While on holiday two months ago, I first heard the term and began writing my own list of what represents to me, for want of a better term, 'rough elegance'. This is what I came up with:
- The patina of an old still life in a junk shop
- Peeling garden furniture
- Beds dragged outside onto a lawn
- A kitchen cupboard with a curtain instead of a door
- A library with foxed books and a ladder
- Chipped, mismatched china (not necessarily with roses on it - mid-century is good too)
- Peeling wallpaper that looks like a palimpsest
- Marble and stone
- Bone-handled knives
- Crazed mirrors
- Patched cushions and quilts
- Old used postcards with someone's story on the back
- Bloomsbury bohemia - hand-painted fireplace surrounds, a bath in a bedroom
- Mismatched bedding
- Chinese paper lanterns instead of chandeliers
- Plank bookshelves
- A chianti bottle with a candle
Photograph by Francois Halard
My version of 'rough' does not cost a lot of money. Its 'richness' is in the experience, as in the care taken, the hand-made quality. It's about travelling around the Mediterranean - in a freighter. It's visiting Tiffany's - but, like Holly Golightly, having my own version of the experience, even if I buy nothing. It's the cheap pensione in Florence in 'Room with a View' rather than the grand English country house.
Photograph by Nicky Kehoe
It's not about trying to re-create a 'romantic' look with cabbage roses. For me it's not about chintz or lace. I think other periods like the 40s, 50s and 60s can also evoke a faded elegance that is not restricted to the Victorian era.
Sometimes I think that hoteliers, shopkeepers and designers see imperfection and faded glory as a way to charge customers more for the experience. The aesthetic I'm advocating is one that 'tells a story', but not one you have to pay an exhorbitant amount to access.
I realise that the rooms in these photographs are very expensive. Agas and copper baths don't come cheap. But I believe it's possible to access this aesthetic without the feeling of exclusivity or the price-tag.
Photographs courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and Design Milk.