Not your grandma's shabby chic - what the new trends say about us as a society

Welcome to Mental Space Monday!

Where we dive down the rabbit hole of collective consciousness and submit to the whims of curiosity.


Last week we took a lesson from hermit crabs and what they can teach us about letting go of the shells that are keeping us from being naked and raw in the face of the world around us. Here's the awesome thing - there are undeniable indications that our collective consciousness is shifting; as a society, we are gravitating toward the authentic and away from the facade of perfect.

I have to give them credit - Restoration Hardware caught on to this before most of us knew it was even happening. I remember looking at a new ad from them a few years ago and commenting to the owner of the interior design firm where I was working, "Really, we're doing this linen, shabby chic thing again? We just did this in the 90s, surely the public won't be interested in a rehash of the same look so soon?" What I failed to realize at the time is that this is not a rehash of that 90s look. This is not your grandma's shabby chic; we are not talking slip-covers in pink and green with white painted wood. No, this time it's different. What Restoration Hardware and the early drivers of this trend were doing was responding to our collective exhaustion of the then ubiquitous pretense of perfection. They were stepping out of their hermit crab shell and decidedly not putting on a new one. We as a society had gotten caught up in the glitz and glam. Gotten carried away with our ability through technology to to pretend perfection; to make things super-improved and super-sized. It allowed us to gloss over the flaws and imperfections that happen in real life, let us delight in our superior ability as intelligent humans. Wasn't it wonderful that we were able to bend nature to our will and improve...well, everything?!? Why settle for flaws and authenticity when you have technology? Our kitchens were installed with highly polished counter tops made out of materials that don't ever show flaws or inconsistencies. Our metals were chromes with perfect, mirror-like sheen. Restaurants were tricked out with the latest technology in flashing lights and designer foods. Our fashion was tailored within an inch of its life and our makeup had to be "just-so". It all began to feel mass-produced, fake, cold and sterile.

But we are collectively beginning to tire of the mental effort it takes to believe that the world can (or should) be as perfect as we were all portraying it to be. That shell of perfection can only be carried around for so long. We want rooms we use. We have no interest in a sitting room that exists for the sole purpose of showing off to the neighbors. We want to ditch the formal dining table and let go of the fallacy that we are not truly "grown-up" until we can maintain a white sofa and a perfectly manicured lawn. We have come to the realization that we had been adhering to fake, man-made veneers that were no more than shiny fronts for the beauty of who we really are; flawed, real and endlessly nuanced.

we shape our buildingsThis shift in consciousness is happening in all realms of our culture. Oprah just finished her The Life You Want Tour, Brene Brown continues to remind us that we are all biologically built to be imperfect and flawed and that is not just ok, but better and more beautiful. The change that we are making in our interiors is a fascinating insight into the change that is happening within each of us individually and throughout society. As Hermes Trismegistus said, As within, so without. As Churchill said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter our buildings shape us." We are looking to embrace the genuine and real in ourselves and to connect those around us on that same level what better evidence of this that we now crave that same authenticity within our spaces? Both our public and private spaces mentally and physically are stripping down to something more real - shedding their shells if you will. There is an overwhelming trend in both hospitality and residential design toward the industrial look. We are stripping off the facade and the sheen and getting down to brass tacks - literally. Restoration Hardware offers their deconstructed collection with the fabric removed from the back altogether, unabashedly displaying their stuffing to the world.* restoration hardware deconstructedAnthropologie, Tom'sFree People and others like them began to celebrate flaws, one-of-a-kind looks and natural textures. Restaurants are stripping off ceilings and exposing pipes and beams. They are getting real with their menus - embracing farm-to-table and gastropub concepts (neither of which are new concepts; what's old is new again ...and again...). The menus delighting in offering less-processed, well-concocted fare and likewise, the interiors provide a creative combination of basic, found-looking elements combined in such a way that they feel both genuine, relaxed and inventive all at once. The reclaimed raw metals and flawed, natural woods in the decor are consistent with the locally-sourced, free-range, hormone-free, menu which is so attractive to all of us as we continue our quest for the same authenticity of self; even more intriguing once stripped of all of the unnecessary elements. See below for 2 examples of this that I have come into contact with just in the last 2 days:

industrial design local example

industrial design example photo

As we interact with others, we are looking for this element of authenticity. For interactions and connections that don't feel affected or surface. We know that though it may be rougher and there will be inconsistencies - the finish may not be perfect, the wood may have knot holes and the marble may have veining and scratches, those around us may make mistakes and not always wear a smile, but we are done playing games and hiding behind some sort of accepted "way to do things". We are no longer interested in the show and splendor of the great and powerful OZ - we want to see the hunched man behind the curtain. We would rather sit down with him over drinks and accept that he is really just a man, more complex and interesting in his humanity and faults. Because we are smart - we know there is no such thing as perfection and we, as a society are beginning to embrace the imperfections as part of a greater, more genuine whole.

It is the nature of the beast here that though we all want hand-made, reclaimed, one-of-a-kind objets to further this mentality, it is cost prohibitive in most cases to actually have this. Just as we are giving up perfection in ourselves and our surroundings, we have to be aware of the same within the system of our society - it too is flawed. We are only achieving this "found, antique" look at an affordable price through the wonders of mass-production. While this is not ideal in many ways, we must see it as part of a bigger process. We must be encouraged by the momentum that we are creating and believe in the industry of humans that we will continue to keep stripping, keep questioning the accepted way of doing things and keep truly listening to those around us for ways to better connect and better help each other as we all try to improve and hone the process.

I challenge you to strip away more and more of your facade. Risk showing your flaws and trust that those around you will accept them as part of your wonderful, dynamic whole. Next time you grab a pint with friends while perching on warehouse-looking metal stools or wander through the local artisan, hand-crafted boutique that is now invariably around the corner from you, appreciate the beauty of our collective consciousness. Delight in the fact that humanity as a whole is genuinely trying to shed the inauthentic shells that we have been hiding behind. We are beginning to embrace flawed honestly and are steadily becoming better and happier because of it. How refreshing.

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Have a wonderful week, lovelies. Believe in your unique entelechy and actualize your wonderful.




*What is old is new again. This was actually done way back when (think 16 century or so) as a way to save on upholstery and fabric costs when furniture was likely to be against the walls of a room anyway. The upper classes (who were the only ones with actual "upholstered" furniture would line it up along the walls of a room when not in use and would then push them together toward the center of the room to facilitate whatever they were doing in the room at the time.