Surfing the internet one afternoon, I came across a video from an interior design conference. The video was about the new trend for 2015, authentic design. It’s quite easy for me to get lost on the internet. I usually find myself reading a little bit about a lot of things, but I've never heard that term used before. Over the next week I took some time to Google authentic design with hopes to learn a bit more about it, only to really come up with that same video. Maybe a week later I found another article that went into greater detail about this mysterious authentic design. I’ll share with you my thoughts on it. I’ll also tie it into minimalism and I’ll save you the time of endless Google searches and tell you why they are both important in the new year.
Let’s start first by breaking this down. Wikipedia says that authenticity(philosophy) is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures. When you apply that definition to designing your space, it’s about designing with only the things that you love in order to create a space that truly represents you. Each piece should have not only a function but also a story. It also means that one should refrain from purchasing furniture just because it’s the current trend. One of my favorite quotes is by William Morris(1834-1896) and it says “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” I think this sums up authentic design.
Now, I think that if you apply authentic design to design...or to furniture itself, it will allow you to appreciate the simplicity and the essence of materials. A really good example of this for me is mid century modern furniture. One of my favorite things about that style is how timeless it is. A lot of that is because of the simplicity of the furniture, the materials used and the color palette. Most, if not all pieces (Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair and The Eames Lounge Chair) are over 50 years old and still look as if they were first created yesterday. Mid century modern furniture is simple but functional, it celebrates the bare bones of furniture. Dieter Ram is partly known for his 10 principles of good design and you would have thought he was talking about this style of furniture the entire time. You will hear quotes from Mies van der Rohe saying “Less is more.” and even Dieter Ram said that “Less is better.” Applying authentic design to furniture means finding beauty in raw material. It’s about understanding that style is not achieved through decoration, but through the outcome of finding a creative solution. Meaning that pretty or trendy should not be our only motivation. Authentic design in furniture is about being true to that piece of furniture. Dieter Ram said that good design is honest and that is the very definition of authentic.
So, now I am sure that you are wondering what minimalism has to do with all of this. Authentic design and minimalist design is not the same and part of that is because minimalist design is intentional. Minimalist design is taking something and reducing it to a point where nothing else can be removed any further to improve the design. According to the Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda, that would be considered thoughtful reduction. But there is that word again, simple. Many architects and designers that subscribed to this concept would not only consider physical qualities but also spiritual dimensions, while still considering the fundamental ideas of design. People began to appreciate the concept of “truth to materials” (there is truth again) which was also appreciating the identity of the materials used.
With all of that being said, I almost feel like authentic design is almost a revamp of minimalistic design that focuses on both the material and the consumer and both styles are very intentional. Despite the argument surrounding them, I actually think they are great for design. So much of design has been lost to copying the trend or replicating one’s favorite showroom for no other reason than aesthetics. And i’m certainly not here to judge, because I believe if you love it and it’s useful then it’s right for you. What is important is actually taking the time to find and acquire the things that you love while meeting your need for functional furniture.
Our homes should be our sanctuary, our perfect hotel room from our last vacation. By creating an authentic home that truly represents you, you will find comfort and a sense of satisfaction that lasts as long as the design in your home.
“Who ever said pleasure wasn’t functional…” - Charles Eames