Millennials Embrace Bicentennial Style – The New York Times


This article is part of our Design Special section about new interpretations of ancient design styles.

scroll down Eric J. Espinoza’s Instagram feedAnd you might think you’ve traveled back to the 1930s—not the Art Deco version, but the version complete with hooked rugs, weathervanes, and candlesticks indicative of the era’s American Colonial Revival, perhaps with the color saturation cranked up Gone way

“There is something very light-hearted about Americana. Even really serious and intense works of American folk art are still whimsical, graphic and humorous,” said Mr. Espinoza, the 32-year-old creative director at Hamptons Design Studio, founded by Anthony Baratta. Mr. Espinoza especially likes the geometric patterns of game boards and quilts.

Danbury, Conn. In Mr. Espinoza’s Own House, the song is a kaleidoscope of a genre he calls “pop art country”. Her equestrian-themed red, white and black bedroom is a particular highlight.

For a growing number of designers, dealers and budding collectors over the age of thirty, Americana is back – with a change. Consider them bicentennial millennials.

In the mid-1970s, after Watergate and the war in Vietnam, American home goods makers such as Ethan Allen used the 1976 bicentennial celebrations to unleash a wave of nouveau colonial revival designs. As they did with the craft craze of that decade, old-fashioned items like spinning wheels, flags, and eagle-themed wallpaper enjoyed a supernatural moment of cultural relevance.

Michael Diaz-Griffith, executive director of the Design Leadership Network, a forum for interior designers and architects, said he’s been anticipating a renewed interest in the bicentennial style for more than a decade.

A native of Alabama, Mr. Diaz-Griffith spent eight years serving in a variety of positions winter show, an antiques, art and design fair held each January in Manhattan, encouraging people his age (he’s now 36) to fall in love with very old, very quirky objects Even post-war modernism was getting all the attention. In June, he published “The New Antiquarians: At Home with Young Collectors” (The Monacelli Press).

“Millennials are not minimalists,” he said.

In his book, Mr. Diaz-Griffith describes lovers of Americana who have made their living spaces canvases for quirky dialogues with the past rather than precise period rooms. He writes that Elle Decor magazine writer Camille Okiho’s Brooklyn apartment is “a Pennsylvania barn … airlifted to Lagos.” Their collection is likely to be based on “sophisticated angle facades, 17th-century extravagant ironwork, or elegant Shaker baskets as in the International Style.”

Audrey Gelman has also taken stock of this moment. The co-founder of The Wing, the now-shuttered women’s co-working space famous for its millennial pink walls and velvet upholstered furniture, she currently runs a vintage and contemporary home goods boutique called six bells in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Ms Gelman, 36, recalled that when she was young, her grandfather often visited estate sales, and brought quantities of “primitive cows and wrought iron pig figurines” to her family’s classroom. She says that for her clients, which include buyers in their 20s who love to live simple and teens looking to rusticize their college dorm rooms, she brings together “Americana, English maximalism and Alpine Tyrolean style.” wanted to draw a “Venn diagram” of ,

Ms. Gelman, who left Wing as chief executive after complaints of unequal treatment by some staffers, including black and brown members – an episode she declined to discuss – believes that pastoral Americana’s One reason for the new fascination is technology. He said, “For a generation younger than me, who grew up with the ubiquitous internet, this aesthetic represents greener pastures.” Every member of that generation believes, “I was born in the wrong era and I want to go home.”

He added, “We’ve reached a saturation point with retail simulacra: everything is a copy of a copy, and even things that started in Copenhagen are now at Wayfair.” In contrast, Americana is rooted in a time, place, and culture.

Every design tells some kind of story, but American antiques – from the myth-making around Betsy Ross’s flag at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 to the bicentennial bric-a-brac – are especially loaded with meaning, and That meaning is constantly being reiterated, said Thomas, director of the Shelburne Museum in Dannenberg, Vermont.

“The high point of the Colonial Revival is really creating community and common values ​​for a vastly heterogeneous nation, and it forms the operating system for almost suburban America,” Mr. Dannenberg said.

Community building is one aspect of Americana that Mr. Espinoza takes very seriously. “I am a first generation American; My parents are both from Central America,” she said. “They came here in the late 1980s and my sister and I were with them in Miami. I think it’s a great time to be here to be proud and, in a way, today It’s also something to celebrate; I love everything made in America.”

Politically liberal, he ignores the reticence that many other progressives feel about displaying Americana; He doesn’t want to let anyone else define what it means to be American. “I was born here. I feel extremely privileged to be an American,” he said.

According to Mr. Diaz-Griffith, author of “New Antiquarians,” antiques have long been Orthodox symbols, “but not necessarily as much intrinsically.”

That said, many young people have turned their attention to the people and methods behind the old stuff. “We’re learning that a large number of the top furniture makers and upholsterers in America were black people,” he said. “It rewrote the history of this furniture, through the labor they were proud of, their workmanship, and how we imagine the dignity and artistry of craftsmen more generally.”

In 2019, Tiffany Moman, assistant professor of history at the University of the South, created a particularly rich resource Black Craftspeople Digital ArchiveI.

“The world of decorative arts can be very antiquated and white,” said Ms. Moman, 37, recalling that one year she was the only black scholar at Colonial Williamsburg’s annual Antiques Forum.

She also found that the pervasive emphasis on connoisseurship tended to drown out the information she absorbed most: “I was interested in the stories of the builders, the makers, the people behind these nice-looking things,” she said. . The Black Craftspeople Digital Archive was the resource she needed for her research, but could not find.

He said, as far as Americana is concerned, he is less interested in the flag and eagle than in the more subtle symbols of the Poynor chairs. Born into slavery, Richard Poynor was a 19th-century black furniture maker in Williamson County, Tennessee, who bought his freedom in the 1850s.

Ms. Moman said, “He built the first horse-powered chair factory in Tennessee.” “It became a family business, and a way to make money, to live a good life, to make a name for my family.” Today, she wonders what owning the Poynor chair “means for the agency and the lives of freed black people before black emancipation and the Civil War.

And Poynor continues to inspire contemporary furniture makers. Robel Awake, 38, in Atlanta, wears a modern take on the stair-back chair with which Mr. Poynor was involved.

Last year, after receiving a grant from the Center for Craft in Asheville, NC, she deepened her study of the craftsman’s life and work and discovered a resonance between Poynor chairs made in the region of Ethiopia and carved Jimma chairs Key, where Mr. Awake’s parents were. Birth.

Mr. Diaz-Griffiths says he believes that millennials and millennials are becoming increasingly attracted to American antiques because new scholarship about material culture has removed the dullness often associated with the field. reduced. Add to this a postmodern approach to mixing and matching historical periods and a strong sense of what I like what I like, and you have a recipe for thinking Americana is catchy, fun, and ripe for personal meaning.

“Young people have adopted a kind of historical mindset, talking about Tom Ford’s Gucci like it’s the 18th century – it’s a form of critical inquiry and identification,” he said. “Maybe you’ve been seeing pictures of Colonial Williamsburg, and it’s exciting. You’re here, you’re American, want to be involved in something and want to be part of the story.”


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