Monday, March 28, 2011

The Way We Live Now

The April issue of World of Interiors arrived in the mail on Saturday. And as much as I'm enjoying the love troubles of Lily Dale in "The Small House at Allington"...

...I'm afraid that WOI trumps Trollope.

What is it about this particular magazine that arouses such heart palpitations in me? It's not just the glimpses into castles in Tuscany, flower-bedecked dower cottages in Sussex or F. Scott Fitzgerald-ish villas in Cap d'Antibes that make my palms clammy -- it's the life and soul that seep out from every photograph. Rarely does WOI feature people in their interiors, but one is still filled with the sense that the Aga cooker is heating up something fragrant, the sofa cushions are warm to the touch, and just around the corner there's an Alsatian snoring away on a kilim. It's high style that's inviting and embraceable.

This ethos of embracing unfussy comfort seems to be gaining ground lately. On Saturday, the "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article called "The Rise of the Personal" which documents the current passion for creative imperfection. "The [new] fantasy of the undecorated house is Tuesday morning as it is actually lived," as writer Katie Roiphe so brilliantly puts it.

Now don't get me wrong. I have massive reverence for interior designers -- Peter Dunham, David Netto, Nicky Haslam and Jacques Grange among them. To me, these decorators possess the innate knowledge that people want to live in homes that mirror their own passions and idiosyncrasies and not someone elses. They use their immense talents to create glorious possibilities for their clients, ones in which comfort, wit and sincerity are always in plentiful supply.

Continuing this same theme, I went to a party last Tuesday:


The Devoted Classicist said...

While I am all for an interior showing an individual's personality, I am not yet convinced that the Undecorated trend is a viable direction, although I do predict it will have a popular run as a bunch of interesting furnishings thrown together and called design. Although I am a fan of W.O.I. magazine, all of the photos with the possible exception of the historic interiors are carefully styled and edited/propped to the nth degree no matter how free the result may seem.

bluehydrangea said...

Love the video and the book looks fabulous!! I am ordering it ASAP or as soon as I find my gift card I put somewhere safe. I'll take personality any day!!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

The Devoted Classicist:

I so appreciate your comment! It's such a fascinating time, design-wise.. To your point, the WSJ article ended with the writer's observation that now that "undecorated" was in, there would be a mad run on flea market acquisitions and a massive amount of effort made to make one's home look "effortless." :)

I too am a lover of "an interior showing an individual's personality" as you so beautifully put it, and yes, I realize that the WOI homes are styled, but I still find an organic soul in them that is lacking in some of today's more upscale design magazines. Perhaps it's the patina of wear, tear and memories over everything that makes me gasp so... I have only to see a faded chintz and my mind takes instant flight!



Love that profile photo. xx

holly aka golly said...

Lisa, I'm a little late to the party. Welcome back! I'm just getting caught up. I love your new series, the domestic explorer. It's a fabulous addition. I'm looking forward to ordering the book. I love the notion of an undecorated style - living as an individual without apology.

Miss Whistle said...

I should've been there for the spiky turquoise hedgehog lamp alone. And the cheese plate. Divine. And the Gainsbourg song...too good Miss Lisa. Congrats.

Unknown said...

We must have been thinking similar thoughts over the last days!
I read the very same magazine over the weekend and the same article (Posted about it Saturday!)
It has been on my mind, it is true, I am rather happy that a honest to goodness trend of being personal has taken flight. Perhaps un- decorating has a connotation of carelessness and randomness, but taste can be incorporated in any room. It is the soul-less, sterile showroom type of decorating I hate. Were status symbols rule and the bank account! Or trends.
To show personality needs a lot of courage!
Usually rooms reflect the owners!

F.G. said...

@The Devoted Classicist:

On the edited photos of WOI: while image editing can effectively generate a simulacrum of authenticity, it is quite clear that the interiors featured in WOI are chosen for their unique character. Beryl Bainbridge’s house (WOI, November 2010) is an example of what I am saying, unless you consider it as "historical".

@Lisa Giramonti:

I think you are right in suggesting that there is a conceptual opposition between “undecorated” and “decorated” interiors, but I am not sure if the WSJ article captures its meaning. To me, the “decorated” and “utilitarian” interiors are both examples of extraneous criteria: the former are the result of an exogenous mediator (lets call him the “decorator”) while the latter are the result of an extrinsic purpose (say, functional habitability).
What seems to be most important in “un-decoration” is that there is no outside mediation nor extrinsic purpose imposed upon the contents: the interiors evolve and acquire a specific coherence that is the result of being “lived in”. In this sense, it not even a result, but an on going and, as you said, organic process, where the practical and the poetical converge to modulate the meaning of the contents and to give them an overall authentic character that an exogenous intervention or extrinsic purpose typically denies.

Emily said...

I am the first to say I love a good decorating book or magazine. I love to take pieces from each page and feel inspired. But, I could never live the way many of the photos are presented. I do not care for my home to look like a catalog or magazine cover. I need it to feel like my home, and not just my home, but my whole families home. I love this discussion because I think it will validate many peoples feelings about decorating.

Emily said...

I also wanted to say I think there is a big difference between designing, styling and decorating. God love those of you who get paid to design and style so I can get my inspiration! But, most of us decorate our homes, and a book like this gives us the permission to add what we love, not what is in, or always right.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...


Fascinating observation. I am thrilled you have joined the discussion....!

Re: your comment:

"What seems to be most important in “un-decoration” is that there is no outside mediation nor extrinsic purpose imposed upon the contents: the interiors evolve and acquire a specific coherence that is the result of being “lived in”.

Yes. I think you have nailed it. Beryl Bainbridge's house is a great example of how a house can become a physical repository of personal meaning. Charleston House in England (the Bloomsbury Group's home) is similar -- walking through those rooms, you are hit not so much by colors and wallpaper and painted frescoes and needlepointed rugs but by all the IDEAS.... the interior journeys that Duncan and Vanessa (et al. )made as they traveled through life and left a tangible record of their hopes, dreams and memories inside those four walls.

It's house was shot for "Undecorate" over a year ago and when I saw Christiane Lemieux the other night at the book launch, I mentioned that it had evolved quite a bit since then. She said, 'That's exactly the point. It will always be changing." New fabrics I fall in love with that make their way onto living room chairs, huge bookshelves painted black, a master bedroom painted in Farrow and Ball's "Pigeon", I --- like many other people, I know -- think of my house as a living lab, a constantly evolving reflection of my passions.

Emily: I love your point about the difference between designing, styling and decorating. And that perhaps this undecorating "trend" will give people the self-confidence to create an interior which as you said "reflects what they love, not what is in or always right." Yes. xxx

F.G. said...

Lisa: thank you for your kind words. A quick rejoinder: your house is another example of what I called “authentic” and the "stillness" of a photograph, the how it was in "that" moment, is incapable of capturing the fundamental sense of “playful restlessness” that animates it. That sense has nothing to do with wanting and buying: as I understand it, it is about fulfilment and joy.

Carolyn said...

The video is fabulous and your book is fantastic!

Homeowner Insurance

A Life Unhurried said...

Lisa, I've pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK and can't wait for its arrival! -Grace

helen tilston said...

I love this post and discussion and agree wholeheartedly with all you say Lisa. You have what I call an honesty and truth in your decor which is in total harmony with how you live.
This cannot be bought, it is earned and an ongoing living journey. I have had the honour of being a guest several times at Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace.The sofa can be saggy and can have a few dog hairs and the flowers have some dropped petals. It is not perection and that is the beauty.
Thanks for this discussion

A.U.G. said...

It is funny that you should feature WOI because I recently picked it up myself and as a new follower it is the best issue yet.

By the way, the new design is superly fitting.

Sunday Taylor said...

This discussion is so interesting. Decorators can be so helpful in bringing together a homeowner's vision. I think the problem may be when there is no personal vision from the homeowner and the decorator comes in and does his "look." I also love seeing the homeowner's personal collections everywhere: art, books, travel souvenirs, those and a patina and a lived in quality give a house warmth and soul. Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic. Loved the webisode!

Jamie Herzlinger said...

As an interior designer I too am in love with the styles of all of the greats that you mentioned!
Your post on WOI is brilliant and I couldn't agree more!
I love your blog and wanted to say hello!
Jamie Herzlinger

Karena said...

Lisa I adore this look, and have it! I have never read WOI though I have heard so many great thigs about it interiors! Thank you!

Art by Karena


Blog Widget by LinkWithin