Pecking for crumbs in this crummy economy, we as designers are reduced to begging for one-size-fits-all, if we're lucky, of taupey linen-look swatches. Yes, I am like a magpie, flitting hither and yon, scouring the landscape for bits of flotsam and jetsam with which to feather my clients' nests. That it has come to thumbing the various high style catalogues available to everyone and anyone has me stupefied. I marvel at design that was formerly available only to a select few, now being offered at bargain basement prices. As an elitist snob since birth, this is a new twist for me to adapt to. But adapt I will, to survive, because at heart, democracy and equality has always been my clarion call.
The deafening chorus of clients cry "Cheap, cheap, cheap!" And they want it "Now, now, now!" China, India, and Viet Nam are ever ready to heed the call. Where did it all begin? About 30 years ago, I wager.
I could look to the democratizing of interior design with such pioneers as Philippe Starck. And then Michael Graves started designing for Target, too, and who else did I see there recently but Marcel Wanders! Martha Stewart embraced K-Mart of all places. That doyenne of taste-making jump-started the do-it-yourself business that has culminated in such phenoms as HGTV. These names of sophisticated, functional design are now on the tips of tongues of millions. How could I complain about everyone finally singing in tune? How could I complain about a chicken in every pot?
First IKEA store in Sweden, opened 1958
IKEA, has been at the forefront since 1943. Today it is the largest furniture retailer! This is a brand that oozes high design with unbelievably low price points. The multitudes can have an extremely stylish interior for next to nothing.
It's a brave new world. And one of disturbing extremes when the great divide between the rich and the poor becomes greater and greater and the middle class erodes on both sides. The bible of interior design I would say is Architectural Digest. Though started in 1920, it was a stodgy quarterly publication that didn't garner much general interest until Paige Rense took over as editor in 1971. I remember being completely converted to the field of interior design as a career choice when I first got hold of an issue, and no, it wasn't in a black plastic cover! It is amazing that peons are permitted to enter into palatial homes where cost is not an issue. Art and antiques alone shoot into the stratosphere. These are interiors, furnishings, and designers that the catalogues try to copy on the cheap.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? And this barn sells a lot more than pottery! Though started in 1950, it wasn't until GAP purchased it in 1986 that a lifestyle brand was created and a whole new game plan for interior design.
And then there is RH. When the "new look" of the catalogue came out a few months ago, I was shocked. The Dutch have invaded and conquered!
Restoration Hardware in St. Louis during remodeling
I felt taupe-i-fied when I walked into the new St. Louis store. Gone were the little gimcracks and knickknacks. It looked very much like it was trying to be a designer showroom, but open to the masses. I was wanting to purchase some gray towels, but was thrown off by the taupe ricocheting around. Taking them to a window for the natural light allowed me to see the real color.
Bottom line, all this stuff in the catalogues looks great in their fantasy stage-sets, but how do you put it together in your own home? How do you coordinate a design concept appropriate to your home's architecture, evaluate scale, do a floor and lighting plan, harmonize textures and colors, put in the right art and accessories, and personalize it as well? How do you make it look like you didn't just order the Sears #5 Living Room?
At the end of the day, I say, you still need a good designer to put it all together.