Why do some designs go stale while others remain as exciting as the day they left the studio?
It began on a Saturday morning in early November with a cup of Yorkshire Gold tea and several piles of ten to fifteen year old popular interior design and antiques magazines I had kept from the recycling bins, much to the consternation of my wife.
I was preparing for Monday when I would be driving one and half hours to the artist’s studio on Cape Cod. It would be nice to mull over a full tank of ideas during the drive and not have to stare at an empty canvas all day.
You never know where a spark of inspiration will come from. Sometimes it is just the act of looking at things completely differently from what you see every day. Leafing through ten to fifteen year old magazines could be like a trip on a time machine. How did we decorate then? How will it look today?
Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that styles change, trends come and go, and fashion is fleeting. Yet, I was surprised by how dated the editorial material looked, and in some cases, how unappealing. The color advertisements fared no better. Ten years ago this same magazine had been filled with exciting and innovative photos—inspiration from cover to cover. It hadn’t changed, I had.
Or had I?
I picked up a copy of an antiques magazine from the same year and flipped through the pages. The objects in the photos still attracted me, as they had when this issue was hot off the press. I opened a bunch of English, French and Italian interior design magazines, and a bunch of their antiques magazines, all at random. Sunny-side up, so to speak, and went off for more tea.
My hunt for inspiration had turned into an intriguing problem. You see where I’m going with this?
Why is some art timeless? Why do some works of art remain as fresh and exciting as they were on the day they came out of the studio, and others have a brief life and are gone forever? How does art reach out to people? And what in the world makes it great?
A little analyzing of the opened magazines told me a few things:
- An object in an antiques magazine is often photographed singly, from different angles, to show off its qualities. When pictured in a setting, the object is shown with furnishings of its period. At one time it was the ultimate in fashion, and perhaps it even led a trend. Today it is even more attractive, and respected as an important antique.
- The photos in an interior design magazine on the other hand show combinations of objects and colors pulled together. Furniture, rugs, fabrics, window treatments, lighting, art, wall paper, paint are all pulled together by a trend—or is setting a new trend. The question arises:
What makes the room look dated?……. Is it the way objects were combined that has become dated? Surely there are at least a few objects in those rooms that could spark a trend setting composition today?
What do you think?