Copy of the Wall Street Journal article featuring the Made by Rain bedding & duvet covers from Aliki Van Der Kruijs x ZigZagZurich
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Mess With Nature: Décor that Evokes Organic Processes
Designers are channeling destructive forces such as oxidation and erosion to give furnishings a ravaged charm
THIS SPRING, nature-inspired housewares designers have turned over a new leaf and stood it on its head.
Instead of incorporating flora or fauna patterns that literally reference the natural world, many have taken a more figurative tack, creating pieces that reflect such processes as erosion, charring, melting and oxidation. These haunting objects say “Mother Nature was here,” rather than “There are birds flying across my dessert plate.”
Jan Kath’s “Erased Heritage” wool carpets, for instance, appear organically eroded, their precise Oriental patterns disrupted by irregular patches of Chinese silk. Savage winds seem to have distorted the porcelain “Blow Away Vase,” by Front for Moooi, a trick of computer design; the vase looks like a piece of Royal Delft caught in a twister. And lava has apparently encroached on metalworker Franck Chartrain’s “Phoenix” pedestal, a piece of charred oak cut 150 years ago and clotted with cast bronze.
Much like the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the imperfection of objects, this new design ethos finds beauty in the unorchestrated and unplanned. Of his new fabric, Oxydation, made with the French company Lelievre and distributed in the U.S. by Stark, designer Jean Paul Gaultier said, “Seeing an oxidized surface inspired me to do this print and show the beauty that can be found in something we do not consider perfect.” The suede-like cotton fabric virtually fizzes with verdigris and iron oxide, effects inspired by rusting nails and oxidizing copper scraps that Mr. Gaultier found years ago.
“People are more into finding out how a product was created, what was used,” said Adam Comiskey, founder of luxury textile company Zig Zag Zurich. And pieces that interpret forces of nature often come with built-in stories: For a Zig Zag Zurich sheet set called “Made by Rain,” an artist captured the impressions of raindrops by laying photographic film on a roof, then digitized the images and printed them on satin cotton. The black-and-white splatter pattern evokes the randomness of a summer shower.
In our era of rapid change, objects that convey the sort of organic processes that unfold over decades or millennia particularly appeal. “It slows your soul down a little bit and allows you to come back to a more natural timing or rhythm,” said New York interior designer Kathleen Walsh. In a Martha’s Vineyard project, she installed a marble bathroom sink so aged and marred with rust it seems to have come straight from the quarry.
Such tortured pieces can look their best amid relatively slick décor. Ms. Walsh juxtaposed the sink with linear, modern elements such as a polished-nickel drain pipe and wall-mounted tap. The aforementioned Oxydation fabric also pairs well with polished metal, said Ingrid Lager, Lelievre’s creative designer.
Other, more-obviously simpatico matches, noted Ms. Lager and Ms. Walsh, include matte materials such as wood, well-worn antiques and anything that shows the maker’s hand (strong-weave fabrics, handblown glass). But don’t go overboard, said New York textile designer Catherine Stowell, who designed a vinyl wall covering called “Burnish” for Designtex, which suggests oxidation and weathering. She recommended using these natural-process elements judiciously, to add layers and depth to a room.
Small doses of this style may be just what the eye doctor ordered. Anna Rabinowicz, creative director of Anna New York by RabLabs, sees her raw-edged, sliced-agate pieces as a sensory antidote to the smartphones and computers that surround us. “The visual monotony of so many things in people’s lives is attracting them to natural elements,” she said. And objects formed by nature are inevitably unique.
PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, STYLING BY ANNE CARDENAS