From Empire to IKEA Decades of Design in New York City

Like fashion, music, and architecture, interior design has changed drastically over the last hundred years. What's the bleeding-edge of hipness one year becomes totally passé the next, only to come full circle and be cool and ironic again a few years later - in what professional designers refer to as the "pendulum effect." On the other hand, many design elements, materials, textures, and styles have withstood the test of time - a Louis XIV armchair is always a Louis XIV armchair, after all, and fine workmanship and basic good taste are always in vogue.

The New York Look

New Yorkers' tastes have been influenced by war, new technology, and even domestic situations. Designers and the media have driven major decorative eras ranging from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements that characterized the 1920s and "˜30s to the eclectic, portable style many New Yorkers are opting for in the post-9/11, post-millennial city. In a town where preferences are more diverse than ever, the "˜next big thing' in terms of decorative style is anyone's guess.

"As far as what look people choose, it has no bearing on 9/11," says Marjorie Hilton of Hilton Interiors Inc., a Manhattan-based design firm. "The only swing that I've felt is that people are interested in staying home more, so they want their homes to be beautified more than they used to. It's not more comforting, it's more minimal." But, Hilton points out that she doesn't necessarily feel there's a relationship between comfort versus minimalism and 9/11.

Hilton does concede to a correlation between today's eclectic tastes and a similarly eclectic world. Past decades saw New Yorkers sticking with generally more uniform materials and colors, but she says today "people want to mix things up. They want a glass table, a comfortable sofa, an Ottoman, maybe in leather, high-tech TVs, beautiful music, and stainless-steel kitchens that are easy to clean. They like materials and furniture that are low-maintenance." The home is a comfort zone for entertaining friends in an open, free-flowing environment - the formal, closed off kitchen is harder to find these days. "Everything is more," Hilton continues. "It's become highly developed. It's much more comfortable, luxurious and developed."

Matthew Decillis, president of Columbia Home Interiors, a New York-based design firm, says, "it depends on the individual client. I'm seeing a trend more toward the modern to contemporary." He says polished chrome, the use of which was nil for years, is popular again. Polished and antique brass enjoyed their time in the spotlight before that, but Decillis says many lighting manufacturers are promoting brushed nickel and polished chrome.

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