Shabby chic

Shabby chic

In Europe there are two major design/furniture trade fairs at the beginning of the year: the furniture fair imm Cologne and Maison & Objet in Paris.

I visited both of them, since as a design professional it is part of my job to stay on top of current trends. I am frequently asked about “trends” and find it can be tricky to speak about them in a meaningful way, either because they are obvious — general movements split into many little trends and anti-trends — or they are just very open previsions that could possibly be self-contradictory.

Trends in fashion come and go much faster than trends in interior design or architecture. I am sure everybody has seen fashion-conscious people wearing jeans with strategically placed holes that reveal attractive or not-so-attractive parts of their anatomy. I’ve never really understood why a person would intentionally buy new and often expensive jeans that already look worn-out — but then even my wife wears them!

Now that this “worn aesthetic” has truly arrived in interior design, many examples of it could be found at both fairs. 

Actually, I can see the appeal of these items, as they evoke a feeling of homey history, and would even consider having some of them in my own home. 

As seen in grandparents’ houses the world over, furnishings submit to wear and tear over time, albeit in a sympathetic way, and it is nice to have a little of this sentiment in our own homes.

However, as a hotel designer I wonder whether a “normal” hotel guest would be able to tell just how expensive this new ”old” piece was, and if they would notice that it is not worn and torn — and definitely not dirty! 

While some “retro” styles can look good in a hotel, I believe only the trendiest boutique properties would be able to convince their guests that the table made from old weather-beaten planks lacquered in different colors or the carpet that comes “pre-stained” are actually rather valuable pieces of “state-of-the-art” design!