Boomer Decor

traditional decorBefore the 1960s, decorating was “traditional.” That meant orderly and consistent. Furniture and accessories matched and came from the same era.

The baby boomer-led antiques and collectibles revolution didn’t blow tradition out of the water overnight. Uniformity still mattered, but there was greater variety. Still, if you liked old oak, your house was a sea of oak with art glass lighting. If you fancied country, pine ruled, accented by converted oil lamps. Victorian walnut beget walnut.

shabby chic decorSuddenly, the word “eclectic” appeared in pop culture vocabulary. It was promoted initially by new decorators who abandoned the stogy profession serving old wealth, and scoured antiques shops for their hungry young baby boomer clients.  Diversity=more stuff for sale, and the more, the merrier.

So, it was OK to mix and match a Victorian hall tree with a Shaker dining table, and hang a Chinese painting over your Art Deco fireplace. East meets West meets North meets South. Somehow, you had to “pull it all together” in a coherent ambiance. Thank God for decorators.

Collectibles added a complication. Just how you decorate with bellbottom jeanscollectibles? The problem encouraged more eclecticism.

The 1990s: There is a gradual revolution. Vintage is in. It means anything made before today. Shabby Chic becomes the rage. Everything should show wear and tear. No more refinishing – now there is distressing. No more formality. Funk is cool. White is nice. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Exit the decorator. This is personal.
Decor could be anything: a weathered ship bell, a chair with no legs nailed to the wall as a shelf, a kitschy painting from the 1930s. Matching chairs at your dining table? That’s so yesterday and uptight. The buzz words are quirky, casual, and recycled.

The latest trends beg the question: Why contemporary decoreven bother to decorate? Embrace the “disheveled look.” Under- decorate. Your stuff is anywhere and everywhere. If not entirely willy-nilly,then impulsively – an accidental aesthetic, expressing your private history and moods. As moods change, throw stuff around. Don’t frame the picture – scotch tape it to a mirror. The buzzwords are unfussy, lived-in, imperfect. You don’t even have to make the bed. It’s idiosyncrasy on pedestal (weathered, of course). There may a method to the madness but few besides you may be mad enough to get it.

Where do we go from here? Eventually we’ll travel full circle but there’s a logical step forward backward before we begin going back forward: hoarding chic. This is where all pretense of form or decor or balance vanishes. It’s chaos and lots of it. You can’t be to rich or too cluttered. Pathways are for the unadventurous. Welcome to my wild kingdom. Find me if you can.

Perhaps the poor souls who now evoke our pity and disdain on Reality TV will be  tomorrow’s inspiration.

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.


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