To Trend Or Not To Trend
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about trends in Interior Design.
A trend, by definition, whether it is apparel design, product styling or even the “colour d’jour” is a reflection of what seems to be happening at any given time. Trends are what people are talking about in our interactions with one another and a part of our changing behavior in a dynamic society. And they can be an indicator of our social and cultural values.
For those in the interiors profession, we often see design trends emerge in trade magazines but in reality, they are frequently editorialized, thinly-veiled promotions of products, heralded by a faux-celebrity as the best thing since sliced brocade. Some trends will have a short shelf life if they don’t quickly gain acceptance by the design community even before the public can be exposed to the product. Such is the roller-coaster nature of trendy design.
So why do people follow design trends?
Trends are embedded in our culture. I think it is fair to say that all of us are drawn to something that is new or novel, things that provide a feeling of wellbeing. We all feel the need to be a part of a bigger something. For some, we can be influenced by a bit of peer pressure. For others, myself included, we may think of ourselves as early trend adopters and as such, we want to be ahead of the pack.
But as our homes are the largest single investment we make and to enhance that investment, one’s interior shouldn’t be subject to the whims of what is most popular at any particular moment.
Case in point is the current trend to “stage” an interior that appears to be ripped out of a page of the May, 1961 issue of Life Magazine. Perhaps this retro Mid-Century mania, encouraged by TV shows like Mad Men combined with a touch of good, old-fashioned nostalgia, could be one of the factors driving this au courant trend.
Mid-century design, for what it was at the time, was very innovative and quite progressive. The style grew in popularity in residential and commercial design by bringing a cost-effective, modernist approach to America's post-war suburbs, certainly influenced by the International Style and Bauhaus movements of the early 20th Century. Fussy, hand-carved design gave way to simplified mass-produced furnishings and built-in storage became a must-have in every interior.
Many great and significant design lessons came out of that baby boomer era that we still live with today: simple, uncomplicated lines, spaces that blended indoors with the out and introduction of new technology that boggled the mind like micro-wave cooking. And it taught many folk how to live with without excess clutter.
But avocado green appliances, electric orange pole lamps, and form-fitting chairs covered in aqua “bullet-proof” Herculon fabric were simply not good design then nor now. Yet amazing to me, there are individuals today who relish in staging such interiors with a vengeance, cruising consignment stores every weekend and endless shopping the Internet for inferior Made-In-China knockoffs, resulting in a space that is a cross between George Jetson and George Nelson, uncluttered to be sure but sparse to a point of dysfunctional cartoon-like minimalism.
Staged design, be it Mid-Century, Ranch or Spanish Revival, is just not for homes. It is for movies, TV and theatre,… or perhaps an Air BNB vacation rental for someone to indulge in for a few days, a time-capsule, glamorized fantasy of what it might have been like to live in Mad-May, 1961.
√ NEW TREND FOR 2016
So with the coming new year, I propose a new approach, a fresh design trend, a classic modern theme for this century.
And I call it “Authentic Design” …or AD for short and there are three components of AD.
•First and foremost, an AD interior is the careful assembly of a space that is an honest reflection of ourselves as individuals, defining our preferences, expressing our personalities, and mirroring our experiences. And it doesn’t look like anyone else’s home environment.
•Second,... AD interiors are a collected look, bringing together pieces from many design themes and eras into an integrated whole. This is the backbone of timeless interiors. Scale and shapes are complimentary to one another while creating a highly visual concept.
•Lastly, ...AD is successful as it permits the space to function as intended, one that supports our human endeavors within the built environment providing both safety and security while enhancing one’s comfort.
So in my humble opinion, Authentic Design is THE classic power statement of interiors. Enough with living – and designing - seven decades in the past. And trust me. The only authentic glam thing in May of ‘61 was when Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Now that was Mid-Century Modern.
11/8/2015 08:37:16 pm
Michael... you have certainly hit the nail on the head with just the right hammer. These people who think that mid century modern is the slickest trend are fooling themselves. All that furniture made during the 50s and 60s was mass produced without consideration for quality and durability. Good that you have spoken up about this ridiculous trend. Good job.
Michael Thomas, FASID
11/8/2015 08:56:38 pm
Thank you Barbara for your view point. Mid Century has a place in time... but it shouldn't be considered the ONLY kind of trend. It just happens to be going main-stream at the moment.
11/8/2015 08:45:59 pm
I was a bit amused by your blog on trends. I am a baby boomer and grew up with all that mid-century furniture. And while I can appreciate living in a bit simpler kind of home, it isn't very practical. I look that those pictures of MCD interior rooms and wonder what they do with all their clutter. -->GET a life. In fact, GET a home that can accommodate how much clutter we have in our lives. That is just a part of this life in this century. BTW... enjoy your blog and follow what you have to say on Facebook.
Robert + Steve
11/8/2015 08:52:59 pm
I can tell you exactly what makes mid century houses so popular. Its the Realtors that have been pushing outdated, antiquated homes that should have been torn down than remodeled during an era when the marketplace slowed down in 2007 and 08. I see these homes that are being sold now for half a million with only 1200 square feet and I am blown away by the audacity of homeowners who stage their home like it was "Leave It To Beaver" and the Realtors advocating a life style that most never actually lived. I am glad you made this point but think you were much too kind. Mid century was just another page in the book of time and wasn't meant to be such a design trend. --Robert
11/14/2015 09:40:58 am
Robert... thank you for your post to the blog. Indeed, most of the individuals advocating a mid-century lifestyle were not even born yet. They did not grow up in that culture and have no life experiences that came out of that era. But for some who want a vacation rental property, it is probably the thing to do if it is in Palm Springs. Tourists do enjoy making believe they are living in 1961. And that's not a bad thing necessarily ... only if you are attempting to live it for real 24/7/365.
Ann and Dave
11/14/2015 09:34:09 am
Michael... like always, you have a great perspective on trends and we are so glad we stopped into your showroom and met you. The design you did for our home is modern without being sterile, functional and with out being stuffy. We thought we wanted mid-century but so glad you took us into a different path. Many thanks for your hard efforts. It really paid off for us. --Annie.
11/14/2015 09:37:18 am
Annie... Thank you for the post. Your design project was amazing in part because of you and Dave. But it was also because you had the belief in wanting something that was more authentic and less like a stage set from Mad Men. Thank you. Thank you. ;-)
11/14/2015 09:18:34 pm
Great article Michael.... I think your idea of authentic design should be the next big trend. Good design shouldn't be about what's the next big thing but for some, they live and breath stuff like that. Keep up the good design work. Enjoy seeing your new photos, too.
11/18/2015 06:59:42 am
As an interior designer myself, I always enjoy what you have to say about design. You continue to show your leadership of the profession and your thoughtful ideas about all things "design." Many thanks.
11/18/2015 07:41:51 am
Sandy... you are very kind. Creating spaces that function but also look good has always been a passion even when I was growing up. Thank you for your comments.
Robert + Daniel
11/22/2015 09:15:01 am
I like the concepts of Authentic Design... makes so much sense. Good job.
12/5/2015 07:56:44 am
I want to say that Michael Thomas is amazing when it comes to figuring out what needs to be done in a home. He is logical and thoughtful and is respectful of his client's needs. The work he did for my partner and I is something that we would have never been able to do for ourselves. It is practical while still great looking. Just wanted you to know that, Michael. Looking forward to the next phase of work.
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Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.