Recognizing trendy and what will be dated (long, with pics)

August 29, 2011

Recently, I've become very aware of lamps. I've seen some really cool ones that will be perfect for particular projects except for one thing: They're cool now because they're a bit different but on the cusp of the trend. They're also pretty hideous if you look at them for long term design. Not just "will look dated". These very cool lamps are the "will ask what you were thinking" variety.

So many people here worry about what will become dated (e.g., subway tile, which is classic, but so popular right now it will be a date-identifiable feature, but it will never go ugly), I thought it would be fun to look at some more ephemeral things like the lamps to get a good idea of the difference between dated and you've gotta be kidding. :)

I loved this first one when I saw it in the Horchow catalog (I use catalogs as a short cut to knowing what's up commercially. Not sure if we'll be buying or creating for this space, but if we buy it'll likely not be from national catalogs), but it's a bit different than I thought. It's hard to tell online unless you go to the website and use the zoom. It's kind of perfect for the loft space I'm designing, but it's going to be so hideous I don't think it's a good value for the money ($2450). It's really hard to see in this picture, but there's a crystal chandelier with curliques and swags inside of a mesh drum shade, on a turned metal shaft sitting in a dish on a tripod made of overgrown hatpins. It's like a table lamp, a chandelier, a kitchen ceiling fixture from the '60's, a rabbit hutch and a Victorian photographer's equipment had a love child. In the catalog picture, I thought it was more of an industrial style tripod, like a surveyor's, but black and silver, which would have been cooler. (like this one from Restoration Hardware with the idiotic table lamp trapeze shade). The look for now, today is awesome even as it is, but boy oh boy is it hideous. :) And it's going to be impossible once the chandelier craze is over.

The latest trendy word is "steampunk", which they're bastardizing in order to capitalize (what's new?). Take a look at this steampunk eats chandy version of the chandelier on a stand trend from RH, named for Foucault:

This one at Horchow is actually named "Steampunk" and is more authenically so in shape, but not in concept. It's pretty simple and I think it could last over time because of that.

This is another RH one that I really like the look of, but it's totally useless for the loft, and most other uses. It's very big for a chairside reading lamp, but with that downward cast, and metal shade, it's not for room lighting.

This one is the polyamorous marriage of three trends: Retro drum shades, retro industrial, and retro theatrical lighting. It's actually pretty ugly already with the shade cocked like that, but with it level it's quite interesting, and not as ugly as some of the ones that are better now will be. It'll be tolerable a lot longer. But it sure is weird!

One I think will make the cut is the "Spotlight" by Jamie Young also at Horchow/Nieman's. The link has a far better picture than below.

I like this one because it has that current vibe while having fairly classic proportions, and while it has some of the look of the currently shown stage style lighting, it has more of a residential feel. It doesn't have one of the forced style marriages which are interesting appositions when they're new, but tend to squabble and move to Reno for a quickie divorce once the infatuation is over. This one is what it is. The same kind of globe or gyroscope arms around the head as the Foucault surround a matching globular object, so it makes sense. And the light is positionable, making it useful, while the angle allows the light to spread, unlike the farmhouse or steampunk ones.

It's very hard to deal with trendy and stay away from fad. The kitchen was planned to be dark aubergine gloss lacquer. The overuse of purple in garments last year wasn't enough to disturb this plan, but the advent of all kinds of dark purple housewares, some in really sickly hues, this year is really bringing up the question mark. I've always tended to be in advance of the color trends. Occasionally, I'm sure, because I may have seen the leading edge, but I think also I'm reacting to the same stimuli that the trendsetters are so end up in the same place often enough for it to be a noticeable pattern.

This one, however, didn't come up because aubergine is trendy. When I flirted with ranges four years ago, I was looking at either the pale blue of the La Cornue Chateau in the local showroom, or aubergine. I tend to prefer aubergine to black. The client wants shiny, dark and warm, however, and doesn't like black or burgundy, navy is too cool, so I figured that left aubergine and she loved it.

Will aubergine be just too too 2012?

Comments (150)

  • palimpsest

    I agree that if "no one wanted" this formal furniture, no one would be making it, and companies like Henkel Harris, Kindel, and Stickley would be out of business. There is always a market for this furniture, and its not the market where people look at furniture the same way they look the shape of the heel of a shoe this season. The used market for it may be a bit different because not everybody who wants a formal table is that familiar with the used or consignment market. Upscale consignment shops are not all that common in some areas. (my mother got rid of a couple decades worth of semi formal and full ensemble-type outfits a few years back, and it was hard to find someone in the area to take them for free who would not bundle them up in garbage bags and ship them off to some processing center somewhere--if she lived here she could've consigned it on a regular basis)

    As for the furniture on the street, unfortunately its cheaper to dispose of this stuff than store it or transport it, and when I tried to get rid of some solid but unremarkable furniture (for free) I got a spiel from a couple places: "no IKEA, no knockdown, no home painted furniture, no, no no". I finally gave a piece to a place in the neighborhood whose politics and mission statement I disagree with simply because they were the only people who would come and take it away. CL helps, but sometimes putting something out on the sidewalk and hoping for the best is all you can do.

    A neighbor of mine works for corporate meetings and events and regularly comes home with packs of computer paper, pens, note books, PRINTERS, FAX MACHINES, and things like this that companies purchase for a meeting or event and leave behind for the trash because it is cheaper to buy it and junk it after even a day, than it is to transport it back and forth. Its really a shame.

  • lakeaffect


    I'll scan a pic of that pistachio Aga kitchen and post tomorrow, it is pretty cool.

    WRT the pulley pendant lights, we have one and it's from....RH (hanging head in shame). It is operational and I like the kinda, sorta retro look. I looked all over for a vintage one, and couldn't find one that wasn't all faux colonial, complete with mustard yellow metal shade with black wheat stenciled on it (that I'm pretty sure came straight from S&H Green Stamps). We got the RH one during their 30% off lighting sale, so it wasn't bad. The color is great, the workmanship pretty good, you would not mistake it for a vintage piece up close, but I really wanted one of these lights, it reminds my of my family's camp when I was a kid and I'm trying to evoke a little of that vibe in my kitchen.

    It's over a stainless table, competing with 3 modern/contemporary (I never know which is which) pendants, a vintage brass chandelier and two other 3 armed pentants over the sink that are decidedly unvintage, but which I painted to look vintage.

    Winter pic (sorry!):

    You can see 3 of the lights here:

    Close up of the RH fixture:


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  • sayde

    Just got here and had to pipe in on what a travesty RH has become, and what a shame. I used to really like their stuff-- and my entire bathroom is straight out of the catalog (Gramercy suite) ---it just works in my house. RH really did the world a service -- they looked at some of the stuff that was untouchably expensive, by, for example, Urban Archaeology, and they offered knock offs that were certainly not as good quality, but decent, that you might actually afford. My two Keller sconces were about $120 each if I remember. They're decent. It's all made in China. But they're OK and the design is a pretty good copy of sconces offered by UA at about 5 times the price. RH also takes good care of you if you find the right person. I have had no complaints at all.

    But now! The whole thing is turning into Gary Friedman's wet dream that he is Ralph Lauren incarnate. I mean, look at the get up -- if that isn't a Ralph Lauren wannabe I don't know what is. I cannot believe he doesn't perceive how all this comes across.

    I still like some of their stuff. Recently bough the Toledo barstool and a bunch of hardware for the kitchen. Couldn't help it -- looked everywhere and this was what worked. But now I have to buy it in spite of the whole marketing vibe. It is so off-putting. And now RH is almost no more about hardware than BR is about bananas. That bozo keeps talking about striking out in a new and original direction but they have forgotten their compass and lost their way.

  • steff_1

    Sandyponder - Great lights and great pics to show them in a real kitchen. I really like them, but they didn't fit in my kitchen.

    Modern/Contemporary - Contemporary was used in the 1970's to mean current style and not modern from the early 20th Century or MCM style. It's confusing since we are long past the '70's and what is contemporary now isn't '70's style. You can use it in context to mean current style but it's tricky.

    Just because the current RH catalog is depressing doesn't mean we don't want their stuff! I have several things from them and am very close to ordering RH outdoor lighting. Also have some PB items too though I passed up the wine bottle chandelier.

  • Fori

    I miss PB's apothecary table.

  • colin3

    I agree with folks above that kitchen pendants are a fad ... still, they'll be easy to remove when you get bored with them. They're kitchen jewelry, like fancy backsplashes.

    Re furniture the good news is that functional furniture is cheap if not free -- I think I furnished my first apartment with what BU students were throwing out. And there really is a lot more variety at different price points than there was before the internet era. Perhaps people have forgotten how depressing furniture shopping was 20 years ago.

    Look for interesting antique stores -- with cheap container shipping, there are businesses opening up moving all kinds of stuff from parts of the world where is has lower value. Britain, the Baltic states, Indonesia ... it's one way to get away from the catalogs.

  • plllog

    Hm. Colin, I actually thought furniture shopping was a lot easier 20 years ago, but I had the design district in L.A. to shop in, so I guess that doesn't say anything to the rest of the country. Nowadays, there's so much standardization and submission to chains, and so little is made locally anymore, that it's kind of a nightmare.

    Fori said: Those sad depressed looking little grey children in their somber grey rooms that would be overly frilly if they weren't so dour! You just feel that those kids were orphaned by cholera. Even their pinks are gloomy. That made me go look up the RH kids collection since I haven't gotten the book yet. OMG!!! PERFECT description. Just what you want for your baby. A desaturated, monotone room that convinces the child there is no joy in the world. That the furnishings are the color of spit-up and therefore easy to keep looking new is beside the point. How a California company can put out those rooms with the chandeliers over the cribs and the mirrors over the beds, I don't know. How to clobber, impale and lacerate your child all at once in an earthquake. Or just if the hook comes loose. BAD mommy!!

    What both collections show is a design aesthetic that's supposed to look like a faded photograph from the '30's. A badly kept one. They do this in period movies to give a sense of time, even though the period between the world wars was full of all kinds of color. Real life, current life, the life we want to live, however, is not faded and foxed. Who wants furniture the color of cheap paper with too high acid content? These desaturated beiges and grays make buff look joyful and lively.

    Re "contemporary", Steff's right, but since there's nothing that's really now, just different versions of retro (discounting Palimpsest's office observations), it's hard to know exactly what that is. "Modern" in current usage doesn't have to mean Modernism or Mid-Century Modern specifically, but is often used to cover anything that follows the Modern aesthetic, even if it's something new. Which makes the whole thing very difficult.

    The only really new, contemporary design I've seen being displayed to the masses is what Bob and Courtnay Novogratz are doing. They're incorporating a lot of what's currently happening in art into their spaces, often with a street art or graffiti vibe, or a repetition such as you might see on a construction barrier. They also use a lot of old items and edgy new items together, as well as cheap and haute. It's very eclectic, very current, and I couldn't live with most of it. They really are using today's aesthetic. An awful lot of what's being shown nationally either in wide circulation magazines or on TV is regurgitation of past styles or merchandising of "partner" companies.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    "About the idea that 'no one wants' brown furniture or formal dining sets: Drivel."

    In fact, RH babies and toddlers seem to like brown stuff. Which is good because I think it would be a lot more forgiving of stray crayons than the bleached Belgian stuff. And you'd need some crayons to liven that up.

    "They do this in period movies to give a sense of time, even though the period between the world wars was full of all kinds of color."

    plllog, and even when the sets were white in the b/w movies -- think Jean Harlow's bedroom in "Dinner at Eight" -- they were a brilliant, bright white.

    As an aside, my husband is a builder, and he's noticed since last summer, with several severe hail storms that have brought out of town roofers here, that they find it easier and more expedient to take the leftover, unneeded, brand new, unused, shingles to the landfill site for disposal after a job is done, rather return them to the stores for credit, which is what all of the local builders do. Disheartening.


    Here is a link that might be useful: brown stuff for RH babies and toddlers

  • blfenton

    bostonpam: I want that blue couch on the sidewalk.
    When I moved out of my parents home ( a looong time ago), I scrounged furniture from their basement, their friends basements, their friends parents estates, and I still have almost all of it - couches, tables, chairs. Why? because the stuff is probably 60 - 80 years old and a whole lot better quality than what I can afford to pay for now. I just recover stuff as needed. My tastes have always been clean lines, simple construction and that has not changed.

    We are currently looking for a new kitchen table and have been for a year - haven't found anything in which I can trust the quality.
    RH - no, Pottery Barn - never, Ethan Allen - maybe 15 years ago.

    Back to colour for a minute - I think the problem is that with the economy the way it is, people are afraid to make colour a permanent part of decorating. It is easier and cheaper to use accent pieces from Home Sense etc and then beable to change them out in 2 years when colour trends change.
    Catalogue decorating - I remember walking into the living room of one of the moms at school a few years ago and thinking to myself - this came from page 14 of the Bombay Company spring catalogue - very uninspiring.

    How and why do trends become a permanent look, a fixture for long term decorating, where their "name" becomes part of the decorating lexicon.

  • cawaps

    "How a California company can put out those rooms with the chandeliers over the cribs and the mirrors over the beds, I don't know. How to clobber, impale and lacerate your child all at once in an earthquake. Or just if the hook comes loose. BAD mommy!!"

    plllog, LOL! I had to go look at the cholera orphans after I read your post. You and Fori both hit the nail on the head (I live in California, so the lack of earthquake common sense particularly hit home).

    I used to like Restoration Hardware's retro vibe, but they took a sharp left turn to the dark side a couple years ago, and I can't even walk into one of their stores anymore.

  • plllog

    Becky, you're right. And a lot of the in between tones in the B&W movies were actually vibrant colors. What I was talking about is when they shoot current (or at least post-1970) movies on good quality film that holds color well in washed out tones overlaid with golden brown lighting to give you a sense of pre-WWII, 20th century America. The British films depicting that period actually do it in washy blues. One of the things I love about Victor/Victoria (which has totally awesome rooms) is that it's all full color, the exception that proves the rule.

    It's this old faded photograph colorscheme at RH that really bothers me.

    It made me nuts when everyone was gung ho for black and white baby furnishings after studies found that they are more stimulated by high contrast than by colors. Like, why would you want to put your baby to sleep in the most stimulating environment that you can find? Those old time "baby" colors, the soft pinks and blues, are very relaxing and boring and good for sleeping. They paint prisons pink to calm the violent inmates. Pink is very soothing.

    That idiocy, however, is nothing on this current one. They've removed anything interesting or stimulating whatsoever so that overpriced baby can get an early start on ennui, vapidity, insoucience, lassitude and apathy.

    If you ask children, they'll generally tell you they like the kind of colors that are usually provided to them. Just as baby talk comes naturally to caregivers and is actually a useful communication tool which babies innately respond to, so do children's colors come naturally to people who actually interact with children. Children like simple colors much more than complex ones, and they like saturated colors more than tints or shades. They generally don't like brown, but they do like a rich, medium blue.

    So...not only have the merchandising you know whats who are causing the downfall of civilization created a perceived need for the middle classes to keep up with fashions in furnishings practically unheard of since the upper gentry all over Europe felt compelled to reproduce the court of Louis XV, now they want to reinvent childhood as some effete, tortured poor little rich kid environment with no love, joy or even entertainment. Did you notice that even the few toys are desaturated too? And almost all of them are put too high for the kids to actually play with?

  • plllog

    Typo. Meant XVI.

    I looked up RH. It's not affiliated with Pottery Barn. Just snagged PB's former president for their CEO. PB is owned by W-S.

  • marcolo

    Great. You made me go look up the RH kids' collection.

    Playdate with Death.

  • Circus Peanut

    Curious about the RH children's aesthetic, I took a look, and good lord, indeed. Those bedrooms are tailor-made for the personality-disordered mother in suburban Connecticut who's convinced her daughter is really Anastasia.

    For kicks, here's a shot of my current new-old window replacement project: vinyl on the left, re-replacement wooden sash on the right. Sandyponder, I agree with you: these two windows are exactly the same size -- who on earth would deliberately choose the left-hand version?
    (And that's the corner of my 1960's Henredon sofa in its third iteration of orange mohair velvet. I just ... can't ... help ... myself. Plllog, no fear on the reupholstering: I do it all by hand and wouldn't ever let anyone else touch it.)

    Which brings me to: what do folks do when they want durability and good design, but have no money? They learn to do it themselves. I could never afford to have my pieces reupholstered professionally, nor my windows replaced by an expert. But I can't stand living with ugly.

    In our current socio-economy, what are the options? 1) Luck into antiques that don't need maintenance, or 2) start teaching oneself the trades. Lots of trades. The internet has become a veritable trade school. No matter what I've taken up, from tiling to trim carpentry to upholstery, there is bound to be a forum somewhere with a crusty old guy named Bob who will walk me through the paces. But how long can Bob afford to do this?

    I've lived in Europe off and on for years, and one thing that always puzzled me was the guild system for the trades: I thought it was hide-bound and socially rigid, just a medieval throwback. But the more I see what has happened to our country with its own rigid ideological insistence on "college for everyone!", the more I realize the wisdom of state-supported trade schools. Craftspeople in this country have little training and even less respect. Craftspeople in Europe have their own color overalls, a firm backing by the state, and the respect of homeowners everywhere.

    Bring back the guilds, I say! And let new house builders have the opportunity to hire skilled people who know what wainscoting or coped picture rail are, even though you can't buy them ready-made off the aisles of Home Depot.

  • lakeaffect

    Pistachio Range!


  • norlandian

    The RH in my neighborhood has recently closed. I've been wondering if it's an indication that the location was a problem, or whether their direction of the last few years has finally driven away enough customers.

    Two blocks up the street, a building is being renovated for what I'm told will be an Anthropologie. Having only a passing familiarity with their offerings, I was just looking through their website to see whether their slant is substantially different from the departed RH. I came across the Splayer Sofa (link below--sorry, I've never been able to embed any but my own photos), designed to look like the upholstery job was only half completed.

    Can someone explain this sofa to me? Is it an example of the "embrace of decrepitude" marcolo accused RH of upthread? Otherwise, I'm stretching to try to come up with an explanation. Is it about blatantly showing the handwork of the maker? A statement that the underlying structure is more important than a polished surface? An allegory about life being an unfinished process?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Splayer Sofa

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    If the proverbial "starving artist" found that sofa on the curb in Williamburg outside a Kravet sweatshop, then carried it up their 4story walk up and draped it with a suzani yurt blanket they got while backpacking in Turkmenistan, it would be fabulous.

    But trying to mass produce quirky, character and a good story doesn't work. If it had a real story, I'd put it in my home. To buy it on line ... Embarassing

  • lakeaffect

    And here I thought the "Playdate with Death" (love that) baby furniture was beyond the pale, a sofa with strings hanging off of it for $6500+-? I guess I am so old and downmarket that I can't see spending that much on even a *finished* sofa, let alone one that looks like it recently graced a shooting gallery with a resident feral cat population.

    mnerg, perhaps it's a apocryphal tale about what having too much money does to your sensibilities.


  • mtnrdredux_gw

    That is a lovely kitchen. From the glimpse, it appears to fit the house very well. I love the ceiling and fridge.

    Two missteps, in my book. Black hood is too heavy. And it looks like she tried to match the cabs to range, and it's a near miss ((at least in this light). It has to be spot on or a contrast ... Near miss looks odd to me. Spot on pretty tough going metal to wood.

  • harrimann

    The Splayer sofa is the exact same shape as my sofa which is a high quality early 70s sofa that (I thought) is in desperate need of new upholstery. Who knew I was so fashionable! All I need to do is tie some stings to it and I'm in business!

  • steff_1

    Great explanation on the Splayer sofa mtnrdredux. I enjoy Anthropologie and never miss a chance to walk through the store. Their displays always make me think and see ordinary things in new ways. It's the only chain retail space where I tell the associate who greets me that I just want to experience being in the space and they always understand. The best new ideas outside of the local art and resale shops district.

    The pistachio range looks great and that's pretty kitchen. Agree that the "matching" cabinets are a miss. I do like them though and thinking pistachio is the new turquoise.

  • palimpsest

    I think things like the Splayer sofa have their place. I don't think at $6500 it will be too mass market. I wouldn't buy it myself...

    It's kinda like the furniture with the blowtorch finish or the guy who creates the sofas & chairs with "duct tape" rapairs on them that are actually metallic leather. Its deconstructionism or nihilism without the smell of cat pee (or the dead baby rats falling out of the bottom--true story). It's creating a history of some sort for itself, just not an upscale one. Anybody who buys reproduction antiques or lives in a new house built in a historical style is creating a history that isn't as real as the real thing, so I think this is similar.

    Almost all modern fashion starts from street culture. You are wearing the cleaned up adult version of what some 25 year old in NYC LA London or Tokyo was wearing 5 years ago.

  • kitchendetective

    Slightly OT.
    About that pistachio range: Has anyone seen that color in person? I covet it, at least the way it looks in photos, except that I want it in the "companion" version. However, I associate "pistachio" with more of a parrot green color than the aqua look in the photo. Could it be one of those colors that always photographs a specific wrong way? BTW, the designer of that kitchen said that the owner always wanted that range, but that the cabinet color was designed to blend, not match. Defensive or true or both? 'Dunno, but they used Ben Moore Everglades paint, thinned down to be used as a stain so as to expose the wood grain. I suspect it works better IRL than in the photographs. The black tile for the hood was chosen to match the black range top. I think they could have found a way to integrate the range top color with a lighter touch. Overall, although I'd change a few things about that kitchen, I do adore it!

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    If you look in the description, stuffed dead baby rats to go with it are available on line only.

    I can't help it, i really like Anthropologie. I think they sell what I would have bought at the Pasadena flea market a decade ago if i were hip and had a "good eye". I am not in Pasadena and not hip and better at mimicing other's good taste.

  • palimpsest

    I like the slight "offness" of that kitchen, but I tend to like things just a bit off kilter instead of dead on.

  • lakeaffect


    In the mag pics I think it looks more "Tiffany" blue than the pale, kinda, sorta minty green that I associate with pistachio.


  • harrimann

    IKEA sells stuffed baby (and adult) rats. I'll have to get a few for my sofa.

    I like that the pistachio range doesn't quite match the cabinets and I like that the navy in the backsplash in not the color one would expect to see there, but I'm not into matchy-matchiness.

  • Fori

    No, I'm wearing what I was wearing 5 years ago. :P

    Some of the RH kid stuff would be nice. In small amounts. But they just do themselves in by assembling rooms of the garbage. They need to plop a depressing greige crib in a meadow and photograph it there where it can be pretty. It WOULD be pretty in a typical baby's room with bright colors and Huggies boxes scattered about.

    I suppose they used caucasian children as their models so that the grey cast would show better on their skin. Really well thought out. I would have thought they'd try to appeal to their consumers by mixing up the toys a bit--let the girl have a lion on her wall instead of a crown perhaps--but I would have thought wrong.

    That beatup sofa...I'm guessing they have none in stock and would fall over in shock and amusement if anyone placed an order. Sort of like a concept car at the Detroit auto show. (Think Ford Nucleon.) I hope it's advertised in Cat Fancy, cuz I think a cat would fancy it quite a bit.

    But now I'm going to go paint an accent wall. It's going to turn into a regular matching wall. Let's just say that's why I'm wearing old clothes. And people, before you paint a small chunk of wall over your fireplace Aggie maroon, think! Don't do it!

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    "What I was talking about is when they shoot current (or at least post-1970) movies on good quality film that holds color well in washed out tones overlaid with golden brown lighting to give you a sense of pre-WWII, 20th century America."

    Yes, plllog, I was agreeing with you and making a comparison to the original (bright) vs. contemporary (washed out) versions of 1930s sets. But apparently not very well!

    "there is bound to be a forum somewhere with a crusty old guy named Bob who will walk me through the paces. But how long can Bob afford to do this?"

    And how much longer will he be alive? Maybe this is why RH thinks we should embrace decrepitude, with their help, now.


  • marthavila

    KD-- I've seen Aga's pistachio color in IRL. It is definitely more pale yellow-green, pistachio-like than the blue-green that is coming across my monitor.

    That Splayer couch reminds me of a trained artist who is struggling to reclaim the energy that once drove his or her primal, unforced initial attempts at artmaking. The irony of their resulting work is that it becomes a clash of masked intent versus raw spirit which typically ends up looking fake and trite. Then, the dealer gets in the game, markets it as an exotic new find worthy of big ducats. Yeah, right.

  • marcolo

    That couch reminded me of a rich girl I knew in the late '80s, who spent about $900 per outfit on Newbury street to look punk. She didn't. She looked fake.

  • plllog

    Oh, great. It's not bad enough that we have to sully de Saussure's name with Derrida's brush, but now we have to have nihilistic sofas??

    I'd actually like the Anthropology sofa if it were part of a set piece. It works as small "a" art. But like runway clothes that look clownish when real people insist on wearing them in the real world, this is dumb looking as something for a real home. I get the anti-sleek, but there are plenty of rat free used sofas to be had in the world. Merchandising decrepitude to the middle class is just obnoxious.

    I suppose this is what naturally comes after distressing. The whole point of distressing is that the vendors and movers don't have to do as good a job. In the '70's, my mother refused to pay extra for the distressing (in her haughtiest voice she informed them that she had children for that). Now you have to pay extra--even on made to order--to forgo the distressing because they have to make it look good and actually apply craftsmanship. OTOH, the Splayer sofa requires some extra for the strings and all, hence the price that's a bit high for A's target market.

    Marcolo--you were right about accessorizing The Fall. leather sofa which got an irreparable tear in the back two moves ago is actually the height of chic now? Especially with the worn area that looks dirty from too many man-naps?

    There are a lot of other people showing pale neutrals, but not the wispy dead ones of RH. Even the Splayer sofa has some richness in the color. I've seen some rich, neutral linen linens, and some desaturated darks which still have color to them. It is possible to do this without going all "Playdate with Death".

    Fori, good point about the grey children. I have to admit, when I was flipping through the rooms I mostly noticed their total absence, and averted my eyes from the ones who were there. Usually, the model draws your eye in, right? These rooms made me want to turn away from the poor children who were stuck in them.

    Ordinarily, I'd say RH were doing a good job just because they got us talking about them. And Fori found a few things in the kids catalog that were worth consideration. I found two things in the general tome (the Belgian floor lamp and the wrongly proportioned but useful looking trunk desk). Would any of us actually be tempted to actually buy these things? Mere toleration isn't enough. Do you think there are people who are buying them? Besides the totally colorblind who feel good knowing that they can put dust colored, dung colored and dirt colored together and not have them clash? Will people buy knowing that used stable bedding has more visual richness?

  • plllog

    Oh! Sorry, Becky. My misunderstanding. Yes, they used to make beautiful sets!

    MV--totally!! Your description and Marcolo's define the same aesthetic. Sometimes, refined "fake" can be pretty spectacular, but fake fake is just fake. You don't think the designer of the Splayer cut his teeth in Jeff Koon's art factory? And doesn't quite get the joke? (Best anti-Whartonizing art out there is Koons in his prime!)

  • kitchendetective

    Thanks, Marthavila. Although now I'm a bit disappointed. I suppose asking for color swatches or RAL equivalents is the next step.
    Marcolo, "Playdate with Death" may just be the next movement, PWD for short.

  • dianalo

    The kitchen with the pistachio range would look better without the delft tile. The pattern is way too busy for me, esp. repeated as it was. I like something more mellow than visually busy.

  • marcolo

    There are two ways to be creative. Put something together. Or take something apart.

    We've been watching artists take things apart since Pollock started pissing paint on paper. Well, actually, before that, but you know what I mean and I liked the alliteration. We've deconstructed this and that, made things too big, too small, taken them out of context, turned them inside out, shown the underpinning, masked the underpinnings, distressed them, regressed them and undressed them, and now we're outright shredding them.

    Enough already. I get it. I got it decades ago. It's no longer edgy or hip or eye-opening. We've been there, done that, read the book, saw the movie, rented the Blu-ray, played the game, bought the T-shirt, downloaded the mp3. And now we're done.

    But no--the merchandisers want to just keep going. Eventually they'll have us living in piles of actual dung.

    What I liked about steampunk is that it was both taking things apart and putting them together at the same time, in an inventive way. Not totally original, but better than what we've been seeing. That's why RH had to destroy it.

    Once, Gothic and Georgian and Victorian and Deco all had to be invented. People were capable of creating entirely new styles, then give them the cohesion and vocabulary that any of us can recognize today, whether we're looking at a whole building or just a cabinet knob. Not any more.

    I think this is related to the radical narcissism of our culture. We want to play at being "bad" boys and girls because somewhere out there daddy will take care of us and make sure all of our needs are provided for. Adults don't behave this way. If you're a grown-up, you don't get pleasure from seeing things destroyed, because you paid for them--and there is nobody else you can turn to to fix or replace them. You don't act like total disorder is fun because you know if you don't bring order to the world, no one will.

  • marthavila

    Nah, Plllog, I don't get that the designer is a Koons mentee. Not quite enough banality here to suggest that. (Maybe some tribal war shield pillows would've hinted differently.) Instead, as I look at his colors, textures, draped string, etc, my guess is that he's just trying to look accidentally casual in channeling some South African bush influences, (minus bold patterning of course), and then marketing it to a Euro aesthetic. Which again, imho, is looking too forced in its execution to be regarded as $7k worth of "serious" work.

  • chiefy

    As someone with absolutely no design background, this thread has truly been a fascinating read.

    The RH baby catalog is so completely depressing. As someone who's 4-month old lives in a technicolor Lorax room, I couldn't stomach that pale, bland washed out look.

    And I'm so glad that I get to go home and take the slipcovers OFF the upholstered chairs that the cats have scratched down to the wood - they're actually stylish!

  • Fori

    Didn't cats recently become the most common household pet? Maybe this can all be blamed on CATS.

  • plllog

    Ooooh!! Technicolor Lorax is exactly the kind of color scheme kids actually like. I'm not so sure about what babies like, per se, because the only measures we have is what they're drawn to or stimulated by, but surely by the time the baby is thoroughly interacting with the room, he/she will have grown into it. :)

    MV, a lot of people disagree with me on Koons, but I remember when he got started and his art was all about separating rich folks from their money for overprice crap. He employed his experience as a commodities broker to realized he could manipulate the art market and make a killing. So he employed a bunch of young folks to churn out the crap, signed it, and put outrageous prices on it. I thought it was brilliant performance art. :) I actually like a lot of his stuff as art, too, but it's hard to grow up and maintain that subversive edge and, like many successful artists, he's repeating himself.

    What I meant about the designer of the Splayer sofa (named for the act of pinning pickled frogs for dissection? Or for the friend of a friend who reduces one's furniture to that state through being too wasted to go home and slpaying himself, and his putrid excrescences all over it) is that he must have had that same idea of pulling one over on the buying public and been giggling over the idea of what absurdities he could pull off at a $6500 price point.

    Marcolo said it very well.

    And again, to cite a nationally known look, I'll refer to the Novogratzes. Their designs are very now. Much more so than anything the chains are selling. And there's not a shred to be seen. They do a lot of Lorax-chic, too, which makes sense given they have a whole flock of kids, but while they may deconstruct things, they do so with complete finishes and polish.

    Come to think of it, I never had much use for bad boys, I never bought distressed jeans, but let them fade and fray through use to get "good", and I never slashed my clothes, though would sometimes wear things that self destructed. And I kept the ripped sofa... It's one thing to accept the natural decay, and another thing to fake it. It bothers me when museums conserve ephemeral art. Yeah, they spent big on it (silly them!) but the decay is part of the art, and conserving it is just as destructive and idiotic as when they turned off Niagara Falls to reverse erosion because tourist dollars are more important than nature.

    I think maybe we need to look to the kids to find the adult design? A lot of students are using resins and other very sleek, polished materials (thinking of Palimpsest's interest in new vernaculars following new materials) to create mufti-functional, sleek, living units. A lot of post-Transformers stuff. If you look at the art they're doing, as well, it's polished, colorful, and figural. The boomers might still be waiting for Daddy to fix it, but the kids are all right. :)

  • palimpsest

    Marcolo I think you are right about the level of self-absorption in our society but on the flip side of that is the increasing awareness the the world is not our oyster to be exploited to the fullest, and exploitation was ---pathognomonic, practically--- of the boisterously inventive Victorians. Their lack of empathy (poverty was a lack of self discipline), and ostentatious displays of wealth, imo, outstrip ours. But it was still a wildly creative period. Because everybody embraced all the advances in technology

    People just don't embrace the technologies that're developing now, not within residential settings. We could have liquid crystal temperature sensitive floor and wall coverings if we wanted them (think mood ring). People do amazing sculptural things with simple things like Corian, but most people turn their noses up at things that "feel like plastic" --It is plastic: what is it supposed to feel like? We could probably have tempur-pedic furniture to sit on, and plenty of digital sorts of things, but it seem to be something that not enough people want We have the technology to live in a house of fantastical shape a la Frank Gehry, but not enough people want that to bring the price within reason.

    Digital Media was supposed to be the next big art form, but it is so ubiquitous that people can't take it, or the people that create with it, very seriously. And unlike photography, which people assumed would supplant painting, it hasn't really forced other media into different directions, like photography did, pushing painting into impressionism and finally abstraction.

    And, so I think we are in a period like this, one of stasis, and of rehashing and reviving, of deconstructing and remuddling. I think on some level the creativity is there, but you won't do well creating things that people don't want.

  • marthavila

    I hear you completely on Koons! Point well taken. In responding, I guess I was being too literal in thinking only of what the work of a Koons mentee might look like and then deeming that couch short on sufficiently explicit kitsch. Funny thing is, though, as I thought it about it more -- I could see a couch like that in an appropriate context -- a game lodge, perhaps (i.e., in the bush, but remaining "above" the bush). But you know, as it's being hawked in Anthroplogie, that's exactly NOT where it's headed. lol.

    Confession: what I really need to do is go back to this thread from the beginning and then have the discipline to read through everyone's comments, point by point. The bit of selective reading I did do before jumping into this thread, turned up some really well thought out, fascinating stuff! Some great minds here, indeed. Thanks!

  • Gina_W

    I'm at the tail end here and haven't read the whole thread but will later. Just noticed the RH catalog mentioned and I have to get this off my chest - no really I just must...

    The RH style looks like the decrepit mansion of an ancient vampire, full of faded and threadbare old furnishings, creaking with disrepair. Cobwebs and dust in every corner and smelling of sour alcohol and cat puke.

    My copy went straight into the recycling bin. Blech.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    gina, a few times in my above replies I came close to mentioning what I came across earlier this week in my blog reading, so now here goes. And perhaps not so coincidentally in Belgium.

    What I wouldn't give for those kitchen ranges, though. I'd be willing to sit through the last instalment of Twilight with hordes of shrieking teenagers for those.

    PS I hope the thread will be continued with a Part II when it hits 150. Please...


    Here is a link that might be useful: the decrepit mansion of an ancient vampire

  • steff_1

    At least it's a real Belgian mansion and real deterioration.
    Those missing parquet floors probably ended up in a Faux Chateau somewhere.

  • harrimann

    I just looked at the RH children's site and I have two observations:

    1. I know the furniture is too posh for an Eastern Bloc orphanage, but that's what comes to mind when I look at the images.

    2. I have the Emilia tall dresser, but mine is an antique. I'm officially offended.

    I guess if RH has my dresser's evil twin, then the stuff doesn't look so terrible if taken out of context. I think it's the context that makes it so wretched. The last time I went into one of their stores, it was so dark it seemed like a CSI crime scene. (Why do they never use lights on that show?) It wasn't inviting. If you want to sell something, then make your store seem inviting. Likewise, the website creates the wrong context. Drab neutrals can be part of an inviting scene. The website doesn't present scenes that look inviting. People buy when they see a layout and think to themselves, "That's the life I want." Does anyone think that when they look at the RH images? When I look at the images, I feel that whoever lives there is neglecting something. Their children. The furnishings. The housekeeping. Something's off. That's not the life I want to live.

  • plllog

    All this talk of decay and decadence brings me back to this project, which is to humanize a living space that's proportioned, except for the average sized kitchen, along palatial lines, while leaving the open concept open. It's interesting that with all this marketing of the raw, this former industrial space is pretty polished. The concrete is clean and smooth (not really anything like Palimpsest's favorite Brutalism), the metals (trusses, stairs, catwalks, ducts, window frames) are smooth and painted an appealing white with a green cast, and are in great shape and don't need to be redone. These may be industrial relics, but very civilizedly so. The decadent part is the size of the space, especially for one person who is barely beyond being a "girl". Most urbanites would be comfy (well...cramped but content) in something the size of the mezzanine. Without the upper bits, it's basically a two bedroom, two bathroom, open concept apartment with a dining area, living area and kitchen. On steroids. Big time. :)

    The owner is confused by our discussion, as I've relayed some of the more interesting bits, but it's helped us focus on how to make the living room functional for more than cocktail parties. She doesn't want to divide the space, which would suck all the grandeur out of it, and she doesn't want conversation groups. Palimpsest's digital living gave me an idea which I thought was silly, but might be a go, for a central tower for media, rather than putting it against a wall. This must have been done before--it doesn't feel particularly original--but I think it would work. We talked about making it out of wood and hiding all the blackness of the equipment, but it would be awfully big and block the view. More honest and practical would be to have a central service column with all the cables and juice, and put lots of screens on swing arms, as well as media players and the like. Perhaps have smaller screens facing into the catwalks. It would sort of be an inside out control console crossed with the monolith from 2001. Or it could, I suppose, be made of of brass steam fittings and go all steampunk. :)

    Becky, I totally forgot about that place!! Thanks for linking it. I think its the Navajos who don't tear down old structures but let the earth reclaim them naturally. Seeing it done on a castle scale is offputting, however, to put it mildly. I used to know someone who had owned and lived in a castle--the real ancient fortress kind--for many years. It really sounds dreadfully uncomfortable, and one imagines that they do best as amusements for tourists.

  • plllog

    No go on the media column. Originally, there was only going to be TV in the master bedroom. Then there was the whole game day party question. Then, speaking of RH, in there was the idea of the easel which could be arranged to suit the seating rather than the seating to suit the TV, but talking about black holes! I knew she wouldn't actually like to have that. The steampunk brass column might have flown if it wouldn't have required steampunk encasements for the equipment, because of the whole blackness thing. I thought the combination of today's electronics with the steam valves would have been an interesting juxtaposition. Too interesting for the client.

    So, the easel doesn't have to be RH, right?

    Too messy and real looking. The brand new easel is too "student" looking (not that students can afford brand new easels).

    Comes this projector by David Riesenberg. Palimpsest's new materials design. It's "semi monocoque carbon fiber". Too bad it's just a concept! Some kind of movable projector might be the answer.

    Rather than going spendy on a whole system just for entertaining sports obsessed men, considering how light monitors are now, it might be better to put in a satellite/wi-fi service with multiple channels, and do bring your own screen parties. Not sure where this is going yet...

  • Circus Peanut

    "I think this is related to the radical narcissism of our culture. We want to play at being "bad" boys and girls because somewhere out there daddy will take care of us and make sure all of our needs are provided for. Adults don't behave this way. If you're a grown-up, you don't get pleasure from seeing things destroyed, because you paid for them--and there is nobody else you can turn to to fix or replace them. You don't act like total disorder is fun because you know if you don't bring order to the world, no one will."

    But we're not even bad boys and girls any more, gleefully smashing guitars. Now we are simply bereft gray little orphans.

  • Circus Peanut

    Plllog, now that we've reached 150 posts, I think you should do the honors of creating Trendy Discussion, Part the Second.

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