Is it just me, or is our design community hungry (starving) for all things old, unique and nostalgic?
It's surely not just me: it's everywhere. I can't help but notice our new fixation for yesterday's patinas and craftsmanship. Point proven: on a little weekend stint to Victoria, my boyfriend and I thought it might be comical (and frankly necessary) that he visit a barber shop. A good old-fashioned barber shop with linoleum floor tiles, burnt coffee and buzzing fluorescent lights. But what did we find? Set into a modern architectural gem of a building was an equally "modern" version of the barber shop: the hippest of the hipsters getting their coifs trimmed and stubble razored off within a shop that was so "old" it's obviously new. Plank hardwood floors, subway tiles (with dark grout, of course), filament bulb pendants, chalkboards, milk crates, industrial pipe railings... and a moose head. Everything from yesteryear and yet... it's so undeniably "now"!
What may have begun with a few inspirational designers creating fresh interiors with traditional pieces (Vicente Wolf, Daryl Carter, for starters) now has mass-market momentum. Stores such as Restoration Hardware simply cater to our hunger, offering nothing but time-worn furniture and fixtures with that certain industrial flair. And the online shopping world is no straggler when it comes to this trend. Sites such as 1st dibs have exploded in popularity. Now featuring leading decorators and style-makers offering their curated wish-lists and wares.... And anything from Victorian chandeliers to vintage Hermes can be snatched up, for a not-so-vintage price.
What happened to chrome, leather, glossy finishes and primary colours? They still exist, in Europe that is (ironically the birthplace of all this "old" stuff!). This past April I visited the Salone del Mobile in Milan -- the furniture world's one-week epicenter featuring the hottest, most progressive designers and brands. All of the leading design houses were clearly still advancing forward in their confident and modern approach. Although, I did have a little smirk when I saw hints of the old world, if even just in decoration. Milk bottles, pewter serving bowls, egg crates, and worn marble rolling pins adorning the immaculate stainless and lacquer shelves of Boffi kitchens. So even the forward-looking European design community might just be tempted to throw in a dash of "patina"? Well, in moderation. I met fellow designers from Europe, South America, and Asia, all forging ahead with innovative technology and materials. And all curious to hear what my clients in western Canada are seeking for their homes. Surely they were hoping to hear tales of sky-high glass walls and floating concrete stair treads; instead I got to enjoy their blank expressions when I relayed descriptions of zinc eating bars and deconstructed English armchairs.
I'll admit, I'm on board with this new design movement myself. As I sit here writing at this hour (we shall not say what hour that is) I'm enjoying my new eclectic bedroom -- an odd assortment including a black lacquer Asian armoire, curvaceous French wooden bed (RH, truth be told), crystal chandelier, zebra-hide rug and modern art. Surrounded by white floor and walls, I must add. And if I forgot to mention, I did sneak in time to buy one souvenir from Milan. A large, ornate gold-leaf picture frame, complete with dents and scrapes (some a century old, and some from traipsing through metro stations and airports, ack). The frame I sought to give a new purpose, is destined to sit on a sleek stainless steel kitchen shelf, leaning against shiny smoked mirror. So yes, even I, a sworn modernist (typically favoring anything white, acrylic, or concrete), am admittedly smitten with this new little movement towards all things "old".