If in the 1960s you had told someone that interior design in the early 21st century would bring a renewed interest in the arts and crafts movement, they would have said you had been breathing too many fumes from your hovercraft vehicle. Still, here we are with words like “farmhouse” and “eclectic” ruling the day and most people wanting an antique of some kind somewhere in their design scheme. Vintage furniture couldn’t be hotter and techniques of previous centuries such as needlepoint and milk paint have found their way into the most contemporary and sophisticated of designs. But also, “modern” in the classic mid-century context has now become vintage–almost quaint really. Can it really be that the sleek modern designs that took the world by storm over 60 years ago are now nearly antiques themselves?
Why is this? What about our current situation has made us yearn for a connection to the past? We must feel so uncertain of the future that foundations from previous generations feel comforting. This doesn’t feel like a time where we want to charge ahead with “progress” and innovation but maybe retreat from the world for a while and curl up with a good book in our great grandmother’s antique quilt. What used to be considered wear is now called “patina” and provides a greater context for our lives in this moment. I see a water mark on a dresser and I know hundreds of hands have touched it before mine, and somehow that gives meaning and comfort–something many people are struggling to find in our sometimes frightening and always uncertain present day. We want to move to farms and grow our own vegetables and raise our kids in meadows and sunshine. But we also want to have smartphones and blogs and be connected everywhere we go. Design is reflecting this very real cultural and political paradox.
We want all white kitchens so we can have a blank slate. We want contemporary farmhouse style so we can have our laptops on our antique desk. We want mid-century eclectic so we can remember that previous generations forged ahead after hard times and really did progress and innovate. We are intrigued by the deconstructed pieces of Restoration Hardware but we haven’t totally given up or become that cynical yet. We seem to have one foot in the future, and one in the past.
So where do we go from here? Maybe darker colors will start to replace the bright and light filled rooms of the last five to ten years. We will create our little caves to wait out the storm. Maybe even more patina with brass becoming the metal of the day, even reforming old aged brass into sleek contemporary fixtures to complement warm woods. Perhaps no more Italian, French or even Scandinavian, but English design influences will become more prevalent with traditional English prints and fabrics to replace soft colors and neutral palettes. Heavy drapes will replace airy linens and rustic will give way to elegant.
And I could see us retreating from open floor plans–we will start to want rooms. Private cozy rooms. Before we tore down walls but we may start to rebuild them. Maybe pony walls at first or floating walls to just to try it out and then committing with closing off our dining rooms and maybe even building little libraries in the middle of our downtown lofts–just to create a place that doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.
And when we re-emerge who knows what interesting design influences will rule the day? What amazing traditions from some as yet not totally familiar culture will have seeped into our consciousness through the glow of our lit computer screens? What hot colors or traditional craftsmanship will be absorbed and incorporated like so much 18th century blue and white Chinese porcelain? Whatever it is, people really do seek out beauty and there is plenty to find.
What are your predictions for the future of design? What trends will reflect the cultural changes you see?