Last year I wrote about the difference between critique and criticism and since then I have hesitated to critique fearing it would be misconstrued as criticism – though, given my level of irritation when I read the OMG blogs, I wonder now why I've been diffident. Below is a comment on the previous post that coincided with thoughts I've had about a change of direction – more of a swerve, really – in the blog. It is a very interesting comment because the writer is quite clear in what he, or she, wants. I wrote a brief reply in the comments section of the last post and now would like to expand on that.
"Where do I begin? Another entertaining and informative piece, Blue. I adore the country home of Tony Childs and its timeless beauty. I have a request and a question. The request would be a post by you on what you believe makes a design timeless and give us as many examples as possible using a variety of design elements. As to the question, do you believe the so called "design blogs" are making design better or worse? I read many of them and come away with the impression that readers of these blogs often want to emulate the design aesthetic of the authors. There seems to be a herd mentality brewing in blogland and it's not good. What do you think?"
Dear Anonymous, thank you.
Regarding your request … the question of what makes a design timeless is something I think about a lot. I have provided examples of what I consider to be timeless rooms, but as to whether it is possible to extrapolate from these some rules, principles or guidelines – to codify, crystalize or pin down what exactly is timeless design - I'm not so sure. But it's an interesting challenge and one I shall make attempts to formulate in a future posts. If timelessness is explained as referring or restricted to no particular time then I wonder if it might be worth looking at both positive and negative aspects of an abiding aesthetic. A debate about the quality of design, or lack thereof, after the Industrial Revolution arose, in fact, after the Great Exhibition of 1851 – a debate that, for some of us, is not yet ended. I hope to continue it in future posts.
Regarding your question as to whether the plethora of design blogs is making things better or worse, that's both a tough one and a very interesting one. Personally, I cannot abide the how to style your bar cart, or the how to style your bookshelves like an interior designer blogs, or the uncritical let us now praise famous men blogs. On the other hand, it could be argued, any increase in awareness and discussion of design must be a good thing. If the result is a dumbing down of the discourse of design, then is the net result a positive or a negative? The answer to that question is very interesting and, having seen the results in the classroom, slightly scary.
And yet, and yet, maybe it's my age, but I can't help feeling that a Pinterest page full of images copied from other sources – however beautiful – is less valuable to the world than a new design idea, or a new analysis, however much I might disagree with the point being made. Only new ideas serve to move the debate forward. Repetition of existing ideas – the herd mentality of which you speak – keeps us all like moths circling the same lightbulb.
Yours, sincerely, Blue
I give an example above of an article from HG, July 1993, of what the decorator Robert Denning considered a timeless room. Created in the mid-1970s by Denning and Vincent Fourcade, the reader, twenty years later, was asked to suspend all disbelief and consider this dining room with its uneasy mixture of pattern, color, caterer-style napery, floral centerpiece, cafe curtains, and blind-man's marbleizing to be "the finding of the ideal in something not ideal."
I shall return to this theme.