Images from Rough Luxe website
Over the past month, two articles have interested me greatly. The first was published in the Wall Strret Journal on September 9 and it defines the so-called 'rough luxe' movement as 'a study in Contradictions, an attempt to reconcile the antique or the just plain old with the contemporary, the accumulated with the newly acquired, the decrepit with the pristine. It’s artful dissonance'.
It cites several examples and practitioners of this new movement, one being 'Bill Sofield, best known in the ’90s for his sleek overhaul of the Gucci boutiques' who gives an example of rough luxe as follows: 'In one room, in a wealthy artist’s house, a quilt-covered daybed is nestled in a corner, where a wall, covered in pristine ivy-patterned wallpaper, meets another, its paint job splotched and faded'. Other fans are 'François Halard, a photographer specializing in interiors, whose own homes in America and France qualify as prime examples of rough luxe', and 'Murray Moss, co-founder of Manhattan’s store Moss—itself a showcase of high-priced, cutting-edge design items in an interior stripped to its original materials and structure'. Both designers are are quoted as using the term '“autobiographical” to describe the kind of home they admire—“a reflection of the soul,” Halard says, “not what the owner can afford.”'
The article goes on to cite several past examples of rough luxe, such as: 'the apartment where Cy Twombly and his wife live in Rome, first photographed for Vogue in 1966; Maxwell’s Plum, the New York restaurant outfitted with the trappings of defunct saloons; ’70s exposed brick; the colonization of Soho and Tribeca, with manufacturing spaces mildly renovated for residential use; white wallpaper introduced by Gijs Bakker in the early ’90s, with holes in the panels to allow what’s underneath to show through'.
Further, 'A new wave of young people in their twenties is championing rough luxe as a rejection of the minimalism that dominated the world they grew up in—a style that began as industrial and makeshift and gradually progressed to extravagant and precious, with multiple coats of polish on a cement floor and living rooms indistinguishable from hotel lobbies. Rough luxe sounds the death knell for that perfectionism. If rough luxe has a mantra, it’s “authenticity.”' Caroline Till, the design trends editor at London’s The Future Laboratory, says the brand strategy firm was tracking a trend among designers that by spring was spreading into the broader marketplace. Their April 2009 trend report, called “Inspire: Rough Luxe,” stated, it “celebrates a heavy rawness erring on the artisanal.” Till doesn’t believe the timing is coincidental: “Because of the downturn, consumers are taking a bit longer to think about a purchase,” she says. “And they want to buy into a story.” An example of the movement personified is the Rough Luxe Hotel in London.
The article concludes: 'Rough luxe may not have been occasioned by the current economic recession—the movement was on a roll before November 2008CHK—but it does seem to resonate with it. “I think especially now, when we don’t have a sense that we control our fates entirely, maybe there’s something a little bit easier about the idea that every single surface of your environment isn’t polished,” Sofield says. “There’s a friendliness to it, maybe an egolessness—just letting certain things be".'
The other article was posted on design-milk.com on the 24th September and states that 'Many may refer to this stuff as "junk", but the beauty lies within the details, craftmanship, and history of these amazing pieces'. Is it the new 'shabby chic?' or something altogether different? Whatever the case, it seems as if rough luxe may be here to stay for a while. Which is good, because to me it represents elegance, comfort and thrift in a world where these qualities are becoming increasingly rare.