HBCH September, October, November 2010 : Page 54

HOMEFRONT design The New Clutter An anti-perfection movement brings personal clutter out of the closet and puts it where it belongs: on display By Lisa Cregan Photography by Maia Harms If you’re mad for Betty Draper, stop reading right now. Te latest trend in interior design is going to break your heart. Icy Perfection? Out. Riotous Clutter? In. Suddenly the most buzzed-about interiors mags, books and blogs are documenting rooms that seem to be inhabited by actual homeowners—living, breathing people with the temerity to eat, drink, spill… even sleep in their homes. Beds go unmade, collections crowd tabletops and the detritus of child-rearing litters the floors. Unexpectedly, the design world’s pretty little head now gets turned by the type of people who accumulate glass eyes and stuffed peacocks. It’s decorating for the rest of us—personal, authentic, often odd, occasionally tacky, but filled with that most glorious of stylisticmorsels—surprise. Heiji Choy Black, co-owner of Chicago fashion and design consulting firm black-francis, thinks it was inevitable we’d come to this. “Today everything is attainable. Tere are so many cheap knockoffs of high design; I think people are turning away from it. Tey want to see and be inspired by people whose style is so personal it can’t be copied.” Black is putting her theory into practice. She and business partner April Francis have launched a blog (black-francis.com/blog) chronicling the 54 | | Fall 2010 real-life homes of the coolest creative types in town. You can now browse residences like that of artist and U of C Art Department co-chair Laura Letinsky, where spent candles, crumpled magazines and plastic toys lie unmolested by persnickety stylists. And an almost sculptural basket of laundry sits atop its sinkside pediment, every bit as beautiful as the art on the wall behind it. “In every vignette, every frame, there’s a sense of Laura,” says Black. “I think it’s refreshing to look at photos of a home that tell you something about the person who lives there. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be beautiful.” Jeff Smith, co-owner of always-ahead-of-the-curve Chicago furniture showroom Haute Living, points to the two-year-old magazine Apartamento as further affirmation. Te self-described “everyday life interiors magazine” could be the official handbook of the clutter crowd. “It goes against the notion of standardized hipness,” says Smith. “It shows interiors that are aligned to individual personalities instead of some collective norm. Tey may even show a kitchen with dirty dishes. Refreshing!” “I think it’s better to call this style you’re talking about ‘the new evidence,’” says Jeffrey Moss, a filmmaker and stylist continued... Jeffrey Moss, filmmaker and stylist for brands like Pottery Barn, in his Pilsen loft, decorated in what he calls “evidence” of his interests and personality.

Home Front Design

Lisa Cregan

<b>The New Clutter</b><br /> <br /> An anti-perfection movement brings personal clutter out of the closet and puts it where it belongs: on display<br /> <br /> If you’re mad for Betty Draper, stop reading right now. Te latest trend in interior design is going to break your heart. Icy Perfection? Out. Riotous Clutter? In.<br /> <br /> Suddenly the most buzzed-about interiors mags, books and blogs are documenting rooms that seem to be inhabited by actual homeowners—living, breathing people with the temerity to eat, drink, spill… even sleep in their homes. Beds go unmade, collections crowd tabletops and the detritus of childrearing litters the floors. Unexpectedly, the design world’s pretty little head now gets turned by the type of people who accumulate glass eyes and stuffed peacocks. It’s decorating for the rest of us—personal, authentic, often odd, occasionally tacky, but filled with that most glorious of stylistic morsels—surprise.<br /> <br /> Heiji Choy Black, co-owner of Chicago fashion and design consulting firm blackfrancis, thinks it was inevitable we’d come to this. “Today everything is attainable. Tere are so many cheap knockoffs of high design; I think people are turning away from it. They want to see and be inspired by people whose style is so personal it can’t be copied.” Black is putting her theory into practice. She and business partner April Francis have launched a blog (black-francis.com/blog) chronicling the real-life homes of the coolest creative types in town. You can now browse residences like that of artist and U of C Art Department cochair Laura Letinsky, where spent candles, crumpled magazines and plastic toys lie unmolested by persnickety stylists. And an almost sculptural basket of laundry sits atop its sinkside pediment, every bit as beautiful as the art on the wall behind it. “In every vignette, every frame, there’s a sense of Laura,” says Black. “I think it’s refreshing to look at photos of a home that tell you something about the person who lives there. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be beautiful.” <br /> Jeff Smith, co-owner of always-aheadof- the-curve Chicago furniture showroom Haute Living, points to the two-year-old magazine Apartamento as further affirmation. Te self-described “everyday life interiors magazine” could be the official handbook of the clutter crowd. “It goes against the notion of standardized hipness,” says Smith. “It shows interiors that are aligned to individual personalities instead of some collective norm. Tey may even show a kitchen with dirty dishes. Refreshing!” <br /> <br /> “I think it’s better to call this style you’re talking about ‘the new evidence,’” says Jeffrey Moss, a filmmaker and stylist for lifestyle brands like Pottery Barn. Moss has ushered a parade of shelter photographers through his Pilsen loft recently (his place will turn up in the November issue of British Elle Décor). Editors are endlessly fascinated by the stunning avalanche of vintage photos push-pinned to his walls. “It’s not clutter,” he insists. “It’s evidence of personality, evidence of life.” <br /> <br /> So about now you’re thinking: “Tis is a design trend right in my wheelhouse. I can leave my stuff all over the place and be done!” Right? Well, actually, no. It’s like the guy looking at the Jackson Pollack who says, “My kid could do that.” Tere’s a little more going on.<br /> “When it comes to clutter, it either has to be in one’s blood or it’s best to avoid it,” Smith warns, a sentiment reinforced by Moss. “It would be misleading to say my things are arranged randomly,” he says. “Tere’s a naïve sense of placement, but there’s always a narrative.” <br /> <br /> Another local professional who’s gotten attention for an unconventional aesthetic is 30-year-old designer David Hopkins. His much-photographed place (see Apartment Terapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces and back issues of this very magazine) might be this city’s loveliest Edwardian curio cabinet. “I like rooms that are full of junk but I don’t let them become a clutter-fest,” says Hopkins, who’s currently re-upholstering his sofa in old Soviet parade flags. “For example, I have 40 little pots, similar in tone, shape, and origin, on my mantel.<br /> Grouped together they read as one object; if I’d put them all around the room they’d just read as a mess.” <br /> <br /> And 26-year-old visual merchandiser Martha Mulholland thinks of her flamboyant accessories as art installations. “It’s not chaos, ” says Mulholland. “I’m very anal. The pillow has to be a certain way, but it’s not perfection either! I like special antiques but I want them next to something trashy. My biggest compliment came from a photographer who thought Todd Selby should photograph my apartment.” <br /> <br /> Ah yes, Todd Selby. If not the father of the clutter look, he’s certainly its prime enabler. “Todd Selby started documenting it, but the style’s been around,” Moss demurs. “We’ve all known people who fill their houses with crazy wonderful stuff, but they used to be underground—the ultra, ultra-hip. Now because of Te Selby, we’re experiencing a moment where it’s cool for everyone to put their life on display.” <br /> <br /> Hopkins says the Randolph Street flea market is his barometer of how much clutter has taken off: “You’ve got these hipster shoppers right alongside the Lincoln Park housewives, and they’re fighting over some old baker’s hook. It’s hilarious” <br /> <br /> “It’s a fresh, jolly, permissive, inclusive approach to design,” explains Moss. “Now when you find yourself asking ‘I like this but does it work with that?’... you can say ‘yes, yes, yes.’” Yes!

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