How do you live? If you’re lucky, you have a warm, dry house. If you’re really lucky, it’s filled with people, furniture and things you like. We’ve all grown up with an appetite for ‘things’. We buy them. We put them in our houses. We like them for a bit and then we throw them into the cupboard under the stairs and get more.
How our homes are decorated, what they contain, is an indication of our ‘taste’ – a highly charged concept that for some, indicates at best, some kind of knowledge of style or fashion, and at worst, a level of education or class. What we like is, in reality, not entirely down to us. We are highly subjective creatures and the majority of us tend to like what we can imagine – ie. what we are shown on Pinterest, Instagram or on TV and what we aspire to be.
The earliest example of ‘taste’ seems to be the spread of ‘Terra Sigillata’ in Roman Gaul. When a location was conquested and became Roman, the more elite consumers tended to adopt these red hued Roman-style ceramics shortly after. Then in order to demonstrate their desire to become more elite and show some distance between the people they perceived to be on the bottom of the heap, later generations of ordinary people did the same. Terra Sigillata was the first design trend that truly spread across the world – it was the best way to show off how cultured you were.
So, the brightly coloured collection of handmade miniature earthenware pots you’ve just bought aren’t just your taste, they’re a trend that is sweeping the globe. Trends have been changing for an eternity because fashion is the oxygen that feeds consumerism. Without the new black appearing every few months, there’s no reason to buy, because purchasing only out of necessity dropped out of favour sometime around the 1950s when people wanted the grey, functional, dig for victory years to be as far behind them as possible.
Today’s world is an odd mix of instant availability and a degree of affordability that would have made even our most puritan ancestors drop their bloomers in appreciation. But has it been a good thing for the discipline of design?
“Many people share the belief that there is a moral or ethical component to design, and that design can be responsible for enriching our lives and doing good in the world. However, if good design can enrich our world, then presumably bad design can harm it.”
This is a quote from the wall of the new Design Museum in Kensington. And when you think of all the avocado bathroom suites and melamine worktops in landfill around the country, you can see their point. Bad design is design that doesn’t reflect life and the only constant in life that we can be certain of, is change. That’s why good design reflects change, embraces change. It embodies change. It accepts that styles and trends will change and offers a simple adjustments that with care and attention, can refresh and rejuvenate a space without too much hassle. Modern design, especially in the kitchen, isn’t about one style, it’s about creating multiple layers of design. The core is the very best you can afford – solid wood, handcrafted cabinets. Each one tailored to the dimensions of the space and the desires of the cook. Offering cues that can easily changed like visible hinges and handles that are easily replaced and refreshed is both stylish and sensible. Painted finishes are easily repainted. The use of multiple surfaces – wood, marble, stone, metal is practical from a usage point of view and also from a covering all bases of fashion point of view. Nothing is wasted or torn out or thrown away. It can all be subtly changed or adapted or evolved to suit us, our lives and our world.
So why don’t more designers embrace this approach? Well it’s not easy to get right. You have to spend a long time really getting under the skin of your client. It’s also not cheap. But when you consider the long term cost of investing in one design, then reinvesting in another 10-15 years later, it’s a no brainer. No one said saving the world was going to be simple, but we can all do our bit by insisting on good design. By learning from our grandparents, saving our pennies and investing in design that really works for our lives.
See Day True’s SW10 kitchen or W9 kitchen at Day True Chelsea and Maida Vale. Daytrue.com