Late last year, I was sitting down to lunch with a team from Morris & Co. And I noticed that the pattern on the handkerchief on my lap looked vaguely familiar. I knew it wasn’t an iconic Morris print (immediately recognizable!), but something about it seemed historical. As it turns out, Morris & Co.’s design team took on the. Archival several patterns and “clean them up” a bit for a more modern twist – this was one of several in the new old collection. The “new extremism” is what they call it. And since that lunch — at Paris Design Week and the High Point Market, in new wallpaper and fabric collections, and even on pages (both print and digital!) Beautiful house– I’ve seen the concept everywhere.
It’s ’80s splendor without the ruffles, chintz that doesn’t feel too novelty, Victorian patterns in defiantly modern colorful ways. You might see it described as a “modern”, a “clean” version, or even a “modern” interpretation of classic extremes. We call it Archive revive.
“Interior design definitely moves away from the mid-century mania we’ve had for a long time,” said celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “People will go back to the Victorian Hackney House.” Just look at the rise of the design trend in the new millennium and references to Victorian fashion in Hill House Home’s famous nap dresses—both driven, in large part, by the pandemic-induced need to stay home (maybe even in your childhood bedroom). The preference for a lighter, more modern spin on these ancient motifs is now gaining strength.
Pollard owns his own textile and wallpaper line that comes to life in the archive. “They are traditional prints in fresher colours,” he explains. “After coming out of COVID, everyone wants to relive the ’80s, but it’s done in a more modern way: avocado, deep pink, and moving away from that ‘millennial’ pink to a dusty look.”
Like Morris & Co. Textiles supplier Bassett McNab has researched his extensive archive of some of his latest releases, pulling fabrics from the early 1900s and presenting them in new, cleaner panels. Artists George Vinson and Diane Hill have recently released patterns based on traditional landscapes, murals, and motifs—with their own twists. Their success follows the recent surge in popularity of custom murals, many of which follow the same process of improving historical concepts.
The effect is less literal than true nostalgia, a return to familiar motifs in a way that does not actually repeat the past.
Artist Charlotte Terrell of Nashville creates custom murals for her clients that reference traditional landscapes but veer more toward abstraction. “I draw inspiration from my time as a landscape architect and decorative painter,” says Terrell. “I bring elements of beauty, peace, and inherentness into my own dreamlike, idyllic landscapes to capture the 19th and 20th century murals that we loved – and that inspired us to re-create.”
What drives designers to reinvent traditional, extreme motifs? “The world is an uncertain place right now, and people have been nesting for the past couple of years,” New York designer Barry Goralnik notes. “A lot of extreme interiors contain familiar objects, either from our past or from a simpler time. Layers of fabrics, rugs, woods, and objects are warm and inviting and provide a relaxing and pleasant environment. It’s the home decor equivalent of comfort food.”
Archive revival is comfort with a twist: a style from a bygone era in an undeniable era du jour A color palette or a bold reimagining of an old school concept. Take, for example, the re-emergence of the allover style room. Once a dated counterpart to matching furniture sets, the trend of scraping room walls, tapestries, and window treatments in exactly the same style is back with a vengeance. These new interpretations manage to make even the busiest of styles appear attractive and modern.
The past few years, in which we’ve all spent more time than usual at home, seem to bolster our collective confidence in decorating—whether that’s simply being daring to please ourselves (see: dopamine dressing) or adapting a familiar style of making it. More uniquely our own. “Covid denied us and now we want it all at once!” How does Betsy Wentz put it on?
“Today, more than ever, people are drawn to layered design and not just one style recognition,” says Zandy Gammons of Miretta Interiors in Raleigh. “They want a ‘collection’ look that has textures, colors, and items that are unique to them, while still looking modern.”
Philip Thomas Vanderford and Jason James Jones of Studio Thomas James agree: “We’ve noticed that clients love the sentimentality of their parents’ and grandparents’ homes, which in many cases has added layers of ‘life’ to each space.” But of course they want their own twist on this look. “Modern-day extremism is taking a more subtle, nurturing, and personal approach,” says Philip Mitchell.
One of the simplest ways to try this trend is to mix and match your art, says Benjamin Reyneart, Creative Director of Interior Define. In Brooklyn’s newest interior studio, Reyneart showcases the approach: “You can see it here, as we layer graphic and modern pieces alongside more traditional landscapes.” Framing provides another way to align eras on your walls: Place a freshly mixed media work in a repainted Baroque frame to give it a whole new feel. The recent drive to revamp a classic “goes hand in hand with the re-emergence of collectibles,” says Rinke’s Valentine.
Like all good collections—and interiors—archive revival is all about mix. “I think what makes extremism different now is that it’s less about the value of trauma and more about cohesion,” says Baton Rouge-based Rachel Cannon. ‘Eclectic’ was the word we used for extremes, but to me, that always meant ‘odd taste and kinda bad’. The extremes are in very good taste, and give us plenty of things to admire! ” New interpretations of today’s classics ensure these designs will last for years to come.
“People want to see the things they like that make them happy,” says Travis London, Next Wave designer. “More is more!”
Credits for a lead image: The living room is by Right Meets Left Interior Design: Frank Frances Studio. Blue sofa by Bassett McNab. Entry Betsy Wentz: Carmel Brantley. Fabrics from Morris & Co.
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