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Falling down design rabbit holes

And finding digital distractions

In a white room with a filled bookcase, wooden floors, and a shag-covered chair is a fireplace surrounded by brick.
Hearth chic: You heard it here first.
Photo by Heidi’s Bridge

Welcome! How’s everyone hanging in there? For those of us blessed enough to be stuck at home while healthy, I’m hearing from two main camps—parents WFH while taking care of children, and solo operators diving headfirst into hobbies. One thing everyone seems to agree on: baking bread. (Except me, because all the yeast is sold out, and I’ll be damned if I wait two weeks to see if my experimental fungus turned out correctly.) Anyway, this week I’ve got some evergreen design rabbit holes to recommend, a couple of digital distractions, and pertinent reading for renters and homeowners alike. Plus, my predictions for interiors trends in the “after time.” —Kelsey

On my mind

This week, I enlisted podcast host and friend-of-Curbed Avery Trufelman for an hourlong Instagram Live chat for Sight Unseen. Avery’s made a career out of pursuing design rabbit holes and spinning them into narrative gold for 99 Percent Invisible, as well as Curbed’s own Nice Try! podcast. I wanted to see whether she had gotten into anything particularly fascinating while sheltering at home in Oakland.

Instagram’s live videos disappear after 24 hours, but here’s our cheat sheet for things well worth a Google, should you find yourself with time to fill while staring at your screen of choice: High-Tech: The Industrial Style and Source Book for the Home, published in 1979 and my personal choice for “design trend due for a revival.” Broken Glass, Alex Beam’s new book about the drama surrounding the famous glass house that Mies van der Rohe designed for his patron-turned-enemy, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity. Frank O’Hara’s poem “Meditations in an Emergency.” The list “250 Things an Architect Should Know,” itself a supercluster of research rabbit holes, enumerated by the late Michael Sorkin. The Biosphere 2 episode of Curbed’s podcast Nice Try!—which feels pretty relevant right now. A redux of 99 Percent Invisible’s “The Pool and the Stream” episode, which is a classic example of finding the larger story behind a niche design obsession. And my own niche architecture obsession yielded a 13,000-word composite oral history (yes, of course I’m talking about the Sea Ranch).

Three book covers are lined up next to each other. One is with a one-floor white house, the second with a pile of green apples on a wooden plate, the third with a man in a blue uniform holding a sword.
A few things to read, courtesy of Avery Trufelman and me: Broken Glass by Alex Beam, High-Tech by Joan Kron and Suzanne Slesin, and Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig. What are you digging into? I’d love to hear!

We also talked about what comes next: What sort of living arrangements will people seek out once the worst of the pandemic is behind us? How will society reshape itself? Will people shop for beautiful things—furniture, fashion—the way we did even one year ago? Top of mind for me, of course, is how people will craft their home environments moving forward. We’re all forced to reckon with the utility of our living spaces right now, but how will we want those spaces to look once the dust settles? I see a few possibilities.

Hearth chic: A trend toward visible mending at a time when secondhand vendors are unlikely to accept donations, all multiplied by A New Domesticity where everyone is, you guessed it, baking bread. Think patched-up, shabby-chic slipcovers; repurposed wood furniture; window-box gardening; Shaker-style cleaning implements; and an overall crafty vibe.

The self-cleaning house: The real pursuit of minimalism, not the branded one, involves getting rid of bells and whistles and winnowing down to what is most useful. That, plus recently acquired germophobia and a nostalgia for ahead-of-their-time oddballs like Frances Gabe. Think easily disinfected surfaces, Roomba vacuums with little furniture to impede them, rooms you can hose down.

The return of feng shui: An already booming wellness industry and the desire for “positive vibes” to combat personal (and societal) anxiety, paired with a 20-year-old interior trend that’s due for cyclical resurgence. Anticipate more focus on entryways and front doors, egregious use of the word “chi,” and interior architecture employing the five grounding materials: earth, wood, fire, water, and metal.

Digital distractions

On the left side is a sculpture holding a harp, on the right side is a photo of a woman in a purple shirt and white pants holding a vacuum.
Male Harp Player of the Early Spedos Type, 2700–2300 B.C., Cycladic. Marble, 14 ⅛ x 11 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.AA.103. Recreation via Facebook DM by Irena Ochódzka with canister vacuum. Via The Getty.

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