Design for Longevity

February 2016, By Nicole Langelier

As an interior designer and stylist, I have seen hundreds of properties around the globe and the vast majority of them – even in NY and Milan – have been dated, or at least on their way to dating and dating fast.

I see it a lot here in Melbourne too – the building boom and strong housing market has created an influx of cookie cutter ‘luxury’ properties that DO have quality finishes, that DO boast good craftsmanship, but what they often lack is timeless style. I’m talking about design you can dedicate a lifetime to VS design you can’t stand to look at the moment you brought it home.

I can’t tell you how often I walk into properties that are 20, 15, or even just 10 years old and they are already dated and often falling apart. It is not glaring tastelessness – it is the subtle difference between a timeless ageless beauty of a Monica Belucci VS the passing fad that is a Paris Hilton or a Kim Kardashian.

Just like in fashion, building materials and trends in design styles come and go. There are plenty of things that are in fashion in building right now which are not necessarily due to a commitment to taste but more to a convenience that flirts with style. Large tiles instead of floor-boards for example, ‘charcoal’ carpets throughout, 2 Pac wardrobe and kitchen doors, mosaic shower tiles, etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things lack style all together right now, but I can feel it coming because what they lack is originality.

What creates timeless design you may be asking? Well that’s a good question and not an easy one to answer either. It is not often that I walk into a property of any age and just say to myself ‘YES!’ because it’s just right, but when that does happen – like it did today in a 1990’s Toorak property that could have been built any time between 1920 to present day, there are a few key factors.

Quality, of course, is key – but as previously stated quality and style do not go hand and hand. Do not, I repeat, do not blindly follow the trends – especially when it comes to building materials. It is one thing to throw on a Memphis inspired quilt cover, it’s another thing entirely to build a Memphis inspired house (unless you’re Ettore Sottsass of course). Study design (I don’t mean get a degree, just get online). Know what you like, know what you LOVE, and don’t allow yourself to be swept up with the masses. Look for classic features – who doesn’t love a classic beauty? You can always change your hair and makeup but a beautiful foundation is forever.

Look, as technology advances things will always ‘date’, however when it comes to great, timeless architecture and design – a flawless bone structure is irreplaceable, but a dishwasher isn’t.

Some of my favourite timeless structures of all time are Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelon Pavilion for the 1929 Worlds Fair, Phillip Johnson’s 1949 Glasshouse in Connecticut (pictured above), and Le Corbusier’s 1954 Chapel of Ronchamp.