Time to undecorate: With the latest interiors trend anything goes and personality is king
Friday 06 May 2011
How about an interiors style feature that doesn't tell you how to get-the-look or dictate what's hot and what's not for decorating your home? How about fashions and fads that don't come and go for just this season but seemingly last forever, evolving with time, whenever you feel like it, just because? How about, instead of copying magazines and decorating your house like a showhome or a stylised photographic still, you "undecorate" it instead?
Undecorating is the latest interiors trend, or, rather anti-trend, to come over from the States in a bid to liberate interior design from the rules and regulations of what goes together and what doesn't.
Spearheaded by textile designer Christiane Lemieux, founder and creative director of US home furnishings store DwellStudio, the undecorating movement is as far removed from Kelly Hoppen-esque structured and flawless interiors as you can get. In undecorating, the design rules aren't about feature walls, perfect proportions and complimentary colours or coordination; in undecorating, the design rules are: there are no rules.
The term "undecorate" was more or less coined by Lemieux herself (it's the title of her new design book, out this month). In the introduction, she sums up what it's all about – contrary to what it sounds like, it's not about stripping back to essentials or minimalism but more about letting loose a little.
She writes: "Undecorated is following your instinct, even when it's telling you to do something a little crazy, a little different, something against the rules.
"It's an approach that has nothing to do with trends and it has nothing to do with the rules. So you can have a period dining room adjacent to your modern kitchen, if that's what you want, or wallpaper on the ceiling. Stranger things have been done. Undecorating isn't haphazard style; it's not thought-free. It's about being guided by something other than the traditional constraints."
Lemieux says her inspiration for the book came from the scores of homestyle and interior design blogs all run by interiors addicts with a passion for styling up their homes in a quirky, individual way.
This wave of interiors blogs is showcasing a freer and more experimental side to interior design, through documenting and photographing every detail of a room makeover or sharing inspiration and new finds to create a very personal stamp on a property's interior.
"Undecorate is really my observation and response to this growing phenomenon of interior design developing on the internet," she says. "People are taking charge of their spaces – free of professional rules and guidance and the result is fresh, fearless and very personal. Otherwise, if everyone is reading the same how-to's, then interiors become generic. Undecorating is the opposite to that."
The homes in Undecorate are all completely different; there's a simple, elegant beach house in New York, a rambling old renovation project in Louisiana now stuffed with flea market, cottage-style finds, and an artist's California house complete with a giant paper-mache bear watching over the sofa in the studio. There are modern homes designed for family living which break the traditional rules; the presence of young children doesn't prohibit laying down white carpets and the odd stain or two doesn't matter. In another home, the walls simply never got around to being papered. It sounds unfinished and messy, but in practice, it works. The bare walls "go" with the casual way the family lives.
"This is not about 'a style', it's more the observation of a movement of amazing interior design at the hands of non-professionals," explains Lemieux, who made sure that every photo in the book captured a snapshot of "real" living, by refusing to use an interiors stylist for the photographs.
The point, she says, is that these aren't copycat, precious homes mimicking a certain style or certain look; rather, they are all understated, low-key and pretty places to live, put together not for jaw-droppingly stunning effect or on big designer budgets, but comfort.
Lemieux's own home – a typical New York Soho loft where she lives with her husband and two children – is also featured in the book. The apartment is mainly white, simple and comfortable, with big, squashy sofas and floorboards salvaged from an industrial building.
"I would call my home 'evolving minimal'. I have two kids and a dog – they are at different stages every couple of years and I just go with that," she says. "When you're decorating around a couple of little ones, you don't really have the luxury of statement furniture."
There is however, one big statement piece: a huge, antique dining table found at the Clignancourt flea market in Paris. "Some might be fearful of using an antique in a household with two little kids," says Lemieux. "But the truth is that in centuries past, craftsmen built things to last."
In the UK, the undecorating movement can also be spotted in the small world of interiors bloggers. Zoe Martin, 31, blogs about her interiors inspiration and home at ConversationPieces.co.uk and lives in a two-bedroom flat with her fiance in Edinburgh. She describes herself as an "undecorator".
Martin says: "I definitely follow my instincts when it comes to decorating but I'm also quite haphazard in my style. There's been a lot of happy accidents in my home where I've put things together and it just somehow works."
For Martin, undecorating is about trial and error and having fun. "I tend to pick up things as I go along, at markets and car boot sales, from Etsy, eBay or Freecycle, and then just see where they go best in the flat. I have a general principle of only having stuff in our home which makes us happy."
It's taken just over two years for Martin and her fiance to renovate their flat, but at no point would she have hired a professional interior designer – it's completely against what undecorating is all about.
"We have such eclectic tastes that it would feel like someone else's choices if a professional had chosen them. Your home evolves with you as you add a little something here or there, and that organic feel would be hard to achieve with a professional," she says.
"With interiors blogs, seeing what other people have done inspires you to do your own thing, not to copy them.
"It makes you feel braver, like you're not the only crazy one doing everything yourself."
There might not be any rules to undecorating, but are there any tips to escape from design constraints?
"Live with what you love," says Lemieux. "Contradictions make a home personal. Choose the pieces that inspire you. If you love something, the chances are you will love living with it and it will give your space character and soul."
Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design is published by Clarkson Potter (£26.99). To order a copy for the special price of £24.29 (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct (08430 600 030; www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk)
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