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Date published: July 07 2016

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If something is truly classic, its popularity will resurface time and time again

As we toured the Sutton Place, a New York City apartment my client recently purchased from an estate sale, my very young associate sniffed, “this looks so dated.” I agreed with her, but I remembered that mitered mylar wallpapers were all the rage, along with hugely graphic black and white porcelain floors, not so long ago. I suspect my 21st century, stylish associate was unaware of the pervasive influence of Angelo Donghia as far back as the 1960s. “What were they thinking?” she said as her eyes caught the over-scaled, taupe, faux-bamboo bookcase. “And this ditsy little flowered print in the kitchen, can you believe it?” she gaped - a favourite of Sister Parish Designs. Her youthful incredulity at these iconic examples of the past only reminded me how rapidly the fashion for interior design changes, just as the fashion in clothing mutates by the day.

So we spoke of these various influences as we walked through the apartment’s time warp. We talked of the influence of Angelo Donghia and how his broad-strokes glamour appealed to the 70s bold, graphic sensibility. We spoke of Baldwin’s love of chinoiserie and how that bit of exoticism appealed to a generation cleaning off the cobwebs of staid, formal rooms.

And we talked about Sister Parish’s country house kinship, where chintzy fabrics, quilts and cotton plaids de-stuffed a generation yearning for pretty. As we walked out of the apartment, we reminisced about this year’s trends and influences on design. What seems so current, trendy, chic, hip and irresistibly fashionable and appealing now that might render a home or
apartment dated in the future?

The first word out of both our mouths was “grey!” It is not simply the movie and its many shades; this colour has infiltrated everything from fabrics to finishes to stone selections. I recently wandered through a fabulous stone yard, and a third of the stone imports were some variation on the theme of grey. 

While other manufacturers seem to be reinventing the wheel, there are some so innovative, who capture the imagination of the design world so intensely, they raise up the whole genre. Phillip Jeffries’ creative take on grasscloth, for instance, has spawned a burgeoning industry. So hot is the demand for this wallcovering, and so intense is the love of this texture, that
designers can’t hold at only hanging it on their walls. Now, they are also wrapping chests of drawers, bedside tables, and consoles with grasscloth. 

2016 will be noted for its embrace of Southeast Asian and Indian embroideries so complex, so elaborate and so affordable that one would think we had returned to the Gilded Age. Notable has been the revival of Chinese hand-painted murals lining the walls of entryways, dining rooms and parlors.

Their elegant figures of brides, bamboo, Chinese landscapes and tea houses have even made their way back to the forefront of the fabric world, printed on curtain-worthy cottons - a highly elegant and romantic alternative to the world of sharper geometrics.

If you are in the market for a standing tub, they have never been more available than now. It is not simply the exquisite designs created by English, French and Italian companies but American companies, such as American Standard and Kohler, are creating gorgeous pieces as well.

Some trends find a quick denouement. The carpet industry has gone gaga for splatter-art rugs with massive, messy, spotted repeats that may mimic, but certainly won’t endure compared to the book-matched marble masterpieces.

So the upshot of my conversation with my associate was a teaching moment for both of us. We, as designers and interior aficionados, have an upto- date vision that we always try to keep current. If something is truly classic, its popularity will resurface time and time again. However, with social media making things more visible and attainable, these newer trends tend to come in and out of fashion more rapidly than ever, making it almost impossible to get ahead of the curve. I am fairly certain that the designer who created the apartment we are now gutting considered his/her work timeless. And we also consider our work timeless, though I suppose it’s only until the next gut job occurs. Perhaps we should simply do the best work we can to enjoy and celebrate the moment in time.

Author: Marshall Watson

Company: Marshall Watson Interiors

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