Interiors: Relentless Chic

From Elle Decor: Jackie Astier's dining room. All I can see is blood and spaghetti sauce when I look at that rug. Pops of color.

When I read the March 2012 issue of Elle Decor I was struck by the fact that so many of the featured interiors seemed very of-the-moment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Then I took a look at supercalefragelistic stylist Jackie Astier’s apartment. Her place is so on-trend it is probably already considered outdated. At least by those in the know, including Jackie Astier herself. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that since publication, she has traded her Karl Springer kidney cocktail tables for a stack of cinder blocks and a few planks, the latest in cocktail table chic. (Except that cocktail tables are now back to being called coffee tables. Hey: who started calling them cocktail tables anyway?) Speaking of the word chic, after reading, and, I’ll admit, genuinely enjoying the Jackie Astier feature, a phrase popped into my head: Relentless Chic. It must be exhausting to make being amazing seem so effortless. A round of applause, please, for all the cool girls in design. Especially for Kelly Wearstler, who would be the head cheerleader of them all — if only being a cheerleader was the type of thing these relentlessly chic girls did.

Compulsive re-decorating is the least of their troubles. They also must compulsively re-invent themselves, wardrobes and all. Not to mention come up with suitable names for their equally fascinating, equally beautiful children. I admit that the first thing I did after finding out that Kelly Wearstler had two sons is to track down their names. It turns out that she has named them Oliver and Elliott. Just perfect. Unusual but not wacky, memorable but not freakishly so, ideal for a lifetime of making music or public policy. Oh Kelly, where were you when I named my own son Phineas? I should have consulted the chic brigade before I saddled my son with the name of a character from the Young Adult section of the library. (But I loved A Separate Peace so very, very much!)

I read Jackie Astier’s bio and discovered that she was an assistant to the designer Muriel Brandolini. And then I realized that the circle is complete, because Muriel B.’s brand of Relentless Chic predates Kelly Wearstler’s by (is this reference to age just too gauche?) a few decades. Muriel B. practices what I like to call contrarian design. Meaning, whatever you think looks current in interiors is old news to her — she bypasses convention, whatever it is — no matter how lovely it may be — to recognize what’s coming ’round the bend and her high-dollar clients submit to her like french fries to hot oil. People pay her serious cash money to cool up their homes to the point of abstraction. Her interiors have one consistent quality: they are always so chic that they look sort of crazy. And just when you think you have a handle on her sectional couches in chunks of primary colors, or the fact that she actually removes large, beautiful windows from a house to make a room feel more like an opium den, she has moved on to a period sofa covered in a tasteful beige linen.  You thought beige was over, or, at the very least, boring? Well guess what, it isn’t, and the contrarian designer is here to tell you so.

I love these designers, because they represent interior design as more of the art it is than the sort-of science it tries to be with home values based on kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances (what is up with our obsession with granite and stainless steel?). I wouldn’t want to share a coffee with these women — I would be far, far too frightened and ugly to stand it — but I love the fact that they are out there, fashion-stomping their way through their own homes and yours, if you have the money to buy their special brand of them-ness. Here’s to Relentless Chic! I’m exhausted just writing about it, so I can only imagine how tired Jackie Astier must be right now, lugging cinder blocks into her living room for her new cocktail coffee table.

Relentless Chic Hall of Fame

Jackie Astier, from Elle Decor, having a laugh.

Kelly Wearstler, Head Whatever-is-Cooler-Than-a-Cheerleader. Image from T Magazine.

Muriel Brandolini, the Grande Dame of Relentless Chic, staring meaningfully while perched on a futuristic beanbag. The force is always with her. Image from Architectural Digest.

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4 thoughts on “Interiors: Relentless Chic

  1. yes, the important thing is to keep moving the marker. some move it well, others just remind you of that head cheerleader you mentioned–the amazing one who terrorized everybody else. I don’t know about Muriel, but I could see Jackie and Kelly with pom-poms.

    • You nailed it: you can NEVER catch up to these relentlessly chic women because they always move the marker. But that’s okay with me – they just give the rest of us something to gawk at. Like a holiday window at Barney’s: weird, car-wreck fascinating, and lovely all at once. I do disagree, however, with your assessment of Jackie and Kelly’s pom pom capabilities. Being a cheerleader just seems so obvious.

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