It’s an age-old argument among interior designers.
In fact, it’s been going on so long that I’m quite sure the argument started in the 1860s. The renowned Edith Wharton argued in her seminal work that it was time to move beyond the boring, conservative Victorian style of overstuffed furniture, dark, heavy drapes, and cluttered bric-a-brac.
Wharton announced that these rooms, while ‘fashionable’ were practically unusable, as they were so dark and unwelcoming.
Her successor as darling of design, Elsie de Wolfe, shared Wharton’s anti-fashion views, moving towards bright, vibrant and highly stylised designs. De Wolfe love including Asian accessories in her rooms, creating an airy, exotic and enticing atmosphere in a sea of dark velvets and heavy wallpapers.
De Wolfe not only brightened all the rooms she worked on, but she mercifully freed them of the intense clutter that was such a staple of the Victorian style. From heavy ottomans and pouffes, to massive loveseats, overstuffed sofas and endless tiny wooden tables, the old style was big on having furniture everywhere.
It’s much too intense to have so much stuff everywhere – people don’t want to be in them. They want somewhere they can stretch out, feel relaxed, be themselves.
And that’s where the next iteration of interior design excelled so well. Syrie Maugham gave everyone quite a fright when she created the first ‘all-white’ room in London.
The fantastic brightness of such a room, even in the dull grey light of a London day, was enough to startle even the most lethargic critics. And Syrie stuck to her guns, too, creating spaces that just screamed light and brightness all over the world.
So the question is not so much whether interior design should follow fashion, as whether interior design should be an expression of your own vibrance, your own passion and flair.
And the answer to that, resoundingly, is yes.