21 January 2009

CHANGE!!! (change of decor, that is- the m21 "state of decorating" address)

change has been on everyone's mind for some reason, right? change of climate, change of economic reality, change of government, change of how we view ourselves as a nation- deep stuff like that. all well and good, but this blog isn't about governments or nations or economies, so let's bring change home to a subject the supremely shallow maison21 can relate to: change of decor.

so we've been thinking about the changing state of decor- not specifically changing the decor of the atelier (we always think about that) but thinking about the big changes our nation is going through, and we can't help but wonder how they will impact interior design. we know they will, but how?
we got a big hint about the changes to come on the cover of the very first magazine delivered to m21 in the new year. we were on the phone with a good friend (and savvy business adviser), while absentmindedly going through the day's mail, when we squealed (sounding like a 12 year old girl, no doubt): "oh my god- there's a BEER BOTTLE on the cover of house beautiful!". think about it, have you ever seen an open beer bottle on the cover of a decorating magazine? the content of the magazine inside was pretty much the same as usual, but the cover? that's new...

maison21 and his marketing guru friend proceeded to have a lively discussion of the significance of that bottle, and we agreed we are probably going to be seeing a lot more down to earth decor in the coming months (and years). not as many aspirational new york townhomes, with 100% custom decor and bazillion dollar antiques, but rather more inspirational spreads- like the home featured on the cover of house beautiful- interiors that the rest of us can imagine living in, beer bottles and all. sure there will still be custom gorgeousness- the magazines want to inspire, right? but we predict the pricey custom decor will be mixed in with pieces already owned, along with vintage, and DIY, and some true discount pieces as well (think our beloved target). we also think the discount pieces will be start to be given the same editorial emphasis as the 'spensive scalamandre fabric on the curtains- the mags are going to want to hit every level of the market they can. we predict lots and lots more "champagne taste on a beer budget" stories in every magazine, even the high end ones. whaddya wanna bet we'll see budget DIY decor tips in elle decor? maybe some target or ikea finds in AD? that's our prediction anyway, and we like to think we're ahead of the curve on the trend- it's what maison21 has been doing all along, after all .

the new decor reality- before and after, as envisioned by maison21 - a mixture of custom, mass market, recycled and vintage, at every price point (yes, we hear your groans- we're milking the bachelorette's living room yet again. we'll try to "change" that in the future, ok?)
we also agreed that there will be a greater emphasis on the reuse and recycle aspect of decor- resources on our planet are shrinking, not growing, so it just makes sense to be green in this easy way. sometimes you need a custom sofa due to size or design constraints, but more often than not, there is something already out there that can be re-purposed with a little new fabric, and another tree needn't be felled to make the frame. the reuse and recycle philosophy also fits in with our new economic reality- used furniture is often cheaper and of better quality then new, so why wouldn't you want to use it? everybody is watching their budgets these days- even the truly wealthy- so this kind of green, budget-saving decor just makes sense for our new times. maison21 also loves the idea of reuse, because it means not only using items of quality that cost less, but using items that are often unique and one of a kind- like snowflakes, it's almost impossible for any two recycled interiors to look alike!

our own one-hundred percent recycled living room- everything was once owned by somebody else, right down to the thrift store art turned into a DIY project by m21 (ok, we exaggerated a bit- we had the lampshade custom made, but the tree in the photo was rescued from the curb- does that make up for it?).

another decorating change that occurred to m21, is that perhaps style will no longer be dictated from the top on down, but instead transform to a more individualized process, where everyone can have their own unique vision and style catered to, and m21 thinks in part, the blogs are fueling this change. like vintage? visit maison21. like french country? go to cote de texas. anglophile? off to the house of beauty and culture for you! as with with the greater economy as a whole, this change is going to create some casualties, and we've already seen some unfortunate losses in the shelter mag industry, as publishers and advertisers figure out how to reach their increasingly fragmented audiences. while we hope no more magazines close, we can can pretty much guarantee they will (if oprah can't make a go of it, what chance do magazines published by mere mortals have?). we are certainly saddened by the losses, since the rise of the internets and the blogs are probably part of the reason for the demise of the decorating magazines; at least hopefully we bloggers will continue to inspire and entertain, and fill any the voids left by the shrinking publishing industry, and we sincerely hope that as magazines expand online, bloggers will help to be a part of the solution to the problem. we think the blogs and the magazines could make great, mutually beneficial content together! on a side note, maison21 thinks the magazines should also think about raising their subscription prices to cover more of their costs- m21 will gladly pay cover price for a monthly dose of pretty delivered to his door! call us old fashioned, we like to hold and flip through a new magazine- makes us feel good.

the last issue of o at home- a magazine with it's emphasis on budget, and DIY tips, we thought would be a good fit for the new economy. we were wrong (shows you what our predictions are worth). shame, we grew to like it quite a bit. (and oprah,? please stop trying to bill us for our subscription- the magazine is no more, ok? it's not like you really need our 5 bucks, anyway)

this change will undoubtedly also wreak some havoc on interior designers too. does maison21 think his profession is going the way of the dodo? no, actually kinda the opposite- people have become more sophisticated in their tastes, and they want their homes to be as sophisticated as the hotels they stay in and the restaurants they eat at, and since not everyone has the time or the talent to do it themselves, we'll still be in demand. however, designers who don't adapt to the new times and find a way to connect with changing tastes and audiences, are going to be in trouble- just like the many magazines that have closed. some people will always want to hire michael smith to come in and drop his signature style, but others will want somebody like maison21 to come in to refine their style, and make their lives a little more glamorous then before, but without wrecking either the planet or their wallets in the process. we would have done it for you too, michelle, if you had only asked us. maybe you'll call if you need someone to freshen up camp david, k?

what do y'all think will happen to the state of decorating? do you think that m21 is right, and decor will become more down to earth? or do you think the opposite, that it will become more of a fantasy and an escape from troubled times? more democratic, or more exclusive? are decorators dinosaurs? or much needed co-creators? m21 would love to hear your thoughts in your comments to this post. we'd also love to see our fellow bloggers possibly weigh in with posts on their own blogs- let's talk about change (of decor), while change is the air!


Mrs. Blandings said...

Darling M - I see more cycle than change. While I'm flipping through some of the vintage magazines I notice periods of do it yourself and periods of only buy period. I think we are in for a long stretch of budget decorating which can take many forms whether you are buying on the cheap, passing on the smalls and saving for the investment pieces or repurposing what you have.

I don't think blogs are in any way associated with the demise of magazines. Indeed, I think in a lot of ways we are supporting them and perhaps driving new business their way. There are a lot of design magazines and in tighter times ad dollars are simply not going to spread as far. I liked some of the features in O Home, but their concept was not that strong from an editorial perspective. Same writers, same concept as O, slightly different pictures. In better times they might have been able to stick it out long enough to develop a signature. Same with Vogue Living.

The internet's design offerings are certainly changing the shape of the magazine industry. It will be interesting to see how the print publications continue to develop their sites and their connections with bloggers. That is where the change is coming.

Tracy said...

M21 I think you're absolutely right!! For too many years now, decorating (in my little corner of the world at least) has been all about "where can I get the best, the newest, the most expensive bunch of stuff to load into my Hummer and spread around the McMansion". My approach to decor has always been like yours: study high-end, know the classics as well as the trends, ditch most of the trends, shop retail and discount, remake flea market bargains, and find a way to get the look you want with less money and more imagination. And I hope (fingers crossed) that as people get real about their budgets and their needs, my life-long practices will be the thing that helps me grow my new business. I've already saved my first few clients buckets of money by knowing where to shop and how to make cheap look expensive.
And while I totally agree with your design philosophy and prediction, I have to say that I disagree when you call yourself "supremely shallow". It took a lot of deep thinking to get so much from a beer bottle!

maison21 said...

mrs b-

i absolutely agree that design is cyclical, but just as it's cyclical, it changes and elvovles with every cycle. i know when i was growing up as a kid in the 70s, we were in a recession, and decorating took some very DIY turns, but it was followed by the 80s where DIY became a bad word. the pendulu is swinging back, but i do hope it doesn't go too far- i couldn't bbear to se macramé hanging plant holders revived...

as for the blog/pulblishing dilemma, you are absolutely right, and i amended my post to reflect that a bit. bloggers are a part of the solution, as well as being (in my opinion) part of the problem of declining readerships. and i agree, there are only so many ad dollars to go around, so some magazines won't make it, but i think publishers and advertisers will get it all sorted out eventually, and when they do, my view is the internet will be the backbone of the industry, and print willl be it's little brother- there is room for both, but not at current levels, i think. the mags with the sstrongest online prescence will survive, and making that presence felt through partnering with blogs is just smart business. i always say the design blogs are targeted marketing at it's best! (and funny, since i'm a guy, i've never read it's parent "O"- why would i? so i had no idea it shared the editorial viewpoint and writers with O at home. it's closing makes a LOT more sense to me now).


i think this will be a great time for designers like you and i, who don't necessarily think that bigger is better and excess is best, and i would imagine that your hummer driving demographic will be catching up to you quite soon!

this really could be boom times for designers, as people start turning away from dumping a thousand bucks on an "it" bag, and realize that if they spent the same amount on their homes, it's an investment they can enjoy for decades, not just a couple seasons!

and thanks for thinking i'm not shallow. i assure you, i am. ;-)

katiedid said...

Hi Christian!
What a timely topic. I think designers will have to adapt in a very big way to the changing marketplace. I know that if companies want to stay open, they will have to run a very lean and mean operation. I personally know several designers that are giving up storefronts and offices and moving into home offices to weather the economic storm. I am doing the same in starting up my own studio (more on that on katiedid later...maybe next week!)

I also think that having an internet presence will be crucial for designers in the future. Many are already on the bandwagon. Of course the design "stars" may not have a problem, just like many of the wealthy that may not be affected by the downturn. But the rest of us "normal" folk will have to come up with new and unique ways to market ourselves and provide services in a more streamlined, and therefore less expensive way.

These are interesting times we live in.

And I don't mind if you milk the bachlorette pad from here til next year. I love it!

maison21 said...


this post was actually more timesly than i knew- did you see mrs. b's quote in the washington post today?

these are indeed interesting times, and i hope designers like you and i, you don't have large staff to support, and who already have the online presence you mentioned, are poised to come out of this triumphantly- no matter how scary things may seem at the moment ! i heard through the grapevine of least one AD100 level designer who is thinking of packing it all in- no clients and huge overhead, so i actually think us "davids" are in a better position then some "goliaths". lets pray that this is so, and not just wishful thinking on my part!

and thanks for your kind words on the bachelorette pad- i might be milking it for eternity if the economy doesn't pick up!

Anonymous said...

Not a first time reader of your blog, just a first time commenter - just couldn't resist given your intectually stimulating commentary regarding change of decor. As a non-blogger, but definitely caught up in the decor world for the moment, my opinions are based solely on my activities. As such, more mags will shutter since there are so many wonderful 'non-professional' blogs which:

1. provide not only instant feedback or interaction (albeit sometimes delayed) as it provides for a sense of belonging to a particular blog-o-sphere. Mags are truly static and are 'pushing' what the shelter industry's stars (designers & 'hot' looks).

2. Obama got elected in part because he wasn't part of the cookie cutter democratic party - he was young, energetic, smart and DIFFERENT in more was than just his looks. I find myself looking for the same but in the decor world - not perfectly stages pages where the red pillow/flowers, animal skin motif or orange gourd lamp was placed for the photos. Blog photos, for the most part, are a collage of some work done by themselves, friends, colleagues and inspirational photos - sometimes clipped from other sites and sometimes their own and,

3. Most blogs provide links to other bloggers or links to websites (smart bloggers do this) within the blogs to shops where such or similar items could be purchased. It's so much better for me to got directly to a store's web page and see their offerings than to see a single page or fraction thereof of the wares they think I would be interested in. Of course, I realize I can only see what the shop posts on the website but I would garner that it is still more than what they would include in a photo ad in a shelter mag AND I can satisfy my yearning to purchase something different immediately too.

Lastly (#4), the world of blogs tend to also provide links to shops which don't readily advertise in national mags. - which is absolutely fabulous!

(As for actually holding a magazine and drooling over the color photos - sorry I got myself a color printer a long time ago and create my own tear sheets without having to waste paper (i.e., trees) on most of the mag's pages which I wouldn't keep.) I do purchase decor books but that's a totally different feeling/emotion for me.

As for predictions of the future of decor, I see more vibrant colors - yellows, greens, blues (see Crate & Barrels store displays of bright blue/green - even the bright green on the cover with the beer bottle), as well as a return to some patriot decorations using red/white & blue - especially for outdoors as well as summer decor. When everything else isn't thriving at least your surroundings can cheer you up - hence browns & blues and all neutral designs will fade over the coming year. Recycling of products/goods will continue to grow as you stated but I think there may be quite a bit of 'crap' shown as good decor until the really creative & beautiful recycling emerges.

Thanks for the great blog and allowing me to participate. - KBN

maison21 said...

wow KBN-

that's what i'm talkin' 'bout! excellent stuff! i love hearing from a different perspective than my own. it would have never in a million years occurred to me to print images as tear sheets- i guess that shows that i'm still thinking last century, huh?

so agree with you about the instant interaction and feedback part of the equation. visiting blogs is participatory and inclusive, whereas reading a magazine is more of a passive experience.

as for vibrant colors- bring it on! can't get enough in my opinion!

thanks again- i appreciate you felt strongly enough to leave such a well thought commentary!

Anonymous said...

wow, i couldn't agree more with all that's been said.

i'm sad that some of the magazines i love are folding, but at the same time, since discovering the blogging world, i haven't been purchasing them as often as i used to -- and i was a hoarder of decorating magazines!

seems to me blogs are more current and accessible. photos can be taken and posted immediately, not a year later as it is with magazines. and it's much easier to ask for and find resources. it's just a whole new world and i love it!

and i can only hope that the magazines head in the direction you think they will. most of us can't afford what they've been featuring and i always thought it was kinda unfair considering we're the ones who need the help and can't necessarily afford to hire it, ya know?

great post!

muralimanohar said...

I, for one, am embracing with arms wide open, this trend for DIY, vintage, green, economy conscious decorating. I hope it lasts for a good, long time. Not that you could tell in my house. Between dh and ds, it bears a closer resemblance to an industrial zone/warehouse. Argh.

Magazines..I have to admit, I almost never buy a design or fashion magazine anymore. Even craft/diy mags..every once in awhile, I get sucked in by an interesting feature, or cover, but then when I actually sit down and read it, I am always disappointed. Thanks to the blog world, the content in a magazine, by the time it is printed and distributed, is already stale and I have already been oversaturated with it. If magazines want to survive, they need to change the way they approach it...focus less on trying to come up with the latest hot trend, since it will already have been beaming around the world via various blogs, and more on spectacular editorials, of the sort a blogger wouldn't generally be able to do, without the resources available to the magazine industry, and other stuff along those lines. Leave it to the blogs to come up with the newest, latest, most unique trends. They can do it faster and better.

Oh, and btw..macrame hanging plantholders? They ARE back. I've seen em. Backed out of there as fast as I could before I could get infected.

Patricia Gray said...

You are too funny. I have had House Beautiful on my table for the past weeks and never noticed the 'beer bottle'. It is a good analogy for the times. I think that there needs to be a balance in all we do. That is what is happening right now. The pendulum has swung strongly one way and now we are correcting. There will always be a place for good design no matter what the price tag.
Thanks for the stimulating thought provoking post!!

Patricia Gray said...

PS I just did a post on the color Yellow and I couldn't resist posting a picture of the beautiful living room you designed with the yellow wallpaper panels that I so much admire.

Emily Johnston | EJ Interiors said...

I never even noticed the beer on the HB cover! I need to get with the program...

Great post! Really made me think...
it is interesting how prevalent blogs are becoming while magazines decline...kinda sad in a way, I hope we don't lose House Beautiful and Elle Decor next!

Karena said...

I love working with interior designers architects. I always stress to encourage clients to budget for the art up front! That which really moves you and that you will be thrilled to live with! OI love color and especially abstract expressionism...