Monday, June 16, 2008

Is it all too much?



So, I was emailing a bloggy friend about decor and asked,

When you see this (photo above) do you think this looks eclectic or unedited? I think there is this whole "anything goes" thing happening now. And I kind of like that it looks a bit "collected" and not matchy-matchy, but do you think it's gone too far? When I see Peter Dunham rooms, there is a coziness that I love, but overall, it just seems like a mess. What do you think?

To which, this friend responded,

"You’ve tapped into something I’m a little embarrassed to admit: I’m not a fan of eclecticism. I can take, and even like, a sleek Barcelona chair next to a rough Moroccan wool rug, say, but then I don’t want to see a Depression-era butter churn and a Philippine rattan ottoman and a ‘60s-mod fabric thrown into the mix. I admire the bravery of it all, but I don’t like it. For me it’s painful.

I guess I like Peter Dunham’s rooms because they are confident, but that’s about it.

I wonder how many rooms we see today are actually the result of the decorator’s try to stave off his own boredom, rather than present something that the client will really relish."



The images above are certainly not worst offenders. There are things I enjoy about both rooms, and that Ruthie room is pretty bullet-proof. But you get the idea. Who thought after the stripped-down aesthetic of the 90s that we would be putting gilded sconces, David Hicks fabric (on a traditional sofa, no less), and ornate mirrors in a white-washed beach house and calling it a day?

So what do you guys think? The whole decade of design seems to be (or have been, since it's almost over) a kind of reaction against the strictness of the Liagre crowd. But have we gone too far?

What are your design predictions for the next decade?

47 comments:

birdy said...

Honestly, I don't know. I think some rooms can go to far, but then sometimes I see an over the top room and love it (like Johnson Hartig's apartment, http://habituallychic.blogspot.com/2007/08/give-me-libertine-or-give-me-death.html).

Anonymous said...

Whoops, that link didn't work . . .

let me try again:

Johnson Hartig's Apartment.

Anonymous said...

Eclectic is a difficult style to pull off and I agree that sometimes (or often) less is more. On a personal level I am a bit of a minimalist or at least prefer to keep it simple with something special here and there. I want my home to be calm and relaxing and when there is too much going on that is just not the case for me.
I like decor mags and pictures, but not the over styled look where I always ask myself 'does actually someone live there?!'. They might be good to get inspiration from, but honestly I wouldn't want my home to look like that. It would be like having a cup of tea watching Gossip girl and wearing a deux-piece or a suit and tie. Not very comfortable.

Decor Fellow: James Saavedra said...

I think that sometimes we do not know when to stop. Perhaps just one more pillow will do the trick. You know? (After all,we have all been guilty of gilding the lilly--I have.) Constantly we are told that a "collection" has greater strength than something in single or few so that may lead to overdoing it. For the most part, I think the reason we are seeing these rooms filled to the gills is that we have had such a need to see the individual who in habits the space and in an instant world-- want to be able to pick up on their "story" in a matter of seconds. Which I think is more difficult to do in a pretty and pristine room. And to a greater extent, the need to "be different".

I give props to those who can manage to make a visual master piece from ten thousand flea market picture frames. It is certainly an art. Is it my style or taste--not really.

In the years to come I think we will continue to see this expression of the individual as well as its opposite--clean, modern, and simple. That will not change. What I think will increase in visibility and practice is how sustainability will be incorporated into these designs.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

It should be your OWN eclecticism, not that of a decorator. I mean, a decorator can help with the big items--sofa, dining table, sideboards, chairs, etc.--but the weird little touches that make a room eclectic: I think they should come from the homeowner.

If things are there because they're loved, they won't look so self-conscious and decorator-y.

Leslie (Reclaiming Miss Havisham) said...

First of all, it's never too much. Nothing is ever enough. I do however think that second picture is an example of hitting too many trends too hard at the height of their popularity. The taupe and robins egg blue along with the zebra rug is going to look very "I was reading Apartment Therapy in 2006" in about ten years

Anonymous said...

Case in point:

In that top photo, I would not have added the horse picture. It's one step over the line for me.

Mary T. said...

That room at the top *looks* designed. It looks like a spread from a West Elm catalog or something. I can't put my finger on it -- something about it looks staged, even though they're going for an eclectic appeal.

I am eclectic I guess myself, with a bent toward mid-century modern, just because I like oceans of little weird things and eclectic is the only way I can display them all. I know people who do wonderfuly well at pulling off this look -- better than me, even though I love my place. It does take a lot of dusting though. Eclectic to me = picking up what strikes your fancy and then moving things around in your house for awhile until things look right together. We do tend to stick with modern furniture though so it doesn't look like utter chaos.

I think the next design trend will be horrible '80s done in an ironic way and maybe who knows it might actually look fresh again like a certain '70s kind of look (think The Ice Storm) returned. I think suddenly everyone will be looking at peach and mauve and hunter green and teal in a new light.

Anonymous said...

Will it/has it age(d) well?
Period.
That's it.
The only question I ask when filling my house.
Cannot thrive around things/objects/crack fillers that parade fad & blatant temporariness.

Regardless of the twists & turns the media & designers PR reps (in all their trite & inane glory & "ThisIsTheCat'sAss" dartboard predictions) dangle to us, don't we call our own shots & art direct OUR personal tastes regarding design?

Forums like this really are the ultimate, un-phony in design twitter & the real harbinger of what's out there. A sublimely insightful, real way to learn.
Thank you for being YOU, Decorno!!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I hope less irony in decor. And fewer trend-du-jour objects ... but given our consumer society, I think that unlikely. I honestly think we're going to have a pendulum swing back to some more modern take on classic Anglophilia, that whole Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler thing, Nancy Lancaster, et al. It really is satisfying to the soul.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

That being said, I hope decoration can never be pigeonholed, whatever the era. Though eclecticism is difficult to pull off and often goes absolutely off the rails when attempted, I have to admire the effort. Just as I can admire the minimalism of John Pawson, though it would make me insane to live in it. So why does the emptiness of Tadeo Ondo's work please me so much?

Style Noir said...

I think what really disturbs people about these eclectic-by-design spaces is the inauthenticity.

For some of us-- I have a Filipino mother, a West African father, lived in Japan as a child, have been steeped in western aesthetics, blah, blah, yackety smackety-- eclecticism is very real, because it's life.

An eclectic style isn't something that can be "pulled off." It either is, or it ain't. And when it ain't, it's vomitous.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, Style Noir.

Anonymous said...

What made the decor in "The Ice Storm" so gruesome was that it was NOT ironic--that it was so straight-faced in its depiction of all that oafish '70s style. Ugh.

Tess said...

My thoughts...if a room is garish, I don't care who did it, I'm not going to like it. Just because you throw a lot of tasteless poop together, doesn't mean you're the new "it" designer. When I was a kid, I used to think "If Liz Taylor would just take off ONE piece of jewelry, she would look soooooo much better." Same thing.

thestamfordwife said...

I love an eclectic interior when it reflects the home owners personality. I feel the images posted lack that individuality. (If I see another zebra hide rug I think I'll scream - I don't mean to be a hater, but I'm over them) I love homes of any style of decor that have personality - if you're a little funky, a traveller, a collector or a vintage-aholic, I think that the eclectic look works.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering when someone was FINALLY going to say it - there's eclectic (which I love) and then there's eclectic on speed. I want my home to be a relaxing sanctuary not a headache-inducing mishmash of sensory overload. They're trying way too hard.

Anonymous said...

Well, clearly many of us were fed up with the stark taupe-filled minimalism of the 90s, and this almost rococo overabundance of pattern and Stuff is just the pendulum swinging back in the other direction.

I do like a wee bit of clutter and mix in decoration - stops things from looking too twee and matchy-matchy. I'm not an especially tidy person and having some colour and jumble in my decor creates a more forgiving environment for stacks of papers and sprinkling of children's toys here.

Also, for those of us who have sentimental attachments to things that don't necessarily fit in with our overall design aesthetic (think: inherited our darling grandmother's hulking oak armoire), eclectic allows us to use criteria beyond the Does This "go with" That to furnish our homes.

I remember in the late 80s/ early 90s, everyone trying to create a High Class Library seemed to have a globe, an antique-looking telescope, an african mask... it became utterly contrived and most items (or facsimiles thereof) were sold at the Bombay Company outlet store. The current "colourful and quirky and eclectic" is also starting to look equally contrived, and all too often seems to be entirely outfitted at Target and Pottery Barn (both stores are fine, but isn't the point of quirky supposed to be that it actually shows some of your personal... um... quirkiness?)

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I have a British friend who constantly reminds me of the difference between "styling" (creating a room that looks WOW in a photograph, which is so much of what we have now) and "decorating" (creating a room in which people can actually live elegantly and comfortably, which seems to be in such short supply).

jen said...

I have been annoyed by this design trend for a while now. And I hate that every design show on TV seems to promote ideas on how to achieve an eclectic look/style. I don't think that eclectic is an actual style. I think if it's done honestly, it sort of just happens without thinking about which pieces would go together to create an "eclectic look".
I'm a minimalist and unless I absolutely love something, it doesn't come into my house. Those photos are all too much. I would hope that design trends would gear toward less is more, but I highly doubt it.

perchance said...

My company (Australasia's answer to Crate & Barrel) has hired a new brand manager who's making a clean sweep of our product line. At a store planning meeting in three weeks, we learn the new direction and I can't wait! Right now, we're filled with a chock-a-block assortment of styles (shabby chic traditional, hard-edged shiny contemporary, Out of Africa, and desert Hippie) trying to please too many people. Check back on my blog around about July 5th or 6th for an update.

Matt J. said...

I agree with Mary T.: I think the "80's" done in a fresh way will be the new look in the near future. Kelly Wearstler's next project will probably have huge California scale sofa's and beige, beige, beige with large coolie shades on all the over-scaled lamps. Koch and Lowy lighting will be huge again!

Little Miss said...

It's interesting -- a similar discussion is brewing the 'strictly architecture' world, although I see many parallels to this discussion. There was a recent article released by the Harvard Graduate Design School about "The Return of Ornament". The architecture and ornament they're referring to is functional, not merely asthetic. However, I think that todays interior design, stylings, etc are an inevitable response to the pared down minimalism of the 90s -- but, at the same time, eclecctism as a "trend" is... frustrating.

I agree with the commmenter that collections, collecting in an 'honest' way is always visable in a persons space -- this juxtaposed with overly-styled spaces? You can tell. As can the readers here can also tell in terms of the pictures Decorno posted.

However, I also remember reading someone's commentary on the effortless grace that so many Europeans and their homes'seem to embody. They continued to say that this comes from the value they place on antiques - of reusing, recylcing, handing down, etc. They don't bide into the same "disposable decor" that so many of here do, and I believe, it shows.

Little Miss said...

But in terms of overly styled spaces -- it takes a lot of "stuff" to get something similar. I'm always amazed.

And I also _always_ think ---"damn, who is doing all that dusting?"

Christine in DC said...

When I see some of these rooms, I think "Okay, they photograph okay, but do they just look like a mess in real life?" For me, being a non-designer, it's the equivalent of a modernist painting where someone might think "I could do that." perhaps it's so deceptively difficult that I couldn't possibly understand it. Dunno.

Jean said...

Is it all too much? Yes. Yes, it is. Those are SUCH staged rooms!

I'd lose whatever mind I started out with in the room in the top photo; but take the fabric panels off the walls, lose the book(?) on the round table that matches the blue end table, and the whatever-it-is on the round table that matches the green in the flowers and replace them with something genuinely interesting, and you'd have a passable living space.

The room in the second photo is better, but it screams "Look how clever I am to match the chair stripes with the wall and the table and the dark floor and that finial-that-really isn't, and the zebra and and and." Also, lose the "ghost chairs." around the table.

Real eclectic doesn't look like that. You're right: it's a mess.

becky from hatch said...

Wow, such an interesting post, and such insightful comments!

Just like glamor followed grunge, I think eclectic comes as a backlash against strict minimalism.

I so agree with those who said that the eclectic should come from the person who lives there - hiring a designer to put a bunch of random objects around is just strange to me. I just wrote a post the other day laughing at this huge mask thing I saw in two different Peter Dunham rooms in two different mags in one month :) - you hit the nail on the head for me! Anyway, collecting a mix of objects from one's owns travels - that's cool.

What people are calling the eclectic look is VERY hard to pull off, and those top two examples just look like they are trying too hard to me. I think Ruthie Sommers does it very well, with her clients likes and dislikes in mind.

I think I've grown up with eclectic as lots of my parents' furniture was hand-me-down American antiques, furniture and accessories from relatives who lived in China, and their own new purchases in the 70s. I think it has to do with being a mix-master of what you have and what you like. That's when it succeeds for me. God knows I couldn't call this hodge-podge of disparate stuff all over my house anything but "eclectic."

Where's the line between "eclectic" and Grey Gardens?

becky

Anonymous said...

There's a decorator named Vicente Wolf (sp.?) who likes to use unexpected rough/ethnic pieces in an otherwise very polished, decorated room. Sometimes it works. But they're HIS pieces, HIS choices--they aren't something that the client found and fell in love with, so they end up looking like museum artifacts. It can be uncomfortable, looking at some of his rooms.

Anonymous said...

You would be surprised at what it takes to shoot a room for a magazine. Things are moved, brought in, etc. Which is not necessarily how the owner lives. The first picture is crazy...the second is actually quite pretty with a good balance.

katiedid said...

I have to disagree about Peter Dunham. I think if you visit his website portfolio, you might change your mind. His work is very liveable and seems much more personal and less over-the-top trendy than many designers. Now if your talking about that top photo (by Jay Jeffers)you could be on to something. But in Mr. Jeffer's defense, that particular house was designed for a skate board entrepeneur....so perhaps it fit the bill there.

Decorno said...

I saw the In Style feature of Jeffers work. Even for a skateboard guy and his Macy's-west apparel buyer/manager wife, well, that house didn't look like either one of those two. The house was/is the equivalent of discovering blue eyeshadow in your mom's make up bag when you're 7 years old and going completely nuts with it. :)

But you're right about Dunham... his rooms are lovely, and not this kind of multiple-personality-disorder that I allude to in this post, so he was a bad example. His rooms are just too... mature for me. No whimsy, no sex, no fun. It's all a tea party. Ick.

But you make an excellent point. I can't sweep Dunham into this post today. :)

Anonymous said...

Uh, I love Jay Jeffers and I love the Rad Pad skater punk home. If you look at the other pictures of the house featured on Jay Jeffers website, you'll see they're a bit more soothing and livable. I also love Wary Meyers, you can see their work at their website: http://www.warymeyers.com/interiordesign.html

I believe Wary Meyers use to design for Anthropologie. I love a mix, as long as the eye can rest a little. So many of the designer houses look like somebody's grandmother's house, I'm always glad to see something that looks different. And different means: no coral, no buddha, no zebra, no paint-by-number, no Barcelona chairs and so on.

Anonymous said...

the pictures you post seem to me to be filled with tomorrows yard sale - it all looks like they were trying to hard.
The only way any of this ever works or is appealing and we dont know why, is singularly due to style .
Not fashion or what's popular or what is on the pages of any mag anywhere . genuine personal style.
When what you have will add up and by virtue of the fact you picked it automatically work with the other bits - Quentin Crisp and Diana Vreeland were famous for it - seeing it, writing about it, and generously offered to share and teach others about it . Sadly most ignored the lesson and wanted what was /is popular- of course they never could "get it". Happily because it leaves them in the wake of those style.

Fifi Flowers said...

Looks like you too have a touch of animal stripe (rug)in your post too. I think these rooms are pretty "funky"! Better than matchy matchy... yuk!

THE BRICK HOUSE said...

Maybe I'm pretty design lame-o (most all those designer names being thrown around went right over my head - research research...) but I kind of love the first room.

Its bold, brash, and tongue in cheek hilarious. It does look super staged, (especially the stupid coffee cup on the chair - who would do that in real life?) but that weird horse painting on that wallpaper with the overly dramatic capiz shell light clinches it for me.

When eclectic allows itself some room to be funny and wonky, it works much better. Its entertaining to see people push the boundaries of bad taste.

I bet some more minimalism will be the reaction to all this pattern and color. People will par down, reconsider simple forms and texture and use tonal variations instead of super contrast. They will love "green" design, and buy less pieces to fight rampant consumerism.

I bet beige will be back. And seriousness. Seriousness, being green, and beige - thats the future.

Anonymous said...

Personal authenticity must be a component of successful eclecticism. Somehow to meld the old stuff we all have or have been given with our current acquisitions, avoiding chaos. Providing the perfect canvas is the key. I think this is where you call in the pros, if at all. They can help pull it all together, edit if necessary, and restore or create a cohesive whole.

Suzy said...

I agree with Style Noir, what I dislike more than anything about 'eclectic' interiors is stuff bought - as apposed to collected - because its in style (i.e. Cambodian ceremonial hats, Chinese garden stools etc. etc.) rather than because it means something to the owner (i.e. it was bought on a family holiday). I feel like sometimes designers are trying way too hard to put disparite objects together just to create a new and different look, when most times I feel it just looks like it's trying too hard. Personally, I like a mixed interior, but it has to be your own mix, not the taste of the decorator - as anon also said. Otherwise, you might as well be staying in a hotel rather than your own home.

Anonymous said...

Ha -- what Anon 3:16 said. I have worked on these shoots and most people would be stunned to see how much styling goes into them. Each shot takes ages to compose. In all likelihood you have (at the bare minimum) an art director, associate art director, stylist, photographer and photographer's assistant on hand. The furniture is rearranged, problematic or unfashionable pieces are removed, cushions swapped out and sickly or boring houseplants replaced with cut flowers. Each room's accessories are swapped out for trendy and/ or better coordinated pieces (goodbye Buddha head, hello vintage German ceramics), the stylist shows up with a suitcase of clothes and/or bath towels to match the interior of the closet . . . . Meanwhile somebody runs out to a bakery to buy cupcakes to sit on the kitchen counter -- AFTER the toaster and blender have been stashed and replaced with an unlikely piece of sculpture or a vintage juice press. Eye candy, folks . . . it doesn't just happen!

Anonymous said...

If you want not-styled interiors (just regular people, more or less, and how they live), check out the new magazine Apartamento ... http://www.apartamentomagazine.com/ ... The New York Times had a post about it at http://themoment.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/apartamento-magazine/

Anonymous said...

Something IS missing in Peter Dunham's work: It's...humorless? It kind of drones, like someone well-intentioned but not much more.

alis said...

Oh I love eclectic. Can't get enough of it. But I like it when the items in the room somehow belong together because they were chosen and loved by the same person. I think that's the point of eclectisism, each piece must be indivudually picked and LOVED. These ones however, are chosen logically to mis-match, and as a result they look over-the-top, generic, characterless. They aren't ugly but I have seen these items put together in the exact same way so many times. Not much enthusiasm or creativity put in to design these spaces I guess.

eeps. said...

er sorry, i tagged you.

Anonymous said...

sometimes the rooms can be the decorating equivalent of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's fashion choices on their daily java runs

Anonymous said...

I like a more authentic and controlled eclectic look that sets a taste level with people who view the room. People who go balls to the wall and make every last thing in there house something eclectic just end up with a hodgepodge of shit – expensive shit most of the time – and it doesn't collectively look good. Interesting, yes. Good, no.

Sacheverelle said...

Yeah, I had to comment here..
In the first room (the living room), the large patterned, graphic wall paper totally dwarfs the other patterned elements in the room. The chandelier discs, the cute horse portrait, the floral pattern on the cushion, the plant display & the fretwork on the table are too small in scale compared to the paper pattern & it makes the room look off kilter & the elements appear isolated from one other. Also, the light blue book, the magenta curtain edge & the lime green book & plant have got to go. In a room so dominated by that graphic black & white scheme, it would look better to go with one other contrasting color, either the red or turquoise.
In the second room, the dining room, that striped French-style chair, that tufted turquoise ottoman thing & the zebra rug REALLY do not go with the Pottery Barn-traditional look of the eating area. Also, the green of the cupboard is not quite complementary to the drab green of that wall & the other stuff. They should have just left that wall white like the rest of the room.

Anonymous said...

He'll have his own line at Target in no time...

Meander said...

I tend to think (as an Interior Designer NOT decorator!) that at the end of the day Decor is entirely subjective. Yes, it should flow, be according to a certain scale, and obviously be functional; but whether or not it is eclectic, traditional, modern or a million other possible pigeon-holed styles really doesn't matter. If a space works for it's inhabitants and they appreciate it, then that's all that counts. Now, if they (or their designer) expect to put it in a magazine or on a blog, that's another story - its fair game for all of us to critique as much as we want!!!
I also, just have to respond to anon 8:32 - it is the designers job to use the "eclectic" items that are special to a homeowner/client - not everyone does this or is capable of pulling off a lived in and non "desecrated" look but there are a few of us that can. I have a sneaky feeling Decorno is prob. one of those! ;)