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palimpsest

Has design media/retailing "diluted" taste?

palimpsest
8 years ago

In the discussion here about a staged flip house; and in several discussion on the Building a Home forum about why so many new houses are so ugly, but it's either what people Want or at the very least they Don't Notice that it's ugly...there have been a number of posts that have gotten me thinking.

First, when I was growing up, in a small, isolated town, Nobody's house really looked like anyone else's on the inside.

Because it was a small town, I knew all sorts of people from very wealthy to very poor, and this had a great impact on what people's houses looked like.

My parents' wealthiest acquaintances lived on a compound, and the elder couple lived in a smallish Bavarian-style house fiilled with traditional furniture. The son's family in a chalet style house with simple MCM furniture but crammed with museum-quality artefacts.
Their professional friends lived in relatively ordinary houses decently furnished with everything from modernist to traditional to high colonial revival to heavy Jacobean revival. Some of our neigbors had very old basic furniture, some of them went out and bought a new, cheapish, kinda crass "living room set" every few years.

1) there were fairly large distinctions between the Style of furniture in the different socioeconomic categories

2) Much of the style had to do with the type of house and when the owners either Got Married, or Built the house.

3) Nobody's house looked almost exactly like anyone else's either within classes or between classes. (With the notable exception of a series of related couples we knew who all favored heavy Jacobean with piles of oriental rugs on the floors).

My conclusions are this:

1) What style of furniture you had was dictated by how much you could afford or had access to.

2) There was not a lot of exposure to, or interest in what a "typical" house of people in your socioeconomic group looked like. You basically decorated how you liked.

3) There was little interest in serial decorating or drastically changing styles either within different parts of the house or over periods of time.

If you contrast with this today, I will make some observations.

1) The accessibility of good design in a discount environment such as Walmart or Target has made it easier to decorate with decent taste even if you don't have much budget.

2) Design-media exposure has started to dictate what your house "Should" look like.

3) There has been a homogenization effect where the taste of people who still have access to much more on a financial basis has been diminished or dumbed down.

4) There is now a criteria list, that if it is Met, is more important than suitability or beauty. If the house has a grand entry, tray or double height ceilings, a "hearth room" , granite, a spa bath, etc. It doesn't matter how ugly it all is--or beautiful it all is, it meets the criteria on the list.

So the young renters starting out have cheap furniture that is trendy and transitional, the middle classers have decent furniture that is trendy and transitional, and the wealthy have furniture that is expensive, trendy and transitional, and the house of choice is a many-gabled neo-Eclectic that may be tiny but all puffed up in front to look big, or a huge multigabled neo-Eclectic that Is big.

What do you think?

Comments (78)

  • deegw
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Pal I completely agree about the great Pottery Barn styling. Often I will look at the catalog and think "oh! I want that! How much is it?". Guess what? It's not for sale. It's just something interesting that the stylist mixed in with the Pottery Barn items.

  • kellienoelle
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    There was another thread here earlier that touched on one other thing that can be contributing.....the demise of the non-chain furniture store. I think the thread was lamenting that there was nowhere to actually TRY any sort of custom made quality furnishings anymore. So the choice these days is to essentially spend big bucks on something sight unseen or hit up your local Crate and Barrel where you can at least sit in the chair you would like to purchase. Or of course Craigs List or antique stores. Mom and Pop shops just can't compete anymore. I like Crate and Barrel, I like West Elm, I won't lie, but when I decided that I wanted to get something a little more "special", the process has been impossible. I am about ready to throw in the towel and just buy C&B furnishings and plan on replacing them in a few years.

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  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Has design media/retailing "diluted" taste?

    Yes, and this is exactly why our ID refuses to shop at---or even LOOK at the catalogs--- of places like Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, etc. I asked him once about a pillow for a kid's room from Pottery Barn and he said I would have to fly that one on my own, as he doesn't ever want to be influenced by mass marketing and just will not even open the catalogs.

    Do we have anything from Pottery Barn? Yes--- a photo carousel display, a charger/organize desktop thingie in my home office, and a few pillows. I have parson's chair slipcovers and a kitchen table and other items from Ballard Designs, Frontgate, and so on, so I don't think I am "above" mass marketing or retailing by any means. That stuff has its place.

    But the current single "look" promulgated by popular home stores is different from the different types of styles offered by stores like Ethan Allen.... at least they had lines that expressed different personalities and aesthetics. The Lifestyle type store that is Pottery Barn doesn't let you express your style so much as define it for you. IMHO.

  • lala girl
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Pal - I so agree with that. Simple and authentic feel right.

    So many of the over wrought flourishes these days make me feel awkward and almost embarrassed, like when I am at a neighbor's house and Real Housewives is on - same feeling.

  • ogrose_tx
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks, pal, for the comment on 1970's house. It was our first, it's our last, and I'm perfectly satisfied (it's a cottage, right?)

    My decorating comes with our rather large yard, which is hard to come by these days, and updating of the kitchen to bring it rather up to date and replace cheap cupboards, countertop, etc. as well as bathrooms

    Over the years my husband removed carpeting, added tile, repaired cracks that we get in Texas, etc.

    Now he is too ill to do the work, so we're depending on cabinet people, remodelers, etc.

  • Bumblebeez SC Zone 7
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I have a love/hate relationship with PB. The architecture, the lifestyle and those unique unavailable accessories will never be mine but I do enjoy the pipe dream. And I like the bedding.....

  • PRO
    Diane Smith at Walter E. Smithe Furniture
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    The plan-o-gram is another culprit in the homogenization of choice in retail. The same vision spread through thousands of stores throughout the world. Woe be the visual merchandiser who tries to do something unique in a display. So many creative minds in retail are wasted. Simon Doonan is one of my heroes.

    Here is a link that might be useful: It's all Kmart's fault

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Part of this may be where I grew up, but there was no real concept of something being "dated" because it was from the previous decade. People usually kept the kitchen and bathrooms the house came with and changed things only when it wore out.

    I have been in people's houses that haven't changed dramatically in 30 or 40 years. That doesn't mean it's a time capsule, it means that if something gets worn out it gets replaced or reupholstered. Of course the houses that stay the same for this long never really had a trend in them except by accident. People did redecorate but it was not because they were worried about keeping current or because they just got tired of the way things looked...it seemed more functional than that.

    There were of course people that bought cheap sets every 5 years because they fell apart, which was considered a sort of low class thing. My parents had one friend who redecorated her living room from top to bottom every five years. Most people thought this behavior was rather odd where I lived, and a waste of money.

  • jterrilynn
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Sometimes I have a hard time following these threads. I have never bought anything from PB or any trendy stores as far furniture goes so I guess I don’t really have the mentality to fully grasp the point. I always buy one main leather family room sofa and chair in a light or med tone, cream, bone or warm beige. I don’t replace often. My area carpets change because I have pets. In fact I only have a few things in my whole four bedroom house I have bought new. I have had the same framed tapestries forever as my wall art and switch every so often my main accent colors to go with, which might include different used accent chairs or a few decorative pieces. I made the mistake once of buying a new dining table and credenza that wasn’t all that inexpensive yet the finish was crap so I look at most new things with suspicion (glad I didn’t buy the matching chairs). I would rather buy something used that has nicely survived the test of time.

  • joaniepoanie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I just redid my main living areas...I bought what I liked...tables, sofa/chairs, art, accessories, but it feels a little sterile and I'm just not sure how to make it more interesting and less "perfect."

  • ogrose_tx
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    So much for my "up to date" decorating. In 1965 my MIL had an old oak round table down in her basement that her mother had bought used after she came from Poland; she replaced it with cheap dining furniture. I just HAD to have that table, and after DH removed layer after layer of paint, we have it to this day in my country kitchen,, wouldn't trade that masterpiece for anything, even though my kids just can't understand why! It shows dings, cuts, etc. I was young, dumb, but even I could see that was a keeper!

    I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder...

  • luckygal
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think media, which in the case of home decor means shelter mags, TV, and home decor forums, have shown us professionally decorated homes which most people prior to the 1950's never saw. Magazines at that time began to appeal to the 'modern woman'. The economy was flourishing and she had disposable income to buy extras. IMO that's when home decor became a competitive game by both retailers and customers.

    Many today aspire to have that professionally decorated look altho we want to do it ourselves for the satisfaction. Unfortunately it's not always easy to find good home decor at the price we are willing to pay. So the default is PB and that ilk. Some sidestep this by buying in the pre-owned market and there are a few really well-done homes seen on home decor forums.

    I think the fact we have all seen well decorated homes in the media causes many to have little self-confidence in decorating their own homes. Buying a roomful of furniture in a style or theme offered by chain home decor stores seems to be the easy way to avoid a mistake. Unfortunately this often leads to the "something is missing in my room" thread. What's missing is anything personal that tells who you are and also often something old, or at least not brand new, that gives the room personality.

    What I'd like to know is who or what caused the 'dumbing-down' of architecture. It can't all be blamed on the need for inexpensive tract homes can it? Some of the housing developments I've seen in the last 40 years really should be razed and started over. There is no excuse for some of the sheer ugliness. What are they teaching in architecture programs these days?

  • ogrose_tx
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I don't know if it can all be blamed on 'inexpensive', but it figures in somewhere. In the 60's and early 70's when you were young, broke and raising a family it meant a way to have a home. Many people used this as a "starter home" and moved on up to larger, more expensive better houses.

    My kids wouldn't be caught dead living in the neighborhood where they were brought up and where we live. But, they are so much better educated (due to us living in our "cheap" homes), and put off having children until they could have everything. It's a different culture...so yes, they have their Pottery Barn, RH, type of decorating styles and it does look gorgeous in their homes.

    I guess it's all in what makes you happy...

  • LanaRoma
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    In my opinion, the design media and retail marketing work in two directions. They pull a lot of people up to the level of professional, albeit mass-market, decor. Without all the visuals in the catalogs and magazines, TV shows and commercials, etc., many regular folks would never rise above a random collection of items in their homes and know the difference between decorating styles like Mission or Victorian.

    PB and IKEA not only sell their goods, they show how to combine various pieces to create a certain style. They and their likes brought the home design concept down to the level that most people can comprehend and try to re-create at home.

    On the other side, the media and retail marketing ended up limiting the scope of styles and designs available in the market. Big box retailers and major design media don't want to risk their profits by experimenting with new and unproven designs. They stick to the goods and ideas that are guaranteed to sell and generally are cautious about introducing something radically new. If a style like PB becomes popular, a swarm of knockoffs appears immediately. Sadly, this phenomenon is present not only in home design but also in many other industries like restaurant business.

    Magazines are pretty much influenced by the ways of the publishing industry in general. It's common in publishing to categorize fiction by genre: romance, sci-fi, mystery, chick-lit, etc. Just like the sections in a bookstore or design styles in a furniture store. It makes it easier to market the fiction to a target audience. Publishers dislike manuscripts that can't be put in a definite genre. They want to be sure that a novel is saleable and has a ready market audience. It doesn't matter how good the writing is, if they have no clear idea who would buy the book. In this way they often eliminate creative but non-traditional works, even if the writing shows a great skill and talent. It limits the range of books available in the market because publishers want to play it safe.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I remember Mom saying how different it was for us building now vs. when they were building their addition in the 60s. She said her choices, as a regular consumer, were so limited. If you wanted molding, it was clam shell. If you wanted a faucet, it was chrome. Perhaps back then, if you wanted real design, you had to go through an architect or designer which certainly wasn't in their budget.

    Now you can get all kinds of finishes, styles, and mimics of quality and/or antique stuff. The variety is almost endless as to what is readily accessible.

    And therein lies the problem. As on Project Runway where a designer ruins a look by adding every idea onto a single garment, it is easy for the average homeowner or builder to add every frill and froufrou reaching for what mass media has told him/her is that high end "look". What is missing is editing, taste, and sensibility.

  • lazy_gardens
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Before the PB catalogs and the earlier women's magazines was the Sears and the Montgomery ward catalogs.

    These were backed up by the early women's magazines (starting from late 1700s, really getting going in the mid 1800s) that showed the lower classes how to aspire to middle and the middles how to aspire to at least lower upper.

    If you want to see mass market taste-setting in all its tacky glory, look at the furniture sets in those late 1800s and early 1900s catalogs.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    What I find though is that editorial content does not really match advertising content.

    It matches in Socioeconomic Target Market, but it does not match from a stylistic content. You rarely see the elaborate but transitional overscaled furniture offered by Henredon currently, or accessories by Uttermost, or window treatments from Blinds to Go in the design content of Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Traditional Home etc.

    They ads are targeted toward those readers, but that is not the type of design that is selected for the magazine through the editorial process.

  • sapphire6917
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I love this question, Palimpsest! It's something I have been complaining about since I began delving into home decor in 2008, when I bought my house. I believe the answers are multi-layered. I will try hard to speak from my personal experience and not generalize.

    I have seen many parents that have stopped teaching their children those things that were never meant to be part of a school curriculum. One of those things is individuality. My parents were very big on teaching us how to make up our own minds and how to be okay with it when it differs from many other people. As a result, I like what I like and I'm okay with the fact that I will never see much of what I buy in a magazine or on television. When granite first started being a must-have, the first thing I thought was 'If I don't like it in the millions of Holiday Inns that I've stayed in, why would I put it in my house?'

    It's also my opinion that style is taught. When I was growing up, I saw many different styles and I was taught why one style works better than another. Now, my mother is blind in both of her decorating eyes but she knows how to dress and taught me the same. Therefore, when I decorate a room, I apply the same principles, as if I'm dressing it. And, just like with clothing, just because it costs a lot of money doesn't mean it will automatically look good. If you've ever watched 'Million Dollar Rooms', you know exactly what I mean.

    Having those two cornerstones to my foundation have proved invaluable in my home decor. A lot of people that I know and see are not comfortable being different and the safest way they know to avoid being uncomfortable is to buy "the look". Akin to buying the complete outfit shown on the mannequin. I freely admit that I'm cheap, in that I prefer to spend as little as I can on "stuff", so I would have to search through my house to find something that was purchased new or has a brand name. If I didn't have a good sense of style, that would be pretty disastrous!

    But, to bring this back to your point, I think we come in to this world with voids. Televisions, magazines, experiences fill those voids. Our parents should provide us with filters for those voids so that we can discern what should be kept and what should be discarded. They should also help us to be okay with being different. I don't think that's happening enough and the result is what we see today.

  • Bumblebeez SC Zone 7
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    What I find though is that editorial content does not really match advertising content. which is what's sad, what is readily available for consumers who fall between Target and High End is often difficult to find or hard to obtain or...as this thread is stating, all the same.
    The entire process of buying furniture is so exhausting, time consuming and frustrating that when I do buy something, I most certainly plan on having it forever.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    In the 1960s there was a very limited variety of many goods available in the interior design segment.

    So, I have looked at a number of 1960s custom architectural and interior design projects that have the same GE appliances, laminate, Kentile, rubber cove base, etc. as the tract houses of the era.

    However, in the 1960s there was to some degree an Access to custom by a fairly typical interior design client. My parents, who accessed an interior designer through a major regional department store ended up with some customized pieces at about the same pricing as off the rack.

    One of my instructors, who started practicing in the 1960s regularly got carpets or fabric woven in custom colors. Smallish runs were possible.

    Now, there is a ton of options available to people at all but the lowest price points. The quality of those options is not always so great. The number of options at the high end of the market has increased. But custom has become exceedingly expensive for the most part.

  • bronwynsmom
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Sapphire, you are right on point about what's taught.

    What I find tragic right now is how few parents teach their children anything at all, except by example, and that not very thoughtfully. So the void in hungry little minds is filled with random images and behaviors from all over the place, with things they make up as they go along, and with only a primitive idea of how to make decisions.

    And the basic skills of living have already begun to disappear. It astonishes me that so many people don't know how to sew or cook or repair things or grow things - skills that our grandparents took for granted as necessary components of daily life, and passed along every day.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I wanted to answer this separately, because it's not really the same topic as my last post.

    If you examine the editorial content of many of the upper tier magazines there is actually an Awful Lot of vintage furniture mixed in. I've also seen credits to Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and some other mass marketers mixed in with very high end and custom.

    But there seems to be a rejection of a fair amount of the current styles of manufactured furniture by the editors of the national magazines. My parents' house is filled with furniture by a couple of manufacturers where I can no longer find more than a piece or two that I like.

    So much of it is overwrought, overlarge, and referential of too many different styles at the same time. Most designers at the top of the market (or at least the publishable sort) seem to be rejecting it as well.

    I do see regional show houses and the regional lifestyle magazines featuring a Lot of this overwrought, overlarge furniture, and it is all placed in the overwrought overlarge typical suburban house that gets featured in regional lifestyle magazines.

    I think this furniture is mostly bought by the affluent directly from furniture showrooms whose "designers" are paid commission on sales of this furniture. Of course there are independent designers who use it, too. But I see a large discrepancy between the national design magazines and the local design/lifestyle magazines in terms of stylistic content.

    I find the local lifestyle magazines pretty tasteless, and perhaps this is why I almost never see a local house featured in a national magazine even though I live in a major metropolitan area.

  • Elraes Miller
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Wow, it is difficult to add thoughts to all with the many comments, I am intrigued with this subject. My comments will not be with any knowledge interior history design, just life experience.

    One of the things that is difficult in our discussion is knowing the age of the poster. I was born in the 40s and have memories of homes from that era on. After marriage in the 60s, I lived in 2,000 +, larger as the years moved on. Now I am in the same small home similar to the one when a teenager. Although with character and not a tract home which was the ultimate choice for so many. Oh how I wish I could be in the little Craftsman which I found embarrassing because all my friends had those big houses with all the newest of trends.

    I remember my grandmother had black painted furniture, which I also disliked at the time. Can't remember why they did this, but it was a trend in the 30s. And we all know it is back. Most of our redo's with paint are due to the lack of stripping which was not expensive years ago, I remember one could just go and have a piece dipped and you were on your way to restore. Or buy a can of caustic substance which worked in minutes. Of course the antique was never the same after this.

    I like the rustic feel of old, so painted furniture is quite comfortable for me and enjoy doing this. We are saving a lot of items which would go to the land fill.

    My design has never changed and was never influenced by marketing. Always a mix of rustic and new. Although I can admit to wanting a bit of the things offered in catalogs. In the end colors and styles do not influence me beyond what I've loved for years. Am too old to change other than fabric and keeping up with time to repaint. Love rugs, pillows and beddings. Geesh, maybe I am influenced by marketing.

    The tract homes (new) in 40s to current are here because the financing is easy to get into. It has allowed many to own a home. Of course the models are never what the one moved into looked like. Plus they are an easy build with all the same layouts and products.

    Both furniture and homes go back to Ford assembly lines. How many of us are driving the same car? Get had with the next model offering another latest and greatest? And now the Sears homes are treasures which were true assembly lines also. They try to recreate many styles, but always seem to miss something in the transition.

    bronwynsmom - I agree with our lack of art and historical teaching. We just can't go back. Took a class on both when my kids were in school and loved them. Art in itself, regardless of format (music,etc) requires a unique vision of the world around us. We have lost this and think it would take years to revive. But, am with you.

    My personal take is what you are seeing now is what my career involved in the 70s. Computer Aided Design (CAD). I taught engineers designing everything from trains to office furniture. There are companies which you would never realize are producing products from computer based design and machined controlled manufacturing. PB is one of them and they are far over priced compared to the exact copies which exist. We could dig into who the companies are, but would take a world of effort.

    And now the 3D printer for home use are available, manufacturers have used this for years to produce your furniture. Will be interesting how they are used on a personal basis.

    Marketing has produced a mass media to sell the mass produced. Yes, PB knows how to add that extra bit of design in a room to intrigue, as does many others. We really don't know what we are sitting on unless doing some research into the build.


  • Elraes Miller
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Desert, I meant to respond to the flag. I love it and the added bits of quilt design. Where to put it would be a problem, but the photo is wonderful.

  • madeyna
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think part of the problem is its just so darn easy to just buy the set rather than try to peice together something that really works. Right off the top of my head I can think of several of people who only buy whole room sets when it comes to livingrooms and bedrooms. Its a quick easy way to do your home and looks nice but a bit to generic for my taste. I like the thrill of the hunt to find not just something that will fit but something that I can be excited about. Life gets in the way with that kind of decorating sometimes. Here I have more less just bought what works because we have been undergoing a major remodle of the home inside and out so thats where all my dollars and energy have gone. With some people its kids and ajob that rob them of that creative energy with others its probly lack of confidence.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Although this could be a topic all it's own, I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with houses that are ordinary or architecturally lacking in detail.

    I guess because I live in an urban environment where many people live in multiunit dwellings where the interior is not directly related to the exterior in all cases, and there is not much that can be done to change the essential interior volumes of the space, I think a lot can be done with Working With what you were Dealt, rather than trying to Change it into Something Else.

    There is nothing the matter with Refining what you are given to make it a Better example of what it IS.

    But not every house cries out for crown moulding. Not every window needs to be divided lite. Not every bathroom is suited for white subway tile.

    I think one of the major problems with Television design shows in particular is this kind of intervention. Either trying to Gild the Lily, or Make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's ear.

    I don't know what kind of design shows are on right now because I stopped watching any design shows a couple years ago and stopped watching television altogether last year. But when I was watching them I found most of the most recent ones very flawed.

    How? By treating each room, or a single room (if that was the focus of the show) and a stand alone project and not relating it to what was going on with the rest of the house.

    By convincing people that practically anything could be DIY and done on the cheap.

    By applying details that have nothing to do with the scale or style of the house interiors.

  • mejjie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I also think that there is some kind of connection between the rise of the McMansion and the diluted decorating. Maybe the features of the McMansion lend themselves to a certain style, but most of those I have been in my neck of the woods are decorated pretty much the same - cherry cabs, dark granite, stainless, cranberry and sage and that "Tuscan" squash color. Some look like a kohl's ad.
    On the other hand, the less expensive homes are much more uniquely decorated-farmhouse, antique, even "dated" 70's and country styles that are still more appealing than looking like a kohl's ad.
    One more thing-it has not been my experience that kids are not taught art these days. I grew up in upstate NY in the 70's, attended a good public school and learned absolutely nothing about art, artists or architecture. My kids (12, 16, and 19) have learned a ton in their eastern PA public schools. I remember one coming home with her second grade artwork in the styles of Monet and Van Gogh. They, and most of their friends, are interested in (and create) drawings, ceramics, photography and of course music. I know that this unfortunately this doesn't happen everywhere. Also the Internet has really sparked a craftsy kind of creativity but that's enough off topic stuff from me.

  • roarah
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think it has alot to do with blogs, houzz and pinterest too. Everyone has all the same clippings and the pictures of different rooms all look identical too. Every blog is super saturated with all the same "hot" trends and only a handful of over used, and often, years old designer rooms. I find what I am seeing in Elle, House Beautiful, and etc. to be very refreshing and unique. Even some of the ads are becoming at least more colorful and I think the furniture line in the middle price range have alot more smaller scaled options in the last few years than they did five years ago:). I also find that in my community many real homes are not homogenous and are indeed more interesting than those I knew growing up. but I do know many artists and I am of the age where we are over the desire to be exact potterybarn copycats.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    ...editorial content does not really match advertising content...

    But isn't that supposed to be the case? Aren't the editorials supposed to present the dream and the advertisers the reality? Certainly that is true in fashion magazines. In fact, when I buy the Vogue Sept fashion issue, I buy it for the ads which are wearable as opposed to the editorials which are OTT.

    I just cracked open the June issue of Trad'l home....I'm looking at the Palm Beach vacation home of interior designer Robin Weiss, a lakeside guest house that features a 14' long dining table, and a Georgian Revival house once part of the estate built by William Kent...the guy who donated the land to create Muir Woods in CA. These are not ordinary homes that the average homeowner will ever obtain. But they are the dream that serves to inspire.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    To some degree, the vendors in the magazine are represented in the ads. Particularly antiques dealers, fabric and rug resources in Arch. Dig. and Elle Decor

    But there are often a number of furniture manufacturers that many of the designers who get into the editorial pages would not use on a regular basis.

    I am not sure about now, but when I subscribed to GQ in the late 80s, there were an awful lot of ads by manufacturers or retailers of cheap clothing (Merry-Go-Round, Oak Tree, etc.) whose clothes would never be featured editorially.

    The interior magazines are a bit different. Some of the furniture featured in the ads is very expensive, but not of the taste that would be featured in the photo spreads, for the most part.

  • bronwynsmom
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think that part of the bad design in houses is because we let anyone call themselves "design-build" contractors, whether or not they have any design talent or education. We cut out the architects, don't like being bound by planning covenants, and accept low standards in codes and code enforcement.

    We don't regulate the trades the way other countries do. We don't want to pay professional craftsmen a decent wage, and any down-and-out, end-of-the-line worker can pick up a hammer and build our houses, whether he knows how or not.

    We no longer use the house patterns that guided the proportions and layout of simple houses for decades. It's most economical to design with the modules, so everything is based on 4 X 8 sheets and 2 X 4 framing, which works against good proportions.

    Heating, air conditioning, and national and international shipping have helped to moved us away from the need to use local conventions based on climate and materials. So decades of traditional knowledge is lost.

    Bricks used to be made on-site or in a nearby kiln from local clay. Timber was region-specific, like cypress and crushed oyster shells in the soggy and coastal South, and cedar in Bermuda.

    House designs worked with the climate, like the low country cottage that captured breezes and protected the living areas from sun and damp with deep porches and raised first floors; the tight small houses close to the road in New England that conserved heat and coped with heavy snow; the thick-walled adobes in the southwest that protected against the desert heat; and the steep pitched roofs designed to shed snow and rain in places where those things were at issue.

    This is where the marketing machine gets us.
    We've been convinced that we are entitled to a level of luxury that was only available to wealthy people just a few generations ago. So we demand houses that are barely better than illlusory movie sets, badly conceived and cheaply built.

    I shut up now.

  • Circus Peanut
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Isn't it more a question of 'make' than 'style'? Global manufacturing changes seem to be behind so much of this shift to the universally bland. I haven't bought brand-new furniture in many years, but what seems overwhelmingly apparent in the catalogues I've seen (Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, etc etc) is 1) the fact that the furnishing are all made by machines, and 2) the fact that the materials used are of lesser quality. Chenille instead of wool, dyed rubberwood instead of maple and cherry. The feet of all these pieces are really simple, machine-cut squares and rectangles, and never ever constructed of more than one piece, that one piece always in the sizes of dimensional lumber. Even machine-lathed feet are more expensive.

    When did "wenge" become a wood finish? Trace that and you've got the Bland Tipping Point bang-on.

    My fetish with upholstery velvets is probably well-known on this forum, but folks in real life look at me as though I had 3 heads when I specify that I've used mohair, not rayon; or wool, not polyester microfiber. If I were not a huge collector of used pieces and unable to reupholster them myself, there's no way I'd be able to afford such so-called "upgrades" to the current commercial basics on my salary. Simple quality materials have been priced out of the grasp of the middle-class consumer. Whether it's actual scarcer availability or simply the burgeoning profit motive, I don't know.

    Here's another relatively recent factor in contemporary design media: the cult of parenthood with its everpresent blogs and magazines and attendant "easy-care" lifestyling.

    When I was growing up in the 1960's, we knew never to play on the velvet living room sofa or -- god forbid -- use crayons or markers on grandmother's antique desk. Parents of more recent generations (of which I'd surely be one, had I decided to have kids) appear to have capitulated their style sense to whatever is least destructible by hordes of ravening toddlers.

    Of course this is a demographic change necessitated by the economy and the increased sovereignty of women: in most cases, no longer can one spouse afford -- nor desires -- to stay at home to sponge the damask and guard the cherry escritoire. But it plays a definite role. I cannot imagine my grandparents purchasing a sofa fabric on the basis of how well one could wipe baby vomit from it. Yet this is precisely the dream fabric marketed by the sofas in virtually all of the aforementioned catalogues. (The exception proving the rule is the "Belgian" Chinese-made linen of RH, which is sold precisely for the snob value of being un-child-proof and thus presumably requiring higher-salaried home maintenance.)

  • rosie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    While I love the glossies with their displays of living rooms that can cost more than I'll make in a lifetime, I also--used to--really enjoy magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, Country Homes, etc.

    Used to, because to survive in a digital age, each changed its content to total advertising. If it's not in stores right now, it's not in the pictures of the homes presented for their readership to take ideas from. Talk about dilution.The decor in these is all variation on the same theme--buy me today! Sofas match towels, match baking dishes, match air deodorizers, match swimming suits. If any old family pieces, special collections, DIY curtains, custom art were in these homes in the first place, most and usually all of it was replaced with mass market purchasables for the pictures.

    The influence of big commercial marketing is having a very profound effect on buyers' tastes, particularly younger ones. The World Wide Web should be a source of an amazing diversity of ideas, styles, and eras of design. Instead, web searches turn up what averages out to an overwhelmingly homogeneous display of what's being marketed now and in the past handful of years.

    Stepford style, national version.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I guess kid-proof is part of the equation, and there have been threads on kids taking care of things vs. not and whether this makes parents mean and unreasonable or not. But that's a different topic.

    One set of my nieces and nephews destroyed everything in sight in their own house. It was expected they would. That same set of nieces and nephews did Not destroy things in my parents' house because it was expected that they would Not --and they were sometimes there for extended periods of time--weeks--or almost every weekend all summer. No room was off limits but neither were they handed a Sharpee to color with or allowed to eat wherever they pleased.

    I cringe when people ask what countertops or cabinet finishes are Sharpee proof. Just. Don't. Have. Any. In. The. House.

    Anyway. The same goes for furniture. People don't expect it to last. They buy it "knowing" they will be tired of it before long. It doesn't last because it doesn't have to.
    My parents' living room, den, and basement have the first sofas ever bought for those rooms 40 odd years ago. In thirty years my sister has probably had 6 sofas. She is the mid-priced sofa salesperson's favorite kind of customer.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I cannot imagine my grandparents purchasing a sofa fabric on the basis of how well one could wipe baby vomit from it.

    You reminded me of my grandmother's sofa. We never saw the actual fabric until after she died. She had the thing covered with 4 or 5 bedspreads to protect the fabric. Once she was gone, we uncovered it and found pristine fabric underneath. Of course the cushions were shot, the springs were shot, the frame was shot.....

  • allison0704
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    DDD2 has baby proofed her kitchen drawers/doors. What does DGS pull out of the drawer yesterday? (He can just get his hand inside the opening before the latch catches!) A Sharpee and Sticky Notes. At least he didn't get the top off.

    DD1 has said several times, when helping with DGS, she did not realize DD2's house needed to be vomit proof.

    This has been an interesting read and I agree with just about everything, so won't repeat (I hope). I think everything doesn't qualify for diluting taste, but can be attributed to helping (or trying to help) those that don't have any design style find theirs - or better yet, assigned style. Some people just do not have any sense of design, so how else can they have nice looking homes (without an ID). Add to that no time or desire to find their own style.

  • lynxe
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    "what seems overwhelmingly apparent in the catalogues I've seen (Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, etc etc is 1) the fact that the furnishing are all made by machines, and 2) the fact that the materials used are of lesser quality. Chenille instead of wool, dyed rubberwood instead of maple and cherry. The feet of all these pieces are really simple, machine-cut squares and rectangles, and never ever constructed of more than one piece, that one piece always in the sizes of dimensional lumber. "

    I'm sure there are differences among those companies' things, but I doubt I could tell you which store a piece is sold in. Because I don't care for the style at all, I don't shop at the stores and don't get their catalogs any more.

    Some years ago, I went to a bricks/mortar PB while searching for curtains. Other than various off-whites, I seem to recall only rose and sage, and those had a muddy tinge: No pure colors, nothing bright. To the extent there were patterns, they were simple, maybe large graphics. I thought the offerings were dull, ugly even.

    I then went to the RH in the same mall. In terms of overall style, I couldn't tell the RH and PB apart. There was another store, I can't remember the name, and again, I wouldn't have been able to tell you whether I was in a PB, a RH or the other one.

  • Circus Peanut
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Exactly, Lynxe. Aren't they all owned by the same people that own the Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, etc? Their clothes are also all the same, I can't tell whose web site I'm on.

    Not that I hate the clothes or the furniture, although don't wear or use much of either. It's just that they all look the same.

  • Mary663
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Interesting topic--I have been a mortgage lender for 30 years and through that time, one topic has emerged as primary concern--we are too worried about keeping up appearances and out-doing the neighbors. Now the young people are not satisfied with fixer-uppers, they want brand new homes whether they can afford them or not because they "deserve" them. The furnishings just go with it. How can you have laminate countertops and oak cabinetry in your 10 year old home when your friend just bought a house with dark woodwork and quartz counters? Appalling! The same is true for cars, boats, campers and don't even get me started on engagement rings! The financial crisis isn't solved because there is a whole new generation just entering their 30's that spends, spends, spends. (Disclaimer-of course not everyone, but many...)

  • Blogarita
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I just have a few (poorly worded I'm sure) comments to this wonderful thread!!
    What has happened to our esthetic, when chippy, beat up junk is considered prime decor?? I read a few blogs, and I am constantly amazed that more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of white, distressed, burlapy, junky, sloppy looking interiors!! Whatever happened to buying the best you could afford (and buy with cash) and then taking care of it so that when your children inherited it, it still looked great?? I actually feel badly for the children who grow up in today's homes. They have no oportunity to learn the responsibility that comes with ownership of a nice looking home .
    Thank you for letting me express my opinion!
    Jaybird

  • Vertise
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    It's an alternative to the post previous to yours -- living on (burying yourself in) credit.

    Some people actually love and prefer a more casual, unpretentious cottage look, making due with or fixing up what you can. Especially with kids and pets around. Unprecious brings peace.

    That's what's great about today. There are so many style options now, just like with fashion, and examples abound on the internet.

    There does seem to be a lot of the cottage look in blog land, Blog-arita. Try googling the style you like. It's not all that's out there.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    It may not be All that's out there, but it's a Lot of what's out there: similar, vaguely narcissistic, blatant rehashes of what Rachel Ashwell started pushing almost 30 years ago.

  • Vertise
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    "It may not be All that's out there, but it's a Lot of what's out there"

    Just what I said. "There does seem to be a lot of the cottage look in blog land."

    So what if they like cottage or Rachel Ashwell's style? That's what it's all about. It's your home, do what you love. "This look is affordable!"

    Cottage has been around long before RA, out of necessity.

  • palimpsest
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Sure, but the self-congratulatory "look what I can do--and identically to everyone else!" is one of the reasons I don't look at blogs. And it's another example of the (self-published) media mostly pushing in one direction.

  • LanaRoma
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Googled Rachel Ashwell just now. Interesting. I'd name this style as a pretense of "making do".

    It has definitely been around for ages. Reminds me of the Soviet-era dachas where people piled up various old stuff, except that white paint was used chiefly for ceilings, doors and window trims, and not for furniture or walls (too impractical).

    At one point I studied a lot of photo sources on daily life in inter-war Eastern Europe. Many period homes of workers or peasants would pretty much fit the style.

    It's an easy-to-do style. Sometimes it's cute, but it can turn junky all too easily. Still, there is a place for shabby chic, and sometimes it works well.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Old Dachas

  • Vertise
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    She's from England and just loved/loves the cottage style of her homeland That's key, it became a style at some point. Born out of necessity, using old cast offs, but people found it down to earth and charming anyway, opting for things more relaxed and practical for their lifestyle. Along with what they could honestly afford -- which is smart. A lot of people have to start meagerly, or have different priorities. It's great to have accessible how to "tutorials" today and tips on making it all actually look good. It let's similar minded (and inexperienced) people who want a nice home connect. The saying used to be, something like, don't get good furniture until the kids are out of the nest. But it, obviously, doesn't have to be done on the cheap, to say the least.

    There's nothing pretentious about it. She/no one is trying or aspiring to look frugal or poor.

    A lot, probably most, of those women blogging are young housewives and mothers. Love the family life, nesting, decorating, writing. Perhaps SAHM housebound, giving them a creative outlet, possibly some income if they take it really seriously. I bet they are simply sharers, too. If they find enjoyment, motivation, energy out of turning trash to treasure, making dirty dishes, laundry, diapers, toys look good or go down easier, power to them. In the past, SAHM's used to get batty, so it's healthy.

    There are so many decorating blogs and photos around, I don't think anyone has to be restricted to the romantic ones. Narrow your search. Look up architects and designers instead to get around the home bloggers.

    This post was edited by snookums2 on Sat, Jun 1, 13 at 14:00

  • peegee
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    RE: "The saying used to be, something like, don't get good furniture until the kids are out of the nest."
    I never knew any parents who practiced that when i was growing up. My parent's circle of like-minded friends all bought the best they could afford expecting it to last, and expected the children to treat everything with respect. (Agree wholeheartedly with Pall's point). None of their homes/decorating looked even remotely similar, so agree w/Pal; they decorated how they liked and could afford. Because most had experienced some impact from the Great Depression, there was some sense of the utility of permanence for possessions, hence buying quality and buying once - so no serial decorating as in Pal's #3. My parents did upgrade chairs once or twice, and reupholstered, but most of the casegoods, lamps, decorations and artwork etc. remained the same, as it did in their parent's homes which were even more static. So my siblings and I have been influenced by that sense of permanence and meaning that defines a sense of place in time....remembering their homes is easy, solid, familiar, comforting. Not sure how people being raised in ever-changing, chaotic flavor-of-the-month environments will be affected.

    This post was edited by peegee on Sat, Jun 1, 13 at 17:59

  • Vertise
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    " Not sure how people being raised in ever-changing, chaotic flavor-of-the-month environments will be affected."

    I don't know who those people are. Online and other media like tv decorating shows seem to be a different world.

    "Has design media/retailing "diluted" taste?"

    I think we are all brainwashed, one way or another.

  • SaraKat
    8 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    You know I feel just the opposite. I have never seen so much creativity. When we were growing up, people just had furniture by necessity and homes were not really decorated, they were just well, functional. Now I see young people doing all kinds of things, painting, learning new ways of doing things with what they have, going yard sale and fixing up. I'm so amazed and proud of them for finding something that looks like it could go to the dust bin and they make it into some really great and useful item that is distinctly unique. I've seen them make an ugly place into an amazing abode that just says so much about them. Even people who had never had any training learned how to faux paint or stencil (not the ugly stuff or bunnies or ducks but sophisticated patterns) wallpaper like motifs that look really great. In my mom's day they never did stuff like that or even thought of it. The odd person here and there did but were often thought of as eccentric!

    I don't see too many cookie cutter PB houses around here, some will incorporate pieces here and there and I do love some of their accessories such as the pewter or faux silver pieces and some of the mirrors and bedding, pillows.

    There is no doubt that TV is what changed the world. You can view the same programs around the world and people are so easily influenced by it. But I don't feel there is a hard line about what furnishings are in or out. I think cookie cutter neighborhoods are the result of builders coming in and throwing up a bunch of homes all at once. It's cheaper for them and less risky to stick with something they have had success with, they don't really care, they just want to sell them. I do lament the feeling that no matter where you go you could be anywhere with the malls all being the same, this holds true around the world actually. It's surreal to be overseas and see the same things in their malls!

    The one class I wish they would bring back to high schools is Home Economics. I learned to sew, design and cook, grocery plan and shop and how to write a check and balance a check book, etc., in home ec. Those are the things that helped me the most once I was out of my parents home and living in my own apartment going to college. Of course the core curriculum of the math and sciences did too but the practical truth of home ec really saved me. My high school was pretty good looking back on it even though it was a small town and county school. We had languages, art, art history, literature, writing, phys ed, Latin, speech, drama and home economics ~a lot of these things have gone by the wayside to make way for the almighty computer classes which I will never understand because you could teach computer in an afternoon. I will never understand all this emphasis on computer literacy especially since it becomes outdated so quickly. To actually think of giving up cursive writing classes because they don't have time for it? How is that possible? I'm sure it is frustrating for teachers as well.

  • vedazu
    7 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    So many good posts--Broynwyn'smom hits the nail on the head multiple times. A couple of comments: not everyone cares, indeed, most people don't care, about quality or beauty.

    I think that overly-big houses with open plans set everyone up for these clumsy pieces of furniture. Very hard to do "charming" when the proportions are so big and the finishes in the houses themselves are almost primitive. You need these huge chairs with fat-lady ankles.

    Someone above also made the point that children are completely capable of being respectful to furniture if asked to do so. My mother's Statton furniture, purchased piece by piece with great effort, is in pristine condition 60 years later. Five children, 17 grandchildren--We ate three times a day and wouldn't dream of dragging food, sodas (we never had soda so that wasn't an issue) around the house, making rings on the furniture. We learned about things like that.

    So, the rest of us can all go on Ebay and buy vintage Baker, Clarence House and Scalamandre remnants for mid-hundreds and enjoy good quality for a few more generations. More for us!

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