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Monday, December 7, 2009

Decorating & design trends of the Aughts

So...the Aughts. Time magazine recently proclaimed it the "Decade from Hell." The '00s gave us Paris Hilton, The Real Housewives franchise, and the Snuggie. Things weren't all bad - we have our first African-American President, iPhones, and Jon Stewart is still on four nights a week.

Interior design saw 872 trends fly by (I know because I counted them all). Seriously, this was the decade of "Anything goes!" From precious Swedish country to IKEA's disposable Swedish contemporary. White chippy chairs to black chalkboard walls. Twee craft culture to logo-ed chainsaws. Let's take a look what's been shakin' for the past ten years...

Several trends that saw their start in the 1990s caught on like a house afire in the '00s. Christian Liagre's massive wenge blocks ushered in the ubiquitous "espresso" finish seen in the nation's yuppie furniture chains. After several years of blinding Shabby Chic white, painted furniture did a 180 and every buffet and bedroom suite was suddenly black.

We had enough of exfoliating our tootsies each time we crossed our sisal-covered floors and embraced shaggy area rugs and soft sheepskins and flokatis.

The armoires we all rushed to buy in the 1990s to hide our television sets quickly became obsolete when TVs became skinnier than Courtney Love after a month-long bender. We wanted to show off our new slender plasma screens and took to buying espresso-finished coffins to set them on.

In the Aughts, we aspired to become cleaner and greener. We nurtured our Nature and populated our spaces with all manner of flora and fauna. Well, mostly fauna. Owls, deer, birds, and squirrels romped through our homes.

The more macabre antlers and taxidermy, real and faux, became fashionable with the chic set.

When flipping real estate replaced professional sports as the nation's favorite past-time, decorating became everyone's hobby . Paint techniques like color-blocking and special finishes including chalkboard textures allowed new-found weekend property developers quick and easy decorating updates.

Want another fast wall fix? How 'bout stickers and decals? The plastics industry rejoiced when some decorating savant dreamed up this one. Need to soup up your kitchen? Try some saucy red utensil silhouettes. Does your nursery need a nudge? Add a galloping giraffe.

Two major recessions in one decade could lead a person to dark thoughts. In interior design, they lead one to super-dark walls. I could post a 101 photos of deep wall color, but this is the only one that mattered. J.Crew's Design Director Jenna Lyon's ink-y bedroom was published in umpteen shelter magazines worldwide and popped up on every interiors blog (I know because I checked them all).

"Transparency" was not just misguided corporate speak. The design world embraced acrylic chairs, plastic light fixtures, and see-through tables. All the better to bring some levity to the dark walls and furnishings.

Vintage furniture came into its own like never before. Besides the "green" aspect of recycling, the stuff in your parents' basement starts to look pretty cool when that's all you have to furnish your first apartment. Mid-century modern, blonde wood Scandinavian, and the more flamboyant Hollywood Regency were suddenly hip again.

The explosive influence of the internet meant that once distant cultures were now a click away. Morocco, India, Russia, Uzbekistan - name a once "exotic" land and its handicrafts were now the hottest accessories.

A veracity in design not seen since the Bauhaus movement stripped away architectural excess:

Stairs floated against glass walls.

Upper kitchen cabinets disappeared, replaced by open shelves.

The mixing bowl found a new home in the powder room.

Other trends that were just suddenly everywhere:

Chandeliers in unexpected places.

Zebra rugs.

Satin and brushed nickel finishes.

Mirrored furniture.

And that wallpaper. Oh yes, they DID.

Dumplings, I have spent the better part of a day researching and writing this post. My hands are cramped from clicking and typing. What have I left out?


Jamie said...

Wow, great coverage of the decade. Makes me feel old!

Elisa @ whatthevita said...

this is very cool - only started getting into interior design a few months ago (i know) and this was a great way for me to "catch up" quickly... now I'm curious about the design trends of the 90s, 80s, and so on.. like, what was "new" back then that's the standard these days..

Karena said...

OMG Raina, this was indeed a labor of love. Thought provoking and so true to see the changes and modes accepted into good design!

David said...

You've totalled it all up, with illustrations, better than many magazines will. Well done Miss.

Design Junkie said...

about the only thing you left out is that damned keep calm and carry on print that was in every issue (sometimes more than once) of domino

nkp said...

My love knows no bounds for you right are one smart chickie! That was a huge amount of work. Whatever did you bribe The Pea with to get that done? ;0)

How about concrete-acid stained underfoot and countertops...typography everywhere, you know-letters and clever phrases on the walls, oh and how about the hunks of wood as side tables, painted or left au naturale.

I never realized I was such a trend whore...I have virtually one of something from each of your categories! Some of the exact items you featured, in fact! I think I need to go lay down...

ChrisToronto said...

THE TYRANNY OF WHITE! White kitchens, white living rooms, white, white, white. OMG, it's soooo bloody boring. Up here in Canada, House and Home magazine is by far the worst offender -- issue after issue, more blinding white rooms. Bring on the teen years and bring on some colour!

Shelley Trbuhovich said...

as far as i can see you've missed absolutely nothing - a brilliant post! thanks!

Laura said...

I never realised how much i followed trends untill i read this post. it has shattered my illusions of thinking i was individual and eclecic, in fact i am brainwashed by interiors mags and now i feel really quite annoyed at myself. Great post though even if it has made me really want to get rid of all my stuff now : (

Alison said...

Wonderful, awesome job! And it was really fun to read. I can't believe you managed this AND stripping wallpaper.

The only tiny thing I can think of was that minute--maybe 2007ish?--when damask was everywhere. On walls, curtains, beds, etc. I probably only noticed it because I hate it.

karly / said...

Wow, this post is EPIC. A++++++++ Such an amazing roundup with some seriously keen observations. i really don't even know where to start... of course, you could have mentioned that the aughts weren't all bad as they brought us la lampshade.

Please, pretty please, go take a nap now!

(mixing bowl! ha!)

Jill said...


We benefit from your hard work!

susieq said...

You’re amazing! Remember us little people when Chronicle or Taschen or Rizzoli comes calling!

How about the whole Northern European thing? From rustic by Vervoordt to hip + mod from Moooi.

Anita Davis said...

You've left NOTHING out. You're a genius.
And I truly hope that we can now all wave good-bye to flokati rugs.

Sol Kawage said...

wow Raina, I've said this before but I insist, you should be writing for the best shelter magazines out there. I mean, please Living etc? Elle DEcor? where the fuck are you people.

Anyway, I don't know if this is a trend, but maybe because of the two recessions of the decade, I noticed a new found pride in the admission of knock offs in the house.

Camilla @ Designalogue Blog said...

just brilliant!
Your patience astounds me!!

only a movie said...

It seems like you should get a ton of exposure with this post. It's so well done.

I think you do need an nap - hoping that you weren't working on that while doing Pea's room over.

Anne (in Reno) said...

Love it! Hilarious and so dead-on.
I still have a soft spot for the dark wood and brushed nickel, as well as a lot of the quirky vintage stuff. But the chandeliers in bathrooms still creep me out. Also the mixing bowl bathroom sinks, I can't even imagine having to clean them!

lucitebox said...

I agree with the rest of your fans here. You deserve highest marks for this retrospective.

The only thing I could think of that was missing could be lumped with the flora and fauna. I saw things like burled wood coffee tables and stumps as end tables a lot. In fact, there was a lot of woodsy forest-y, faux-bois-y stuff going on in the last few years. I'm in favor of it.

Robin said...

Brilliant post from a brilliant gal! I think the only things I would add would be the once-a-decade re-appearance of toile, and the giant clock face that all the yupster catalogs were selling for your living room wall.

Also front-load washers & dryers in "designer" colors.

Raina Cox said...

Elisa - Hello and welcome to this deliciousness!

erin@designcrisis said...

Go pimp this bad boy out to Elle D. Seriously. Amazing, excellent, astounding... did I leave anything out? ;) said...

This post is insane and you are too amazing. Bravo, Raina, bravo!

Keri Batchelder Hoffman said...

Oh wow, I have so many of these "trends" in my new home I don't know if it is good or bad. Lucite table. Check. Dark walls. Check. Chandeliers gallore. Check Check. Sheep skin get the picture.

Love the post and your commitment to it! keri

Jen said...

I'm late posting a comment here but there is one thing I'd like to add to your comprehensive overview - the trend in shelter mag photography of including a blurry person moving through their perfectly still house. Were they all too ugly I wonder?

Raina Cox said...

Helllo Jen and welcome to this deliciousness!

I'm with you! I prefer to have my interior photos people free.

Designers' Brew said...

AMAZING post my doll! only one other thing I could possibly think of: white subway-tile-and-carrara kitchens with bin pulls. (!)

Bring on the '10s!