Mess with nature: decor goes organic
Designers are channelling destructive forces such as oxidation to give furnishings a ravaged charm.
Nature-inspired housewares designers have turned over a new leaf and stood it on its head.
Instead of incorporating flora or fauna patterns that literally reference the natural world, many have taken a more figurative tack, creating pieces that reflect processes such as erosion, charring, melting and oxidation. These haunting objects say “Mother Nature was here” rather than “there are birds flying across my dessert plate”.
Jan Kath’s Erased Heritage wool carpets, for instance, appear organically eroded, their precise Oriental patterns disrupted by irregular patches of Chinese silk.
Savage winds seem to have distorted the porcelain Blow Away Vase by Front for Moooi, a trick of computer design; the vase looks like a piece of Royal Delft caught in a twister. And lava apparently has encroached on metalworker Franck Chartrain’s Phoenix pedestal, a piece of charred oak cut 150 years ago and clotted with cast bronze.
Much like the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the imperfection of objects, this new design ethos finds beauty in the unorchestrated and unplanned. Of his new fabric, Oxydation, made with French company Lelievre, designer Jean Paul Gaultier says: “Seeing an oxidised surface inspired me to do this print and show the beauty that can be found in something we do not consider perfect.” The suede-like cotton fabric virtually fizzes with verdigris and iron oxide, effects inspired by rusting nails and oxidising copper scraps that Gaultier found years ago.
“People are more into finding out how a product was created, what was used,” said Adam Comiskey, founder of luxury textile company Zig Zag Zurich. And pieces that interpret forces of nature often come with built-in stories: for a Zig Zag Zurich sheet set called Made by Rain, an artist captured the impressions of raindrops by laying photographic film on a roof, then digitised the images and printed them on satin cotton. The black-and-white splatter pattern evokes the randomness of a summer shower.
In our era of rapid change, objects that convey
the sort of organic processes that unfold across decades or millennia particularly appeal.
“It slows your soul down a little bit and allows you to come back to a more natural timing or rhythm,” New York interior designer Kathleen Walsh says. In a Martha’s Vineyard project, she installed a marble bathroom sink so aged and marred with rust it seems to have come straight from the quarry.
Such tortured pieces can look their best amid relatively slick decor.
Walsh juxtaposed the sink with linear, modern elements such as a polished-nickel drain pipe and wallmounted tap. The aforementioned Oxydation fabric also pairs well with polished metal, says Ingrid Lager, Lelievre’s creative designer.
Other, more obviously simpatico matches, note Lager and Walsh, include matt materials such as wood, well-worn antiques and anything that shows the maker’s hand (strong-weave fabrics, handblown glass).
But don’t go overboard, says New York textile designer Catherine Stowell, who designed a vinyl wall covering called Burnish for Designtex, which suggests oxidation and weathering. She recommends using these natural process elements judiciously to add layers and depth to a room.
Small doses of this style may be just what the eye doctor ordered. Anna Rabinowicz, creative director of Anna New York by RabLabs, sees her raw-edged, sliced-agate pieces as a sensory antidote to the smartphones and computers that surround us.
“The visual monotony of so many things in people’s lives is attracting them to natural elements,” she says. And objects formed by nature are inevitably unique.
Clockwise from bottom left: Anna New York Custom Table, $US11,250 ($14,730), Homenature; WrenLab Ceramics Vases, from $US100, fiercelycurious.com; Lamp, $US1090, Cappellini; Wallcovering, $US65/m, Designtex; Franck Chartrain Pedestal, $US16,000, Maison Gerard; Mirror, $US11,300, Steven Haulenbeek; Aliki van der Kruijs Bedding by Zig Zag Zurich, from about $US25, zigzagzurich.com. Background: Jean Paul Gaultier Fabric by Lelievre, $213/m, Stark