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Creating Beauty Out of Chaos

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The one thing that cannot be said about 2017, so far, is that it has been a boring year in terms of new design styles, social activism or fashion. In fact, when I look at the landscape of where we are today versus just a few months ago, I think the best way I can describe the directional change is a blending of dichotomies. We seem to be in a movement where we are throwing away all preconceived notions of what was considered a hard-and-fast rule, freeing us to pull together elements from opposite ends of the spectrum. As an example of this merging of dichotomies, let’s look to fashion first. If you are willing to wear the style, you are willing to live/work in it.

Fashion’s 2017 start has been a tumultuous rollercoaster of delving into what the Gen Z generation is about, a mishmash/culture-clash of collaborations and a complete disregard of expectations. Major labels and brands are coming together to form a head-to-toe look that mixes either completely different styles, i.e. a poncho and a cardigan, or completely different prints.

via Fashion Forward FFW

Gender fluidity is also part of this challenge to the regime. Joao Pimenta has been on the forefront of this for years, his latest work bringing up dichotomies of hard and soft mixed together. His work also points out another trend: stripes. As stripes inherently offer contrast, it’s no wonder they’re on the scene.

via dandimoderno.com

via rollingstone.com

From an interior standpoint, we see this eclecticism/challenge to the norm in a similar way. Prints and textures are being fused together to form a composition that is greater than its parts. You may ask, “What style is this then?” I might humbly suggest, Iconoclastic.

via retaildesignblog.net

But if that style isn’t your bit, then how do you feel about the dichotic “Resi-mercial?” In the past year, more and more, stores like West Elm have begun to cross over from the residential consumer to be more of a commercial vendor. This has created workplaces that feel more like a couture-apartment than the traditional workplace of the past few years, and perfect for that fashion-forward, branded company.

via West Elm Workspace

Materials and finishes have become dichotomic in two key ways, 1) by mixing metals and 2) by using technology-inspired motifs to create natural patterns or forms. On the mixed metals front, for those of us who grew up in what I’ll call the “silver jewelry age,” is to accept that it is OK to use gold again. Thanks to the iPhone’s rose gold, we now have a respectable appreciation for its rich finish again. The second hurdle would be to realize that almost any metal can be used with another, which means we don’t have to make sure all the metals match anodized aluminum anymore! That’s right, designers — we are now using gold, silver, brass, aluminum, chrome, stainless steel and bronze as a base and then accenting them by one or more of their metallic cousins. This effect lends itself to the “Resi-mercial” designer and allows a mixture of lusters to help soften or strengthen spaces.

Cambridge Architectural Mesh

What I call the “technologically natural” trend has found its way into fabrics and wall claddings, whether mimicking wood graining through circuitry or a starburst created by a genome-like shape.

Sunburst by Designtex

Circuit by Moz Designs

Lastly for this dichotomy story, as the late Michael Jackson said, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white.” But, in our case, we want you to be black and white! As the highest form of contrast, designers are taking the two colors that are the sum and lack of all color and putting them side-by-side to effectively either create space or to bring a feeling of resolute strength.

Crawford Hoying by M+A Architects

Odile Decq Eschews Tradition for Paris Incubator Le Cargo via interiordesign.netFor those of us who took Design Fundamentals 101, you might be able to already see why these dichotomies work. Contrast is the way that we see beauty. My latest blog, “2017 Design Trends: The Year to Look and to Become” dovetails into this trend of dichotomies, as it further organizes and dissects this change in perspective. Amidst the chaos of 2017, designers from all forms of design have been taking the things that inspire them, literally from opposite ends of the spectrum, and are pulling them together to create a new and better landscape to live in.


Guest blogger Mark Bryan of M+A Architects is a self-proclaimed design generalist, and has worked in the multi-story housing, workplace design, hospitality, retail branding, spiritual and public sectors. A graduate of Virginia Tech, his approach to design is largely influenced by the cultural changes and shifts that occur in the world, whether they are major trends or subtle cues. His creativity also stems from collaboration with his clients and finding out which challenges they face that can be solved by design, the architectural world, the blending of the interiors with the exterior, and digging into the details where true design lives. “Using design for the betterment of others is done through investigation, imagination, caring and devotion.”

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