IKEA built its brand selling modern to the masses; the company has epitomized the Bauhaus ideal of making functional furnishings affordable to the mob, for better or worse. So forgive my surprise at seeing IKEA’s winter 2012 flyer and their new Emmie line of bedding and fabrics awash in chintzy florals and toiles. The company’s press materials trumpet “new textiles with old charm” and reference “an English garden at the end of the 19th century.”
If this were almost any other retailer I’d hardly take notice but IKEA is a global machine and when it hitches its wagon to a trend, you can bet the style has legs. The arrival of Emmie brought to mind a conversation I had recently with online furniture seller Susan Elliott who predicted that the smash hit British period drama Downton Abbey (below) would be an interior design Inukshuk pointing the way to a new (old?) design direction. After a decade of mid-century madness — triggered in part by Mad Men, another wildly popular TV series — I feel the ground shifting and a new zeitgeist emerging.
The rage for mid-century modern was born in part by its affordability. Twenty- and thirtysomething hipsters with more style than cash turned to flea markets and Craigslist where Breuer chairs and George Nelson knockoffs were a dime a dozen. But the MCM pendulum has swung past the point of affordability into the red zone of high end. Today CL is littered with teak junk that ignorant or wanton sellers are passing off as somehow special.
Which brings me back to Susan Elliott and her online business Tribute Decor; Susan shops primarily at auctions where she’s finding great deals on slightly dowdy, late 19th century and early 20th century pieces that might be right at home in WWI-era Downton. The pieces are affordable, especially considering the quality, and that, more than anything, will help steer the style ship as it chugs ahead into the new decade. I’m not predicting the death of modern but when IKEA’s riding a wave you know it has a long way to go before it hits the beach.