I have written about my impression of the design trend “D’decade”, Mid-century Modern. It probably hit its zenith several years ago at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House when the interior design trade exhibited its best talent in a classic mid-century designed apartment turned condo building, Manhattan House. As I remember that event, nothing could have been less relevant to the design trade than antiques.
Times seem like they may be changing. It has always seemed that through almost 4 decades, the Kips Bay Decorator Show House was the singular place to exhibit as a professional interior designer. Interestingly, this year several designers have requested pieces that I believe make a statement that antiques can at last come out of the closet.
As I was reviewing the selection of items going up to the Show House, there were several outstanding Art Deco and Mid-Century items that were far from 60’s “kitsch”. These were best in class period items and the same level as the Biedermeier, Russian, Italian Neo-classic and Georgian pieces also going up to Kips Bay. This diversity of merchandise was something I did not expect, but have heard discussed by designers who have come in to Newel and are searching for more than just minimalism in decorating. Will this potential opening in the design trade have any “stickiness”?
The public’s perception of antiques as old, out of touch, expensive, and traded in a dubious industry, has been years in the making. From the architecture of new construction, to TV shows like The Antiques Road Show, and convicted high end auctioneers like Sotheby’s and Christie’s the public has every reason to go to contemporary manufacturers. For the retail customer how can you know what you’re buying or selling, and for what price. Contemporary furniture and design makes it a no-brainer and no doubts about what you just purchased. Antiques take a little time and thought.
With the re-introduction of using antiques at a Show House like Kips Bay it will be hard for critics and the press to not notice their use. It will be interesting to read and hear comments on this within the interior design trade. But there are two big constraints on furthering this trend. One is that many young designers are not schooled in the classical furniture periods and lack exposure to recognizing good quality pieces and using them in an optimal way. The second and more disconcerting is the lack of merchandise on or coming to the market. Mid-20th Century merchandise abounds, anything earlier of any quality is not so easily available.
The use of these antique decorative art items includes an intrinsic functional value that should be part of the economics of the total investment. Taste and an appreciation of their ownership are the necessary ingredients for stimulating this trend. The fact that it is actually an environmentally “green” investment doesn’t hurt either!