Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, January 6, 2012

The (Difficult) Art of Being Utterly Hip

Okay. To kick-start this glorious, shimmering, shining new year we're going to talk about something we all struggle with. How to be stylish.

Okay, so perhaps not all of us struggle with this, as some of seem to be born with an innate knowledge of glamour and gorgeousness. But a great many of us do worry that our homes are not quite up to the standard of, say, the pages of Elle Decor. We worry that they're not even up to the standard of the homes in The Block – before the renovations.

Nervous that our house was sitting on the wrong side of hip (although I think that even this word is passĂ© now), I started to investigate what's stylish and what's, well, undesirable in the design world.

This is what I discovered.

Rule Number One: Arrange Collections in a Creative Manner
If, like me, you're unsure of how to decorate your hall or side table, try this: 
Collect bits of wood and then nail them together in an artful way. Once you've hammered them into some kind of creative form, arrange them in an artistically messy manner alongside a vintage timber table. (If you can't find a vintage one, an old one will do. Nobody will know the difference.) Don't worry if the objects fall down. It will look intentional. Then just toss a paper globe on the heap and call it a day!
 Congratulations. You've just created a splendid vignette of form, texture, natural elements and organised chaos. A metaphor for modernity. Magazine editors will love it.

Rule Number Two: Create Architecture with Interior Objects
Don't put your cushions on your sofa. This is a no-no now, it seems. Instead, layer them in an architectural fashion by piling them high on an industrial-style chair. 
If you feel the vignette is incomplete, simply pop a handbag on top. 
A roll of paper towels also looks very chic. 
Finish the arrangement by scattering some books on the floor.


Rule Number Three: Remember That White is Always Right
If you're nervous of colour and want to look stylish, try this trick:
Paint your entire house white. This is a very Scandinavian thing to do. It 'lightens' the space in the long, dark winters. 
Start with your floorboards, then continue the brushstrokes on your supporting beams, your ceiling, your armoire, your ottoman, your chaise, your unusual sculpture in the corner and even your picture frames and cushions. When you reach your books, stop. Now that everything is completely white, you've succeeded in creating a Stylish Space.

Then – just to be TRULY edgy – hang some bird cages from the ceiling and dismember a lamp to place atop the book pile. 
Lean the lampshade artfully against a chair. 

That's it. Now you're learning. 

Rule Number Four: Remember That Chairs Are Not Made For Derrieres but Design Still Lifes
Chairs are one of the best statement pieces you can use to spruce up a room. (If you don't know what a statement piece is, don't worry. Just sprinkle the phrase liberally in your vocabulary.) Some of the most fashionable chairs around at the moment are those done in a kind of sanded-back, slightly dirty Gustavian grey shade and then upholstered in hessian or burlap. Yes, burlap is scratchy and yes it will leave nasty sisal threads all over your new Martin Margiela, but that's the pain you have to endure to be stylish, I'm afraid. 
In any case, you won't be sitting on your Statement Piece Chair. You'll be using it in an elegant arrangement. 
Like this one, where a plant and a straw basket have been used to create an arty still life. (Note: The slightly off-centre, leaning-to-one-side look is intentional.)

Sublime, n'est-ce pas?

Rule Number Five. Buy Chic Soap. Preferably in Adorable Little Paper Packaging Tied Up With String
Use these soaps as design displays. 
Encourage the family not to wash so you can pile them up on a rustic timber shelf. 
Like this.

Well done!
Now you're ready to take some photos and pitch your new interior to Vogue Living.

{All images via Tine K Home – which is actually a beautiful and incredibly sophisticated collection of homewares. Visit the Tine K blog for images – and descriptions – that are FAR more evocative and elegant than those above!
Seriously. It really is very stylish.}


  1. With tongue firmly in cheek...but there is more than an element of truth to your observations. Thoroughly fun!

    And when did that word "vignette" become so utterly over-used and bastardised???? I swear I will scream if I read it one more time...

  2. Not as much as I will scream if I see the word "zeitgeist" again! Even the editor of Belle magazine used it recently, I noticed. Shame on you Belle!

  3. I have to tentatively put my hand up to #5. I have a gorgeous big glass jar on the vanity in the Bathroom-From-Heaven & its full of beautifullly wrapped soaps I've ever so creatively 'curated'. MOTH was ordered NEVER to even think about diving in & grabbing one to use in the shower on fear of ex-communication from the relationship. So far so good.
    Millie xx

  4. Funny post! Janelle, perhaps you can shed some light (as a former Mag. Editor) as to how much photoshopping goes on in Interiors photos? I was recently chatting to one of the Sales Reps from Mokum about this, as I was trying to find a fairly bright yellow fabric that doesn't appear to exist, and she speculated that the colours are photoshopped in mags regularly, as they have had fabrics that look completely different in real life compared to in the photo shoots. I'm also always reading the captions and speculating on how much of the furniture is the owner's own as well......!

  5. That's okay Millie. Jars of luscious soaps are allowed! I must confess though that I like using all my beautiful soaps. In fact, the best hotel bath I've ever had was at the Balé hotel in Bali. Every room has its own private garden, sublime lap pool and outdoor entertaining area to sleep/read in. But the most decadent part was the enormous architectural tub that stepped down into the private lap pool. It had an enormous "Soap Menu" - a beautiful timber box filled with two dozen soaps to choose from. I think I tried them all over the 2 days! Pure bathing bliss!

  6. Hi Heide - great idea for a post! Thank you for suggesting it. And yes - a LOT of the interiors you see, particularly in US magazines, are "done". Often, the magazine crew will bring in entire trunks of furniture, clear out the owner's stuff and fill the house with the new pieces. And as for the Photoshopping... Well, even I've done a lot of that in my time!

  7. Ha! love this post made me smile even through my jet lag!! Happy New Year to you Janelle. x


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