Fashions in clothes change in the blink of a blogger’s eye, but trends in interiors move on more of a continental drift time frame. You don’t quite notice it happening and then suddenly it becomes clear that a major sea change has taken place.
For ages the dominant theme was the shabby chic aesthetic beloved of my generation. I can still remember the moment I clocked the window of Cath Kidston’s first shop in Holland Park, which my best pal and fellow junk shop buccaneer had specially taken me to see.
I was rendered speechless, looking at a display which was almost identical to my own kitchen. Exactly the same red and white china flour and sugar cannisters, a basket identical to the one I keep potatoes in, blue and white Cornishware and many other items I’d sniffed out in dusty corners of jumble sales, boot fairs and bric a brac shops over the years.
The feel was nostalgic for kitchens of the 1950s – not the shiny Chevrolet, diner 1950s, but the British provinces of that era. A world of potato mashers with painted green wooden handles, flowery tea cups and embroidered tablecloths. A utopian lost land from just before I was born…
I was half thrilled, half horrified that Ms Kidston had found a way to market it, quickly becoming full horror as the style filtered down the consumer food chain until every mass market store had tacky made-in-China versions of my lovingly curated bits of junk. (And when it has even hit nail art, you know a look is over…)
By then I’d moved on (in every room apart from the kitchen), into my version of Kelly Wearstler’s fabulous LA aesthetic, feeling marvellously vindicated in my choice of enormous Chinois table lamps and yellow glazed chintz curtains with white pom pom trim, when I stumbled upon her seminal book Modern Glamour.
Meanwhile a new interiors genre had popped up by the same organic mechanism as shabby chic – the generation younger than mine was nostalgic for the early 1970s, as I had been for the 1950s, and their Cath Kidston was Orla Kiely.
That geometric world of mustard and sage green (it has always looked like caravan curtains to me) has joined Cath Kidston in the mass market and a new style has now emerged, generated by the next generation to rise up to home owning age – which is how this works, I now realise.
This is a return to the cherished junk sensibility I relate to – loving the soul in things which have been used and become more interesting with wear. That was a large part of shabby chic, but this takes it to another level, treasuring things which are fully grubby and broken with age.
Bare brick walls are a big part of it, copper is the metal of choice. Wood is grainy and unpainted, old upholstery is left in ragged situ and the ideal wall finish is multiple layers of old wallpaper and paint. Mirrors must be well foxed. Vintage industrial pieces (preferably rusty) are highly sought after and stuffed birds de rigeur.
Random feathers, coral, shells, skulls, bones, lengths of rusty chain and bits of old rope are ideal ornaments. Books should be falling apart at the seams. Ragged old flags are must have wall hangings. Old lampshades can dangle in an unlikely places. Electrical cables are of the plaited silk variety and on show. And you can do a lot with an old ball string.
I call it Beyond Patina and I do rather love it. In its purest form it can make me feel a little queasy (I’m not keen on actual dirt and I can’t bear taxidermy), but I like it all the more for that. I want to be shocked by the new.
The poster girl for Beyond Patina is Sydney’s own Sibella Court (and all the images in this section are her work). It will take a while for her full-on aesethetic to filter down (and while I love her work, I was heartily repulsed by the filthy collar of an old Chinese jacket featured in one of her books) but it will happen.
Copper is already emerging as a strong trend in entry level light fittings and I predict it’s only a matter of time until you can buy wallpaper printed to look like layers of old wallpaper and paint. Maybe you already can.
Which is your preferred decorating era?
PS. This is a good opportunity to introduce you to my very beloved friend, the interiors stylist Hilary Robertson.
Hils’ style is to me the very best combination of Modern Glamour with Beyond Patina. Here is one picture of a beautiful shoot the New York Times did of her Brooklyn apartment. You can see the rest here
And her own website is here. http://hilaryrobertson.com/ABOUT/1/
She’s one to follow on Instagram too.