Monday, November 7, 2011

The Next Big Thing in Design

Mid Century design has always had its collectors, and always will. I think the fact that huge swaths of real estate in this country are Post War means that there will always be a strong market for things that look good in those environments.

But let's be honest with ourselves...the craze of Mid Century; the insinuation of it into every level of design and commerce, into every level of society, probably spells its doom. Three years ago, no one over 30 was familiar with the term "Mid Century." Today, elderly folks are using all the right key terms to accurately attribute their furniture on Craigslist. Or innacurately. Suddenly everything is Mid Century. The awful table made out of a wagon wheel. The "French Provincial" girl's bedroom set.

We are visually saturated with these images, and the eye grows weary. Rather than finding the lines fresh and stimulating, they will begin to seem a little old. Common. When every mop and kitty litter commercial begins to feature homes decorated in vaguely or overtly Mid Century style, it's a good sign that the renaissance of MCM is over. It's been appropriated by the mainstream, and it has become, for the time being, boring.

So what's on the horizon? If we know one thing, it's that trends swing to extremes: once overstuffed and comfy got old, we turned to clean, lean, and modern. So, if the slim, uncomplicated lines of Mid Century seem overplayed, what will the market turn to next? What, exactly, is the antithesis of the 60s?

Interviews as far back as 2006 and 2007 have tastemakers declaring the 80s as The Next Big Thing. "Mark my words," they say, and yet several years later it hasn't truly come to fruition.

At an auction several years ago, a designer, mistaking my friendliness for naivete (happens all the time), decided to share with me her trade secrets. Pointing to a Mid Century chair she said, "Whatever you do, don't buy that stuff. It's on its way out. Florals and Modern Country are making a comeback."

One thing we do know is that we won't, currently, find the Next Big Thing all that attractive. Maybe right now we even find it repulsive. That's because it hasn't been overexposed yet, and retailers haven't adapted it to make it more approachable.

So, maybe Kelly Wearstler's weird mauve lacquered 80s hotel furniture is just a frontrunner for the styles we will all be dying for in a few years. Maybe we love to hate her because we don't (yet) understand her. Maybe the visual equivalent of elevator music really is the Next Big Thing.

What's your forecast for the NBT? What trends are you spotting?


  1. Unicorns. They're already here.....

  2. You are a trendspotter extraordinaire ;)
    Though unicorns never really left...there have been pockets of us holdouts just waiting for our moment in the sun

  3. Girl I KNOW. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My feeantz has been encouraging me to collect, refurbish and re-sell MCM furniture as a career change, but he doesn't read the blogs or know how mainstream it's all become. Part of me thinks the simple, clean lines will always be popular, but I mean, it has to be on it's way out, right? I sure do love the way Emily Henderson mixes it with other styles though, that makes it seem fresh I think. Thanks for posting this, you took the words right out of my mouth.

  4. dude. if country clutter is the next cool thing, i'm fine being the biggest dork on the block. but i WILL fill etsy with as many hand-painted michael's crafts with shitty seasonal sayings on them and take everyone's money while laughing at them. let's hope that happens... craft night? so good to meet you too... hope you survived the sleepover-day-after-madness!

  5. Julia-got my lace and my glue gun and a store name ready to go (Kuntree).

    I really WOULD like to have a craft night though..

  6. Not just unicorns, but also rainbows.

    As seen in the latest Urban Outfitters catalogue:
    (Rainbow moonboot that Rainbow Brite might have worn)

    And colorblocking via Kate Spade: (I actually secretly love this purse)

  7. MCM is a terribly loose term and we apply it terribly loosely. MCM encompasses a period from the 40s to the 70s and hardly anyone sets about to recreate interiors from a particular point in time like in the photo above or in a movie set. It is mixed up and set off with contemporary and older stuff.

    Getting fashion into the discussion further muddies the waters, since the design of clothes is much more flexible than the design of furniture and architecture. There have been alusions to 80s fashion since the early 2000s. Additionally we attribute design wrongly to periods and have a warped view of a period.

    So yes, the MCM look - which is a contemporary amalgam - might be past its prime. However, I think that the hype produced a sensitivity about the aspects of MCM design, that are of genuine qualitiy and which is incorported into how we percieve design now and in the future.

    But to get back to the question of the next big thing - MCM has an emotional and aesthetic quality we found desirable and could not find in the then current design and the next big thing will also have an emotional and aesthetic quality we desire and cannot find in what is currently offered.

    So to pass the question back to you - what do you desire, what are you looking for, what is not there? Which pieces of design do you think deserve more attention. If you liked Eames and Nelson and all the others before MCM was the big thing, it is not unilikely, that you already in some way like what will be the next big thing.

    As an afterthought: I totally dig elevator music. The totally cheesy "Theme from a Summer Place" is one of my all time favourites. What I also find somehow (I can't really put my finger on it) interesting or inspiring is: American wartime stuff, socialist graphics and the idea of high society Brazil and Argentina in the 70s. The aspects I find interesting in this: a sense of adventure, purpose and glamour.

    It's weird, I know, but there you go.


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