Old becomes new becomes old

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, March 2013

If you wait long enough, your pink bathroom fixtures will be back in vogue.

How do you know that you’ve waited too long to strip your bathroom of the pink and grey colour scheme that was so popular here in the late 1980s? By flipping through the pages of a current décor magazine and discovering that the hot new colours for 2013 are…purple and grey as well as “fifty shades of pink.”

You can learn a lot by perusing these savvy magazines. I, for example, just discovered that there’s currently great excitement over a new collection of upholstery fabrics featuring a pumpkin-orange chevron pattern, available for only $119 to $239 per yard (not “metres”, despite this being a Canadian magazine). It’s shown on an old-style fainting couch, which feels oddly appropriate given that the pulsing pattern seems quite capable of triggering a weak spell. Still, despite this being a particularly discordant piece, orange is not a bad colour though I’ve already had my run with it. If I recall correctly, it involved macramé.

I keep turning the pages and stumble upon the realization that my kitchen is not nearly as well “curated” as the ones being featured. Mine does not have a crystal chandelier, faux fur, “flirty pink” accessories including floor-to-ceiling drapes (or any drapes) and aged brass accents. What it does have is clutter on the counters, plants awakening in the garden window and sinks that tend to need an occasional heavy hand with the kitchen-only plunger. Also real oak cabinets that went out of vogue 15 years ago, which makes me confident they’re about to be all the rage again soon, though I’m betting it’ll be in some wily modernized reincarnation that will still make mine shout “dated!” 

That’s the way it works with the décor industry: get people excited about a trend, then quickly abandon it for the next new thing. The magazines operate the same way: What’s fresh one month is sure to be tacky the next. Otherwise there’d shortly be nothing else to write about.

The language of decorating never fails to leave me breathless. Designers rave about “pops” of colour and always seem to be “playing up” a colour combination that is “simply smashing” (blue and pink at the moment). They “adore” a gilded mirror and don’t flinch over a thousand-dollar teapot. They fawn over antiques “that don’t look dated,” a puzzling preference that makes me question how well they understand the concept of antique. And currently they’re swooning over a look dubbed “distressed romantic,” an oxymoronic phrase if I’ve ever heard one, but no one’s crying so it must be okay.

One trendy stylist recommends building up your art collection over time and just setting the pieces on the floor, leaning against the walls of your hallway. That wouldn’t fly in my house where people are always tromping through in a hurry. Actually, the pieces would fly, literally, even with me consternating over them and repeatedly telling everyone to be careful around the art. And speaking of all this, what happened to the rule about hanging art at eye level? That actually made sense to me.

Just when I’m feeling both overwhelmed and woefully lacking in any sense of style, I read that it’s okay to break all the rules; in fact, that’s this year’s trend. What a relief! Now I can give some serious thought to turning my grey and pink bathroom into a grey and white one. Grey would never be my first choice but we have a perfectly good tub and stand-alone shower in that colour, both of which would have to be destroyed to get them out through the doorway. The grey toilet needs to go but a special-ordered low-flow model in that colour would set us back a hefty $900. That was always the snag that held us back, but no longer. Now we have permission to pair the grey fixtures with a white sink and toilet. The rest of the project involves getting all the pink out—counters, tiles and flooring. Then we’ll decide on wall colour and lighting, and curate with our own treasures, which means that most of the trinkets and fancy soaps in there now will either be banished or used up. Should be a cleansing experience.

Ah, the glitzy décor industry—what fun to see it all unfold safely on the sidelines of someone else’s setting, kind of like watching a soap opera rather than living in one. Sure, I anticipate that we won’t be long into our project before the gurus start telling us we’re doing it all wrong but I refuse to be dissuaded. Not while I’m breaking rules and feeling good about that.

Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic enjoys wielding the hammer as much as the pen and is reasonably skilled in the use of both tools.