At the Corner of Chichi and Bling

There is always a crossroads between achieving that look of luxuriating opulence as opposed to merely creating a gaudy oasis where the ghost of Liberace would feel right at home.  And while elegant surroundings, tweaked with a flair for the decadent can most definitely add tactile credence to what the imagination has conjured, no amount of tufting, brocade, or diamond-esque nail heads can effectively convey what luxurious living is all about. Because living well is decidedly a state of the mind.

Putting together a showplace to outwardly illustrate what you inwardly believe to be a finite exemplar of high fashion and good taste…ah, now that takes some doing. Nero had Polonius. But you don’t really need an arbitrator of ‘good taste’ to dictate what you already know. You might, however, use a great retailer and its sales associates, who have seen your kind before and will likely see it many times more, to help distinguish between gorgeous and gauche.

Great taste never withers with time; it doesn’t age, or go out of fashion, and it certainly isn’t prone to becoming obsolete under the flux and flow of changing times. Fads are fun, but rarely forever. But fashion, high-styled or otherwise, can see out most any trend.  Ultimately, ‘trends’ tend to be cyclical; meaning, what goes around comes around, and around, and around again. In between, other trends intervene, perhaps even momentarily to obfuscate the one that came before it. But if a trend has legs, it enters the echelons of urban interior design with repeat resurrection thereafter, eventually becoming an addendum to the main staples; the go-to when all else seems tired, careworn or clumsy. Unlike a fad, a trend occasionally rubs elbows with great taste. It becomes a part of the standard, sometimes hugging the fringes of a perennial favorite, while never falling entirely by its waste side.

Now, ‘timeless’ and ‘classic’ are two words that have been bandied about so much and so often they have lost virtually all potential meaning as signifiers of good taste. Timelessness is, in fact, a myth, or to misquote the Beatles, “To every ‘season’…turn…turn…turn.” While certain elements within our ever-evolving world continue to be self-perpetuating, none has remained a constant since the beginning of time. Each has had their dry spells…some, decidedly much shorter than others. The classic chic of an Audrey Hepburn, as example, sheathed in the immaculate lines of Hubert de Givenchy comes immediately to mind. And because of Hepburn’s allure as an irrefutable screen and style icon, the trends she helped to set throughout the 1950s and sixties, still revived somewhere around the world on an almost daily basis, resonate perennially with the young – who newly discover her in their own good time – and those of us old enough to have lived through the experience of Audrey the first time.

The same is true of a Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. These are classics of style, on par with Tiffany lamps, vintage Duesenbergs and Aston-Martins; the clean ‘new’ lines of a Coco Chanel and architectural sparsity of a Frank Lloyd Wright, the intricate inlay of a piece by Chippendale, or an impressionist imprint by the likes of a Salvador Dali, or any other number of popular names, long since passed through the looking glass of their time, from personage into their own brand, with their own unique set of standard and aesthetics others have come along since to try and emulate, while somehow still appearing as the wan ghost flowers to these originals.

Yet, if one considers each of the above examples independent of the other, a common thread among all becomes almost immediately apparent. That despite inevitable changes from within and without, all of the aforementioned continues to possess an implacable lineage that has remained steadfast in our hearts and minds as if almost frozen in time. Grace Kelly, as example, would today likely struggle to establish the regality as either her Hollywood stature or glimmer of promise she achieved as Her Royal Highness; not because she lacks the wherewithal of a reining beauty or accomplished star, woman and ruler of that modest principality nestled so near and dear to France; rather, because the times now are quite unsuitable to her particular brand of elegance. And yet, her reputation – as the very definition of ‘elegance itself’ – endures, chiefly among the daydreamers who would have such times again, if only…if only…

In many ways, home décor is the same; the standard bearers as vigilant even when the bloom of their debut has worn off. A Chippendale is still a Chippendale, as any number of original pieces by the famed cabinetmaker, or the barrage of ‘knock offs’ that followed, have dogged Sir Thomas Chippendale’s reputation ever since 1754 or thereabouts.  What can I tell you? Humans are creatures of habit. We cling to familiarity even as some of us protest ‘tradition’ and others make it their futile attempt to achieve ‘new’ looks suspiciously resembling something we have already seen elsewhere.  It has been this way since Plato’s time. The likelihood for infinite perpetuation is thus almost a mathematical certainty.

There is nothing wrong with copying an old master. In fact, imitation remains the cheapest – if most readily displayed – form of flattery on this planet. Just remember, when assembling your own escapist fantasy paradise, the Kubla Khan within us all could use more than modicum of self-restraint and some serious planning before embarking on elegance made-over as junky, clunky and calamitous. Because at the corner of Chichi and Bling one can just as easily make a wrong turn onto ‘Gaudy’ and ‘Glitz’.

So, judge accordingly and shop smart!

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