If you spend any amount of time in home furnishing stores or gourmet coffee cafes then you have felt the latest trend in interior design. Possibly, you've enjoyed this phenomenon without knowing. White washed pine furniture sound familiar? Heavy linen upholstery and slip-covers ring a bell? The knotty pine communal farm tables have taken the U.S. by storm. Two companies were ahead of the trend, and actually helped create the trend. Restoration Hardware & Le Pain Quotidien.
The West coast lifestyle home furnishing haven - Restoration Hardware has reset the bar for interior designers from coast to coast. What once took tens of thousands of dollars to acquire items at auction all over Europe, can now be found for a few thousand dollars at a mall near you. If you haven't been to a mall recently, undoubtedly you have been besieged by catalogs the size of phone books from the newly re-branded RH. Make that multiple catalogs - Furniture, Outdoor Furnishing, Children's Furniture, and so on. While the brand was once synonymous with other stores like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, nobody is confusing Restoration Hardware with other brands today.
Le Pain Quotidien also achieved success through furnishing - despite the fact that they don't sell furniture. That's right, this Belgian baker of daily bread, pastries, and brewers of delicious coffee has changed the way Americans spend time in cafes. What was once relegated to the Amish in Pennsylvania, has found it's way all over the United States. While American suburbia has created communities of people who live life behind fences and gates, Le Pain Quotidien is forcing you to actually see your neighbor - even if you won't talk to them.
In the late 90's, a different wave of Belgian influence was the biggest trend in NY Cuisine. Nothing was trendier than "Moules and Frites" aka Mussels & Fries with your favorite pint of pale ale Belgian beer! Large beer hall style spots like Markt (Formerly cavernous on 14thst & 9th Avenue - now the home of the Apple super store) and the mini-chain BELGO from the U.K that had opened it's first U.S. outpost in the windowless space that is now known as BUTTER on Lafayette Street. Belgo made a big splash and fast crash -which basically summed up the brief Belgian food trend of the late 90's. Certainly Moules and Frites still thrive in many NYC restaurants, but as an overall theme - Belgian cuisine fizzled. This time around it's light and sweet and really hits the spot. The furnishings at RH are also no nonsense. While you can't say the brand is avant-garde, it is relevant and beautiful - two aspects that cannot be faked, and oh-so-hard to get on trend.
So the next time you find yourself redecorating or craving a ceramic pot of coffee - visit an RH or PQ near you! The man that most probably influence both companies is Axel Vervoordt.
This Belgian interior designer has a way to balance intricate details with austerity, creating a sophisticated and soothing space. If you are not familiar with his work, click the book cover to search this and other collections of his best work.