“Contemporary” has become a popular word in the design world…what does it mean?
We went through the “Tuscan” phase here in Arizona, and we grew to despise it. It spoke to overdone, overbearing, overly heavy design that had absolutely nothing to do with anything we’d ever seen in Tuscany. Retail stores touted it, national furniture lines featured it, buildings purported to represent it, and we in the professional design world wondered, what had happened? Where did that come from?
Overabundance, excess in all areas of life, and easy living that comes of a rampantly prosperous economy lead to trends that attempt to express society’s desire to have more, be more and show more than we previously have ever dared to do. Suddenly, it seems almost a contest to show how much we can demonstrate our ability to overdo the everyday details of our environments.
Then (almost thankfully, I must admit) things changed. The air developed a chill. Phones stopped ringing. Nothing seemed guaranteed, or even safe, anymore. What we took for granted became the stuff of dreams. We wondered what happened to those days when we actually wished we had a little more time to live our personal lives. And yet, having that time didn’t fulfill any dream we remembered having, because it meant wondering if we could pay the bills. What would the future bring? Could we keep the business afloat? We agonized and struggled and tried to figure out where to spend the limited funds we had….. To advertise, to keep the office lease, to keep our employees, to pay ourselves as business owners? What to do?
The Great Recession was a merry-go-round for business owners, and yet, so many of us have survived, reinvented ourselves, chosen to do what, maybe, we should have done years ago. Gotten leaner, gotten smarter, doing what we really love to do, rather than what we were pushed into doing by a burgeoning economy that demanded more…more…more. We have been lifted by the fresh breeze of necessity to a new level of living, and of design.
Do we call it “Contemporary”? I guess so. What it really is, is a rebellion against excess. It’s an historical trend that has been repeated over and over again throughout history. Excess is sickening. Once a person has personally experienced the limitations of a shrinking economy, things look different. Values shift a little. And…lo and behold, we seem to gravitate to simplicity. We see the beauty in the small, everyday stuff of life. We take the time to notice the details, whether it be the shape of a cloud, an interesting crack in the sidewalk, the way our muscles feel when we walk barefoot, or the relationship of a square to a circle. Life is interesting. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. It is worth living.
As design experts, we are in the business of helping people express themselves in a physical world. Let’s make sure that we keep it clean. Let’s be honest, and avoid the pitfalls of rampant excess and wayward imaginations. Let’s remember what it felt like to create out of pure necessity, and revel in the freedom to create for pure joy. The best designs we’ve ever created are personal, unique and yes, pure.
It that “Contemporary”?