The Big Trend: The New Neutrals
January 11, 2018
June 3, 2018
I’m always intrigued by the fast fashion shops, those high street behemoths who manage to get clothes onto the racks faster than anyone else. For while they generally trade quality for speed, as the gap closes between trends in fashion vs interiors, they often send early signals about what’s going to hit big in homes.
As such, at the beginning of the year I predicted that we’d see a rise in what I called more ‘povera’ or humble finishes. Materials like rattan, cork, plywood, sisal and hemp with the twist being that they will be employed as if they were haute materials in the hands of master designers. In other words, rather than being looked down on as materials too lowly to be considered beautiful, their intrinsic texture, authenticity and tactility would be celebrated.
And so, shops like Top Shop and Zara are currently flooded with linen separates and wicker handbags. Of course, to an extent, we’d be expecting to see materials like this used for clothing and accessories as we approach summer, but what I was interested in was the widespread nature of its adoption (pages already devoted to the perfect straw bag in the Sunday supplements) and specific mode of employ. It appears to be then a season of extreme detailing: linen jackets with artfully frayed edges, wedge sandals where the platform itself was woven wicker layered with suede, over-sized shoppers that combined fabric and bamboo; little rattan handbags adorned with fringed string and tassels.
In interiors this was mirrored on the high street with jute placemats (H&M Home), rattan stools (Zara Home), rattan planters (Cox & Cox), even paper cushions (Debenhams), rattan lanterns, chic side tables and even a rattan-covered pedal bin (all at OKA) galore, but also rattan and cane were crafted into lighting, seating and screens by many of the big international brands. Of particular note at the 2018 Milan Furniture Fair were Yamakawa, a brand synonymous with rattan since 1952 in Japan; DePadova for re-issuing classic cane chairs from the 50s and 60s; Nani Marquina for the use of hemp in rugs; and Gebruder Thonet for managing to weave wicker into almost everything including some fabulous new pieces by the Swedish duo Front, below, (see also the 2015 Targa sofa by GamFratesi for the brand, put to beautiful use in a cafe, below below).
I see it as one step on from the New Naturals that I first mentioned in Trend Tracking 2016 – 2017. It also chimes with a new generation seeking sustainable solutions to everyday life.
But first, in purely style terms, I liken it to a sort of warmed-up Scandi style, that pereninial favourite — all black and white with a smudge of grey, plus sheepskins and patinated wood, that could sometimes feel, perhaps, a little too coldly perfect — now loaded up with extra-added texture and tactility, wobbliness and imperfection. By employing hemp for our curtains, cork on our walls, and plywood, wicker and jute for our furniture and finishes, it’s all a bit more real. And I like it. A lot.
And on the other hand this is just smart. It taps into a hugely under-used tactility toolbox that gives designers a whole new palette to play with, but also, it references important ecological concerns about sustainability, and the impact of consumption. The thinking seems to be, if we’re all going to keep on buying, then at least let’s all get a bit more ‘woke’ about it. Additionally, it denotes, I sincerely hope, the beginning of the end of nasty scratchy supposedly ec0-stuff that frankly could have done us all a favour by fast-tracking itself straight to the recycling bin. Sustainable now stands for sexy, as well a smart. This is the trend that will endure: a classic style just got a lot more interesting.
1 The ‘C110 Highback’ rattan armchair, designed in 1964 by Yuzuru Yamakawa. £650 from SCP
2 The ‘T.54 Archivio Storico Bonacina 1889’ chair, designed in 1954, re-issued in 2018 by De Padova.
4 The ‘Picasso Eye’ mirror in rattan and wood, handmade in Morocco. Approx £210 plus delivery charges. Lrnce
6 The ‘C317’ armchair in natural rattan and powder-coated steel. Designed in 1965 by Yuzura Yamakawa, £675, from SCP
7 The ‘Daisy’ rug in jute. 98cm diameter. Approx £165. Armadillo & Co Larger rugs and many other designs also available, but this one is one of my favourites, so sweet!
8 The ‘Manila’ stool, hand-made in The Philippines. Cane top, iron legs. Approx £75. From the Swedish-based Afroart
9 The ‘Franco Albini ottoman’ in rattan, designed in 1951. Today manufactured by Sika Design. £295, available from Twentytwentyone
10 The ‘Flat Rattan Occasional’ chair, £275 from Cox & Cox
Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.