Mess with na­ture: decor goes or­ganic

The Weekend Australian - Life - - STYLE - CHAR­LIE WELLS

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

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