Jacqueline Duncan, Dean, laments the loss of exhibitions which showcase individual interior talent now shows have become more trade oriented.
Principal Alan Hughes and I went to the interior design annual highlight, the Decorex exhibition now held at Syon Park. The aim of this highly publicised event is primarily to introduce new products to interior designers and to remind them of existing ranges, often in revised formats or colourways. And in that aim it undoubtedly succeeds.
A while ago, designers themselves used to take stands in order to showcase their styles and products and there is no doubt that they were the stars of the show highlighting, as they did, new trends and new talents. Now this part of Decorex seems to have faded and the trade, which has always dominated anyhow, has now taken over completely. All the stands were well presented, elegant and stylish but they do lack the excitement of design for design’s sake, a factor which can only be supplied by designers.
In this respect I recall the wonderful Kips Bay Showhouses of the New York sixties and seventies, all the various rooms re-designed and decorated by the great names of the American decorators; these show houses were documents of brilliant interior design and decoration, setting out styles and innovations for subsequent years, and providing great inspiration to both working designers and students. On a lesser scale the idea was replicated in this country by Fleur Rossdale. It was a daunting workload for one person and nothing of the kind has been done recently, although the St Johns Wood ‘Holiday House’ will be interesting to watch. To some extent the gap was then filled by design stands at Decorex and now even those have disappeared.
It can be said that producers and manufacturers make great efforts in the design of their stands but they are essentially promoting the product, so that stands tend to be utterly simple, with dark or neutral backgrounds and careful spotlighting. Decorex has now become essentially another Trade Fair, though undoubtedly a very grand one.
Turning to one of the leading international design magazines, I find this incredibly bulky production is also oriented to merchandise and the design input is not only minimal but chosen for eccentricity or grandeur, rather than featuring the kind of interior which attracts in terms of practicality as well as both elegance and invention.
Have we lost the art of creating spaces which are beautiful and personal, rather than slavishly following the two sofas/large coffee table/huge cushions that has become the must have look for design in England.
Long gone the educated taste which once gave birth to the real English Style, glamorous, comfortable and practical. And pretty? Was it not Tom Parr who once remarked that interior designers should never be frightened of the word “pretty”? How right he was. The design work we see today has been dominated, and indeed enhanced by increasingly brilliant photography, until we have reached a point where a space is judged for the photographic (and thus controlled) effect.
My attention was caught recently by a typically bold article by Trisha Guild, still challenging the rules and extolling a wondrous array of colour and pattern that glowed with interest.
Let us revive the glamour of the last century and let us not be afraid of the word “pretty”!