Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Not Pretty

Following on from yesterday's post about the Rough Luxe 'movement', I feel I need to clarify a few things. Firstly, I'm not advocating Rough Luxe as such, mainly because of the hefty pricetag that accompanies it. In other words, the 'luxe' side interests me less than the 'rough' aspect. What I am in favour of is the aesthetic which underpins it.

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.
Photograph by Bill Jacobson
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.


Chemin des Muguets said...

Great list. Love your blog, esp. this and the last post.


JacciM said...

I completely agree. I think, though, that it *is* easier for some to break a big picture down into doable components than it is for others. It's easy to think it is the gorgeous blue Aga that you want (but clearly cannot have), when really it is the shiny, bright color against the white walls and rough wood floor that appeals to you. The Aga would be nice, of course, but it's not essential to the aesthetic. Loved the last two posts! Nice blogging :)

(who has zero credentials, but enjoys teaching herself about things like this)

jlonit said...

Hey - you're back. Where did you go? I used to follow your blog then you disappeared.

beth said...

Thank you Marjorie and Jacci. It's nice to know someone understands what I'm getting at. And jlonit, I stopped blogging after my trip to Europe last year because I had to finish my PhD. It's done now and I'm graduating in December :)

Iris said...

Great list! When in doubt, make a list, I say. Not that you seem to be in any form of doubt :-)

And I would kill for the bright aquamarine stove in the last picture. Although Jacci's right, it looks best against the stark white walls..

somebody said...


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