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When a Rose is Not Just a Rose

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.

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Monday, February 13, 2012 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 849 posts on styleNorth.

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Chris, this is where you and I disagree. “MCM” is absolutely dated and save a few iconic pieces – ie. wassily chairs in a room full of classic pieces and antiques – it is tired, ugly and expected. Now, I know many will disagree, just my opinion.
    As for this new “trend”, I absolutely do not believe it is a trend but that Ikea must target a range of customers, not all of whom are boring Toronto “hipsters” (what a word!)
    Anyway, in high end design classic pieces and furniture have never gone “out” though they may have been mixed with with more modern pieces then in the past. I’m thinking of the most successful designers – Alexa Hampton, Charlotte Moss, David Easton, Micheal Smith, John Saladino etc. That mass produced CL tat is in now way “trendy” nor does it represent classic design. MCM was a reaction against, in part, the cost and snobbishness of “fine furniture” but if that’s the look you want you will have to save up and do without, just as people did in generations before us (when having the best and the most recent right now! wasn’t an expectation).
    I started collecting antiques in my early 30s (I’m in my mid-30s now) and half of my living room is completely empty and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. I just refuse to buy crap. Not that everything I want or will get will be “fine” but it will be bought to last a lifetime, so it will be of a certain quality and it will be classic.

  2. Lois Says:

    Good evening CHRIS great article…Lois of good taste NEVER goes out of style

  3. shescomeundone Says:

    Bazinga! Only a moderately veiled jab at the CL junktique sellers but I’m in total agreement.

  4. Claire Says:

    I have to wholeheartedly agree about the swing-shift in MCM on the “vintage” market. After spending time with furniture mass manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s, it has paled in comparison to the quality of many older pieces, while it has gained in popularity so much so that people are trying to sell their old laminated junk for far more than it is worth on craigslist. (And on that topic, I think you might find my blog of interest! I showcase the best furniture available on Toronto craigslist on a many-times-per-week basis.) (Shameless plug, I know.)

  5. Alfreda Says:

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