Are you a decorative peacock?
For so long, fashion has been the primary means of communicating tastes, âsays Austin Moro, product designer and co-founder (with Eliza Dabron) of the fragrance brand. Moro Dabron. âBut now that everyone is spending so much more time at home, the conversation has changed. It’s more about conveying your personality through the aesthetics of your interior. At its most intimate, this domestic self-expression is played out on a small scale on shelves, tables, and fireplaces through decorative accessories and adornments that are as carefully arranged as any gallery space.
While these personal paintings of figurines and found objects could once only be seen by house guests, they are now being shared for a mass audience hungry for inner inspiration. Well-executed compositions are saved, studied and imitated to the extent that, no doubt, these miniatures staging have evolved into their own art form – a kind of still life on social media. âEveryone thinks a lot more about creating organized corners in their home,â agrees Eliza Dabron. “There was a time when people would just take a quick, natural picture of a shelf at home, but now everything is so considered.”
The duo apply the same approach to visualize their products using @moro_dabron like their moodboard. Here, their candles, which are presented in unglazed boat neck ceramic vessels – referencing the collectable designs of the late and legendary florist Constance Spry for Fulham Pottery – are carefully presented alongside antique tapestries and vases from the Eighteenth century. Everything is done with the stripped down and pure spirit of the still life artist. âWe’re trying to capture that static moment of perfection,â Moro says of the imagery, which is inspired by Vermeer and British painter William Nicholson. âIt motivates people to want to recreate it at home. Their Spry-style pottery sparked a flurry of posts from florists and decorators doing just that – especially as the original ships now sell for thousands of pounds at auction.
Over the past year, the demand for small-sized home decorations and accessories has increased, notably spawning a new generation of Insta sellers responding to a penchant for vintage and antique items. âInstead of spending money on dinner, people buy jugs,â says Charlie Porter of Tat London (@ tat.london), where, she says, there has been an increase in purchases of fun but otherwise impractical little trinkets. âGetting that quirk for your home is a real tick,â she adds. “There is this cultural one-upmanship when it comes to what you buy and what parts you find.”
Designer Bridie Hall sees this proliferation of decorative peacocks as an attempt to take back control of our lives in a somewhat chaotic world. âIt’s about taking control of your environment,â she says. âPeople are finally buying the part they’ve wanted for ages but can’t justify. It gives you that dose of energy. Along with architectural designer and interior decorator Ben Pentreath, Hall is co-owner of the beloved Bloomsbury store Pentreath & Hall, a cornucopia of decorative eye candy. âThe sales have been absolutely crazy,â says Hall, noting that more unusual objects and curiosities such as live renderings of fruits, vegetables and conkers from Penkridge Ceramics, and the original, once-overlooked Staffordshire dogs are now selling fast. âThere has been a very noticeable shift towards fantasy,â she says.
The urge to share these finds with followers seems overwhelming, but despite the new technology, it’s not a new concept. âArtists have always surrounded themselves with objects that stimulate them creatively. Think of all the Dutch still life painters and how that has filtered through the years in places like Charleston or Kettle’s Yard, âsays Hall. âThese mid-century artists lived beautifully while they worked, then captured it through paintings or photographs. Even the Grand Tour involved aristocrats bringing back items from all over the world to display at home to show off their knowledge, experience and aesthetic sensibility. “
Aside from, Hall finds the act of creating the perfect vignette as creatively satisfying as making the obelisks, intaglio cases, and alphabet jars she is known for. âI love the way you can control the way the eye moves around the room,â she says of the visual journey referred to in the store – and her own house nearby – as she moves around her collections. Victorian seashells or replicas of plaster reliefs from the Pantheon. âEverything is chosen with the same eye, which creates a natural cohesion. You play until you find a nice little arrangement. For me, it’s a form of escape that connects you deeply to the past.
This sense of history is the key to creating an assemblage. Take the home of famous interior photographer FranÃ§ois Halard to Arles. A testament to a busy life, Halard’s fireplace showcases everything from Japanese vases and classical sculpture to works of art by Cy Twombly. This ever-changing array of objects draws on 40 years of training the visual eye to photograph the homes of everyone, from Yves Saint Laurent to Antony Gormley. It wasn’t until last year, during the lockdown, that he turned his camera towards his own interior, sharing vignettes from his 18th century. mansion on social networks. These items were an addictive daily dose of design that evolved into an exhibit of Polaroids that was shown at the Lambert Museum in Avignon and formed a Libraryman book titled 56 days in Arles. Each is masterfully composed, and there is a synchronicity between Halard’s Polaroids and his original. Instagram posts. âMy favorite format has always been the square,â he says. “It creates a more abstract moment – the two share the same instantaneity.”
There is a lot to be learned from Halard when it comes to the art of display. âWhen I look at the house, I try to think of it as a series of still lifes,â he says. “So that everywhere you look, you find these moments of interest, not just for the pictures, but for my own eye.” The process of registering his house was, for Halard, quite unique. âI’ve photographed these scenes in other people’s homes all my life,â he says. âBut witnessing my own collection is very personal. It’s kind of a bibliography of everything I love.
A feeling also shared by interior designer and antique dealer Robert Kime. âSomeone could write a story of me through objects,â says the longtime collector, who started selling at a young age. The art of organizing his unique finds, for Kime, is quite instinctive. âIf I put something very expensive next to something modest, it helps them both,â he says. âEach thing has its own identity which you cannot discover until you associate it with something else. Â»More than a matter of taste, it is a question of revealing what an object which is most important to him symbolizes. This is evident in his London apartment, which Kime built in just three days – although it immediately looked like he had been there for 20 years – and hasn’t touched since. âOnce something has a place, it has a place,â he said.
Art consultant and stylist Katharina Herold takes a much more transitional approach with the assemblages she conjures up in her historic Hamburg apartment. Shared with its subscribers under the nickname @Heroldian_Journal, they are a means of communicating with a clientele who charge them to fill their houses with nuanced art and antique finds. âThe creation of these vignettes has become a real tool in my work. It’s a way for clients to imagine these things in their own spaces, âsays Herold, who also works alongside his father, Rainer Herold, specialist in northern German art at Galerie Herold in Hamburg.
FT Weekend Festival
The festival is back and in person at Kenwood House (and online) on September 4th with our usual eclectic array of speakers and topics. All of this will be infused with the spirit of awakening and the ability to reimagine the world after the pandemic. Do not miss How to spend it‘s panel on’ The Future of Design ‘with Matthew Williamson, Martin Brudnizki and Beata Heuman, and Luke Edward Hall in conversation with FT editor, Roula Khalaf. To book tickets, visit here
âSubconsciously, the idea of ââstill life is still in my head,â she says. “When I create these scenes, it’s like painting with objects.” Herold’s arrangements can include anything from a mid-century rattan lamp to an ancient Greek ship, a 19th-century framed coral fan, or an Art Nouveau glass box – all in one frame. So for those looking to have a go, what’s the secret? âThere has to be a story behind every object,â Herold concludes. âEach of the objects feeds and talks to each other. I could choose something for how it looks, but ultimately it’s the story and the story that gives your home meaning. Leave him Wunderkammer to start.