Those of us who inhabit the world of interior design live in interesting times. In a world of instant gratification, fast fashion and the one-stop-shop popular culture, it’s easy to want to ‘decorate’ our homes overnight. But style is changing, with a seismic shift says Karen McCartney, author and launch editor of Inside Out magazine, who planned her latest design book, The Alchemy of Things, knowing she wanted something totally different from the ‘look du jour’ of modern décor.
What she sees, for now, are more empathetic, beautiful, theatrical interiors in the truest sense of the words. The result is book about how the most successful interiors come together organically, over time, without urgency.
It’s about building interiors around furniture collections, not building an interior overnight around fabric swatches and look du jours. The best houses never look spanking new, but rather comfortable, at easy, gently broken in.
What stands out in the book is freedom of expression, originality, rich eclecticism and spirit – where interiors are based on all kinds of pieces, whatever their provenance or value. That’s the alchemy, says McCartney.
‘As much as it is about aesthetics, interior design is about logic and balance. It is important to get it to a point where most people have to agree it works.’
‘It’s like cooking or music – when the balance of elements is where it can’t be denied,’ says Micahel Coorengel, whose wonderful Parisian apartment he shares with Jean-Pierre Calvagrac, features in the book. It is one of our faves, with a pedigree, where styles, eras and periods collide in the most memorable ways.
McCartney started the book with just two brilliant examples, that of renowned former Sydney vintage dealer, Rodney De Soos, and Melbourne vintage furniture dealer, Geoffrey Hatty.
Then set about scouring the world to find other creatives, collectors, designers, and dealers – ‘steering clear of the overexposed, to seek out the privately held, the publicity shy’ – for an intriguing list that each had something in common. Like so many creative individuals before them: ‘they share an incredibly intense approach to their living space,’ says McCartney, all erring ‘on the side of humanity over pomposity, with a passionate attachment to the space they live in rarely defined by money’.
The takeaway according to McCartney, is to know yourself. Decorating is an autobiography. Decide what you like. Buy only what you love, and you’ll be surprised how well it falls together over the years. ‘An interior should be so personal that it exposes all your passions, quirks and interests. No one wants to read as a blank page.’ Hear, hear.
When most people think of trends, they think of huge changes, but many of the most surprising and influential developments in modern society involve smaller numbers of people, such as these creatives. And they are having an outsized effect on our culture; (call it a microtrend); spotting them early can give you a clearer sense of what the future holds. McCartney discovers one unfolding now, and the impact they bring with them on our homes. It’s a book for the times.