Why less is more in 2017

This year will see the re­turn of el­e­gant up­hol­stery and a re­turn to re­straint

Country Life Every Week - - Interior Design The Inside Track - Giles Kime

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

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