Friday, January 17, 2014

The inexorable rise of ornamentation

A few weeks ago, I made the observation on Twitter that fashion nostalgia seems to have taken a turn from the color-blocked, Mad Men inspired designs of the 1960s to more highly ornamented styles. Lace has crept back onto blouses and dresses and some of the ubiquitous statement necklaces have taken a decided turn for the garish. Look at this necklace offered by J. Crew over the holidays.


I'm sure there are those, particularly those who share my appreciation of the clean-lined styles of mid century design, who look and that and think, "Ew. Ugly." And maybe it is. However, I find myself a member of a generation of design enthusiasts who have eschewed over-exuberant ornamentation, probably starting with the hyper-minimalist style of the early 1990s we were all exposed to as teens. 

But over the course of the last six months, I've begun to sense a shift in my own taste, though it likely started much earlier. My appreciation of the architecture of Staunton, Virginia is quite obviously one cause. I'll talk more about that wonderful little town next week. I blame some of this on Nicole Balch, who just bought a gorgeous old Victorian home in the suburbs of Chicago and is going about decorating it with her customary warmth and just a little more traditional flair. She talks about this phenomenon here.

Only time will tell whether this shift is a flash in the pan or a genuine trend. I just know that I started to be attracted to mid century furniture around 10 years ago in much the same way I'm now being attracted to marquetry, carving, darker woods and heavier profiles. Copper, gold and bronze rather than silver.

In fact, my most recent acquisition bears this out.






This is a smoking stand of the sort I imagine would have been present in a gentleman's club at the turn of the last century. It seems to have been made with pipes in mind actually. The thing is bloody heavy, at least 25 pounds. Painted cast iron maybe? Aside from the rather obvious repair to one of the trays, it's in delightfully good condition. The paint is nearly complete and undamaged. And it was $25 at the Friends of Homeless Animals thrift store in Chantilly. When was the last time you saw a mid century smoking stand for a price like that? I'll tell you that I haven't ever. At least, not in 10 years. And yet, I got several appreciative, even covetous glances as I made my way out of the store with it. Have I been seduced by the beauty of a single object? An isolated incident? Perhaps.

Or perhaps not. Time will tell.
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