showhouse, interiors were lush. Everything was BIG, from shoulder pads to hairdos, and a room was just not “finished” until tables were covered in baubles, walls were layered with artwork, and windows were covered with so much fabric, you weren’t sure what time of day it was.  It was truly a grand time.

The Marketplace Design Center in Center City was the main resource for design professionals to seek and find all of those wonderful, over-the-top pieces. At the time, I was living just a few doors away from a wonderful antique shop on Germantown Avenue called Fair Maids and Mahogany. The store was a treasure trove of beautiful English antiques, and the owner and I teamed up to create lavish rooms that reflected the opulence of the time, and the patina of the past.  Yes, it was grand.  But we are not going back there.

One thing is for sure, minimalism is waning. Clients are looking for warmer surroundings, deeper color palettes, accessories that tell personal stories, and comfortable furnishings that beckon.  Windows will be treated, but more to frame the gardens outside in simple panels that add color and texture, but do not overwhelm.  Rather than covering every inch of wall space with art, individual vignettes can be created by focusing on one piece of furniture, and adding single art pieces surrounding it, to complement it in size and proportion.

One way to achieve that perfect space of new but familiar is to mix old and new.  Antique casegoods, once revered, somehow took on that unfortunate moniker of “brown furniture,” and have been reviled since.  What is misunderstood is that the design and detail of these antique pieces can put new manufactured pieces to shame, especially in quality and craftsmanship.  Unfortunately, home furnishings seem to have gone the way of disposables, not unlike our wardrobes.  But adding just one or two fine antique pieces can add sophistication, uniqueness and especially longevity to newly designed rooms.

So, although I am glad the interiors of the 1980s are a thing of the past, there are some elements that, when carried over to an interior of 2021, can add a bit of freshness, familiarity and uniqueness to any living, dining or resting space.   Cabbage roses and oversized bows may not be a thing of the present, but the gorgeous patina of an English armoire will never go out of style!

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill.

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