It’s been a busy couple of weeks with work deadlines, however I wanted to write a post to discuss many DMs sent to us on Instagram. A few weeks ago a new style emerged online called ‘Modern Victorian’ and a picture of our home was used to help define the style. My first gut reaction was: our house is not Victorian and I wouldn’t say our style is either. So many DMs and people wanting to discuss, so here we go. This is a multi-layered post – stay with me for the whole ride. We’re going to discuss a new style: Avant Revivalists.
A note about this post: the images I included are of our own home. I’m not including additional images because I don’t have the rights from other photographers to use them on our blog. I created a Pinterest board if you’d like to see what images I’m using for inspiration. I also included links to articles I used as a reference to write this post.
Let’s talk about the word ‘Victorian’ and what it really means. ‘Victorian’ is related to a period in time defined by Queen Victoria’s reign over England from 1837 to 1901. While we focus on Victorian style, there are many other meanings for this as far as culture, political, religious values and the arts in general. Also design and style during this time changed dramatically. Imagine the change in fashion, just in women’s dress, in 1837 and a much different style in 1901. Is anyone else watching Victoria on PBS? I’m addicted and inspired! She was an incredibly inspirational woman, influencing many decades of style.
When I think about Victorian aesthetics, I immediately think of architecture first. We all see the painted ladies – these magnificent detailed and highly decorated homes. There are sub categories within Victorian style architecture. Just in our little area of of the United States in Goshen New York, I can find Second Empire, Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival, Italianate and Gothic Revival homes. All of these homes are associated with Victorian style. One might look at a house and say, “That’s a Second Empire Victorian”.
Here’s where I’m going to confuse you: in America there was a huge event that defined time: the Civil War. I was in a house museum and on the tour, the guide described the house as pre-civil war. Technically it was built during Victorian period, but it was not a Victorian style. Same with our house, it’s Greek Revival. A style so distinctly different from Victorian architecture I shake my head when I hear them compared. Our house is plain and masculine, which is classic Greek Revival. Leading me to my next topic.
There are a lot of layers to the words we use when we speak that have an implied meaning, and the actual meaning. Look at the word ‘literally’ and how often that is misused in casual conversation. I’m far from being a stickler on these types of things. You might hear me use the word Victorian because it is a commonly used word and I’d say most get the idea of what’s being described.
As a community, especially on Instagram, we want to use words to describe our aesthetic values and find similar people to connect with and inspire. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this – what words would I use to describe our style. It’s hard because I like different elements of different periods of design. At first I thought Ruralist Modern was what I was going after. But honestly, I’m starting to get a bad taste for the word ‘modern’ and how it’s being thrown around. Farm House Modern, Modern Victorian, Vintage Modern, etc. My friend Erica calls this a style sandwich. She’s right! And I was left asking myself: What am I trying to convey with my aesthetic choices and style? I made a list of things I love and am incorporating into our style.
When I think of style I can’t help using the word lifestyle. I want to eat, sleep, breathe and dream every ounce of style that goes into how we live our day-to-day lives. The plate you put your breakfast on should be as considered as a piece of furniture you select. Style is all encompassing. Write this down. It’s important.
A little bit of a rebel. I want a little tension in my designs. If there is no tension, things get boring, fast. As Diane Vreeland used to say: Don’t be boring! If things look too perfect – it bothers me. Maybe things are a little ‘off’ or imperfect. Don’t get me wrong, I like order and organization as much as the next person. But I don’t like it when things look sterile. Stay away from basic and the obvious.
Classicalism. Classicalism is defined as studies or art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. It’s rise as a style is around 1820, and I find a lot of overlap with some elements of Victorian style. Marble busts, fringe, velvet. One element I love about classicalism is the study and inclusion of other cultures.
Romantic. There is something about the past, the nostalgia that is romantic to me. Objects can be romantic too. A side swept drape, heavy velvet and dark musky colors in the early evening. A bit indulgent and secret. I look for something romantic to add in every room.
Antiques. Layering different periods of antiques is an art I’m constantly perfecting. I love the hunt. The discovery. The excitement of something old that is going to get a new life. Reinvention.
Nature. I’ve always loved the natural world and it’s collectors with curiosity cabinets and specisms. This is one aspect of Victorian culture I do love. The curiosity and collectors that drove museums worth of objects.
Reviving the Forgotten. Give me a run down old house any day. There is such history and romance in these old structures. Renovating and saving old building, treasuring what was once grand, is part of who we are as people, and informs our aesthetics. I am drawn to the old, and find beauty in the natural decay of the past.
Passion for Process. I love the hunt and discovery of new items to include in my home. This idea of quick, overnight design is not part of my dialogue. I know we all want to see results and improvement, believe me, i do too. But in an honest and natural timeline.
Informal Formality. Our house is very stately. You walk in and immediately feel its size and power. Even though Stony Ford has a level of stateliness or formality, I think it’s important to mix in informal notes. A tattered worn in piece of upholstery, or rustic linen drapes in place of silk. Each decision sets a mood, and I try and ping pong between the formal and informal.
If you’re with me on this I have a new term for you: Avant Revivalists
We’re reviving the past in our own way. We don’t want to play by the conventional rules, but show individuality in our homes and the respective design. We are interested in the past and want to understand it so we can keep these places and objects alive.
I hope you’ll join me in using the hash tag #avantrevivalists
Let’s get together as a community and support each others projects and life in style.