Everything I have loved for a long time, I have slowly started to .... not like quite so much, and it's all thanks to social media.

I seem to have a problem whereby if I see something too many times, with too many other people liking it/ owning it/ lusting after it, I get very turned off of it. If something becomes a mass trend, then it most definitely loses its cache for me, particularly when it's filtering down to the mass market and is inevitably butchered and bastardised in the process.

Exhibit A - Chinoiserie.

Chinese Bedroom at Belton House via National Trust UK

Very long term blog readers will remember me banging on about Chinoiserie hand painted wallpaper many years ago. I first fell in love with De Gournay's chinoiserie, hand painted wallpaper in about 1999 when I was living and working in London. I think the company had only just been launched, and it was not very big, and had a very small marketing budget in an era where getting a few columns in English House and Garden magazine was marketing gold. Their designs were based on the Chinoiserie wallpapers seen in stately homes in the UK, originally decorated in the 1700's. 

For years I dreamt of one day having a room in a beautiful hand painted chinoiserie wallpaper, but that slowly has changed over the past few years as everyone started posting and reposting images of Chinoiserie wallpaper on Instagram, and the big interiors fabric and wallpaper firms, like Schumacher and Lee Joffa produced panel based wallpaper in Chinoiserie design (with a pattern repeat, unlike the original which was more a panoramic design for the entire room without a repeat). It isn't that cheap either, but equally a room isn't going to cost you $30,000, so that's a win/win for the mass market. As the number of images of Chinoiserie increased, so too did my disinterest in having a chinoiserie room.

Exhibit B - Bamboo Cutlery


Aerin Lauder table setting

For a long time I've been contemplating buying bamboo handled cutlery to use for casual dining. I've nearly bought some on several occasions, but hesitated and am now at a point where I'm thinking I won't buy it at all. The Art of Dining ran last week at the NGV (Melbourne's Art Gallery), and they invited a bunch of well known designers to set a table... many of whom posted images of their tables on Instagram. Of course there was bamboo cutlery galore, as we designers tend to like similar things. Plus there are now quite a few people selling it very cheaply on instagram based shops, but it's nothing like the expensive version of it by the likes of Buccellati, or some of the French makers. 

Buccelati "Tahiti" via




The diffusion stuff is cheap, you can probably bend a fork in half with your hand, it'll fall apart in the dishwasher under heat, it only comes with a fork, knife and spoon and none of the other pieces in a proper cutlery set (entree sized knife and fork, tea spoon etc). And so, I sit on the fence. No purchase made.

Exhibit C - Wicker wave console

via Soane

The London based company Soane, has for many years made a console out of wicker with an elegantly waved base to it. They are absolutely hellishly expensive (hand made in Britain, and to a very high standard), and I've often thought how perfect they are for an informal living room, or conservatory style setup. They're not a concept original to Soane though, I might hasten to add. Mario Torres, a Mexican/ American wicker artist in the 60s and 70s (now deceased) first started making fantastical items out of wicker - I particularly love his parrot and monkey lamps. 


He also made a ghost table (as he called it), which was a console and a side table with a waved base to it, as if the wicker was a draped tablecloth. Soane's riff is an elegant take on it, however after a bunch of designers started posting images of it a few years ago, it's now trickled into the mass market- one of the large furniture wholesalers recently emailed their new stock to me via newsletter with a cheap version prominently featured... and so it will trickle into the homewares shops of Australia. I have to say that side by side to Soanes it's not nearly so  elegantly proportioned. Unfortunately these are going to be in every shop and "Hamptons style" interior in Australia, and so will end my love of the wave base wicker.

Rose St Trading (Melbourne) shop window, with aforementioned console via


So what exactly is the problem with everyone else liking what I like? The main problem is that when things trickle into the mass market, they become less about being something in good taste and special, and more about a trend. And a trend is a bad thing, as you then get very bad derivatives of it, which in turn render the original source tainted by association. Interestingly I have had several clients specifically request things that are different from their friends "I don't want what all my friends have" is a common refrain, so I know I'm not alone in not wanting to blindly follow the herd.

The main problem with something becoming mass market is that the derivative, trend based item will have different proportions, or perhaps a slightly different colour.... it will look a little off. This is not unlike fast fashion versus couture. The trend from Gucci trickles down to Zara, but in translation the fabric is cheap, the seams are wobbly, the print is garish, and it's never quite "right". This means that in time it ends up at the local thrift/ Op shop or in landfill. And it's exactly the same with the interiors world. The wallpaper might just end up stripped off, but the bamboo handled cutlery will split in the dishwasher, or pit from the cheap stainless steel being used. The wicker will be discarded as a new decorating phenomenom comes to the fore.

There is nothing wrong with finding a bargain, or using a few cheap pieces to fill out a room. The problem is that so much of this is finding its way into a house, discarded in a new cycle in a few years and then ending up in landfill. The original home diy decorator has chosen these items for their house because they are fashionable and everyone else has them. Not because they are invested in them as a piece of design. Good design should be forever - the original source of these trends are timeless and will outlast the cycle from their mass market derivatives. The problem is that in the meantime I can barely open up Instagram or a magazine without seeing every basic thing I love turned into a trend and ruined for me. And it seems I'm not alone. 


The Bible of British Taste (Instagram), recently posted this image (above) from his house, and his caption made me laugh, along with the comments. The wallpaper is Cole & Son "Hummingbird", and is very old - it dates from the 19th Century, and is still in production. He lamented that every High Street boutique change room in the UK was now covered in it, so it had become a cliche, along with the cluster wall hang that he had over the fireplace. Overuse renders everything hackneyed. While his cluster wall is undoubtably superior to all the ones that one of my friends has labelled "Op Shop Art" walls, with a derisive tone (for overseas readers, Op shops are Thrift stores) they're all over the world now.  Let's all fill a wall with rubbish "Art" which is personally meaningless to us, hang it in a cluster arrangement for effect, and fill in that blank space we've inevitably got from painting all our walls white, just like everyone else. 


It means that designers are scratching and searching for something different constantly, and everything looks dated before it's even the new. Where will this all end? Unfortunately I don't know. Social Media is great to share information on, but unfortunately our appetite for the new and the now means we all like the same things at once, and then ditch them unceremoniously a few months later. Vale Slow Design - it seems we're all in such a rush to finish our decorating and have a photo shoot, that we don't look for quality, take our time or fill in the blanks with meaningful pieces. 

8 comments:

  1. You are so right. It happens to décor, to fashion, to menus, to art, to garden design etc etc etc Instagram and Pinterest have a lot to answer for. In a sort of way, it democratises design and taste. But in doing so, dumbs it down a tad. The answer of course is CLASSIC design. To hell with fashion and fads and the next big thing. Try to be authentic, collect (wear/decorate/garden etc) what you love. Be your own wise counsel. Judith

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    1. It really does Judith- I was surprised when in Cambodia a couple of years ago to find a trendy cafe near the temples of Angkor Wat providing drinks in mason jars... Pinterest has really managed to influence the world! There does seem to be a counter swell toward the individual and the hand crafted though. Hopefully this will mean the homogeny will be abated somewhat.

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  2. I know the feeling. I recently picked up a beautiful natural leather Coach bag at DJ's & immediately put it down when the well meaning sales assistant told me how popular it had been "walking out the door". The horror of thinking that my tastes were so pedestrian and mainstream means I can never buy that beautiful bag. When I purchase something I want to keep it forever, to use it & to constantly see the beauty in it.

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    1. Funny! I had a similar experience with my wedding dress all those years ago. I fell in love with a dress in a very expensive Melbourne bridal designer.... up until they opened up their album of photos of all the local "Celebrities" wearing it on their wedding day (footballer wives, weather girls etc). Completely put me off! I find similar things with bags - they become very ubiquitous don't they!

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  3. I feel like its so much of classical style itself that has become trendy (unfortunately) as I also love much of it. But perhaps with some of it used in a limited way (without all the other trend items accompanying it - it will surpass the trends as they tend to move on quickly. I have always loved a lot of quite traditional elements especially wall papers and murals and I think that comes from loving doll houses and looking at the beautiful 17th and 18th century ones often modelled on the owners real houses or palaces of the time. I thought it was interesting watching the quintessence instagram of Kippsbay as there were some definate trends amongst designers even where they are trying to do something unique.

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    1. It's a funny thing - Kippsbay and other show homes used to be something that would throw up the new ideas, but they do seem to show a lot of similar ideas at once now. I think that it was so slow to filter through in the past that it was a more organic trend explosion taking years. I think you're spot on that the longer term "good" traditional design surpasses trends... I'll just have to wait for it to go out of fashion I think!

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  4. Good taste is in fashion! Yippee! And in a few months the masses will have moved on again to something new and those that have purchased the quality homewares for love and longevity can breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately the world is becoming so small and inter connected that in the future there will be little to differentiate one country from another in all spheres of design.

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  5. If I ever sit down to bamboo cutlery; I'll guarantee no return invite or attendance will follow.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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