09/20/2013 12:42 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

How Interior Design Proves Our Country Is Going to Hell, and Why That's Not So Bad

If you want today's look, and I know you do, recall if you will Louis XVI.

I'm not kidding.

I know you want to give credit for the modern obsession with mid-century modernism to the badass style of Mad Men and its ilk but there is something more interesting going on and I'm gonna show you how to use it for not only excellent dinner party conversation but also to get an inside vibe on today's interior design trend.

Prepare your mind for blowage.


Under Louis ex vee eye, the French monarchy was largely falling apart. The country was broke, the aristocracy was almost as untouchably corrupt as Wall Street and the Age of Enlightenment was bringing up some very uncomfortable ideas like scientific reason and the opposition to superstition and intolerance. And all of a sudden the interior design, which had been largely neoclassical at that point, abruptly began to favor a far more baroque look.



But here's the thing: design became baroque because that's what had been popular under Louis's grandfather, the big 14, the Sun King himself. Under 14, baroque was the name of the game, and now that the kingdom was falling to pieces, artists and nobility alike were trying to harken back to a time of stability, when the kingdom was strong, the economy good. So baroque, now many decades in the past, reappeared with a vengeance in wealthy interiors.

Sound familiar? Our economy is a shambles, the top 1 percent can bankrupt entire countries with no accountability, nobody has a job that actually pays the mortgage, apparently we are just itching to start a war with anyone who isn't as white as Ryan Gosling and pretty soon you'll be able to buy your grass from the 7-11. The old folks are nervous, religion is in decline. So of course, design is retreating like it always does. In this case, it's racing right back to the time of The Brady Bunch and Damp Cloth Utopianism; when a pension meant something and you couldn't buy hooch on Sundays because God said so.


But have no fear. It always happens in times of sociopolitical strife. While the American gestalt is biting its nails and seeking solace in the furniture of its youth, the edge is moving on. Its times like these when art makes a grand leap forward. And predictably, it will take a decade or two for the middle to catch up.

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