Why less is more in 2017
This year will see the return of elegant upholstery and a return to restraint
T’S easy (and tempting) to dismiss trend predictions, but you only need to look through the architectural pages of COUNTRY LIFE to see that interior design is a restless business; the dramatic changes that took place in the early 20th century demonstrated a profession with creative ADHD, as prevailing styles swung from Arts-and-crafts to Art Deco to an extraordinary Rococo revival in the space of two decades.
I’ve never seen anything intrinsically wrong with the idea of interior design being trend-driven. The only danger is when they lack substance (‘pattern/ craft/utility is back’ without any rationale) or when they’re taken to fashion victim extremes—the exception being in hotels, clubs and restaurants such as The Soho Farmhouse, where the interiors serve as life-enhancing barometers of prevailing taste.
My other reservation is the trivialisation of serious design aesthetics, the most pronounced example being ‘Scandi’ (the word Scandinavian obviously having too many syllables), which loosely refers to almost everything designers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland have conceived since the 1950s, with the result that it’s almost meaningless. Carl Hansen must be spinning in his grave.
It tends to be the small incremental shifts
Ithat are more interesting than the macro trends. The recent revival of interest in West Africa textiles has more substance, as do fashions that are related to specific events, such as the V&A’S magnificent Art Deco exhibition in summer 2003, the impact of which can still be seen more than a decade later.
‘Carl Hansen must be spinning in his grave
For what they’re worth, here are my design predictions for 2017, the first of which is the return of elegant upholstery. Although L-shaped sofas might be the ideal place for a Saturday-night ‘slobathon’ (or even ‘a Netflix and a chill’, in the case of millenials), they miss the point that well-designed sofas are intended to enhance an interior, rather than simply provide a quasi-bed.
Sofas aren’t just for slobbing on— for an insight into the infinite possibilities of upholstery, look no further than the Conversation Piece sofa by George Smith (left), a study in the art of buttoning that’s currently strutting its stuff in the window of its London showroom.
More nebulous but potentially even more exciting is the return to a more considered approach to design. This is a move on from the unhinged eclecticism that resulted in people being encouraged to ‘mix it up’ and accept that ‘there are no rules’, precipitating some disturbing juxtapositions of pretty much every style under the sun—a bit of Miami here, a bit of Scandi there and a light dusting of vintage. Designers such as Rose Uniacke and Ben Pentreath (top left) are the masters of the more disciplined approach.
The third source of interest is the return of the four-walled room (as opposed to the open-plan space), but this might need a whole Inside Track all of its own. Happy New Year!
George Smith’s Conversation Piece, £12, 111 (020–7384 1004; www.georgesmith.co.uk) and Ben Pentreath’s discreet approach to interiors