Is this a Thing?

The Delightful Objects Theory of Home Decorating

In this "mega trend," there is no guiding design schema placed onto a blank canvas. Pieces are not necessarily selected to fill a position within the space. Rather, the objects themselves guide the room, which is assembled like a pastiche.

Main image by Bri Emry via Designlovefest

Shawn Cremer

Interior design trends, as with any trends, come and go; maximalism seems ripe for a resurgence over minimalism’s dominance this past decade. Pantone carries on selecting its annual color and every two to three years, a new decade’s decor style comes back into vogue (the tiling, mirrors, and sensuality of the ‘80s right now; the dusky hues and bohemian aesthetic of the ‘70s only a few years ago).

Today’s trend is what I call a “mega-trend.” Colors, layouts, decor styles, and specific designer pieces (Noguchi lamps, Ettore Sottsass mirrors, chairs, chairs, chairs), all take their turn in the trend cycle. But a mega-trend is more psychological or behavioral in nature. The Delightful Objects Theory of Home Decorating is one such mega-trend.

Especially apparent among young people who are either pre-HENRYs or live and work adjacent to creative industries, The Delightful Objects Theory is interior design done “backwards.” There is no guiding design schema placed onto a blank canvas. Pieces are not necessarily selected to fill a position within the space. Rather, the objects themselves guide the room, which is assembled like a pastiche. Objects are selected for myriad reasons: they are family heirlooms, they are pieces discovered on travels, they unexpectedly caught your eye at a flea market. Ultimately, all of this comes down to the objects being selected for their capacity to delight, whether the dweller is aware she is doing this or not.

The Delightful Objects Theory could be deemed a philosophy that allows the objects themselves to lead without being imposed upon by a strict design regimen.

Luke Edward Hall is a celebrated young British artist and designer who not only embodies the Delightful Objects Theory in his own home decorating, but is also a clearly influential presence for his 182 thousand Instagram followers.

Hall and his partner, Duncan Campbell — a designer in his own right — share a London flat and a cottage in the Cotswolds. Both spaces are constantly evolving as the owners acquire new pieces at fairs and on their travels. In an interview with GQ, Hall spoke about his process.

“We’re always bringing new things in and taking things out—sometimes we get bored with something and replace it,” Hall says. The apartment’s design is actually more organic than planned. “It’s been through many iterations,” Hall says, including multiple wall color changes. Will it ever be finished? “Sometimes you have to stop and give it a rest for five minutes,” Hall says, “but we love collecting things, so it is always changing.”

While Hall identifies himself as a collector, that’s not the case with everyone who embodies The Delightful Objects Theory. Still, collecting is driven by the same impulse as decorating by way of delightful objects. It’s more about storytelling than it is pure aesthetics.

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Theatrical set lyres from a fairground one of the Cotswold cottage’s bedrooms (Miguel Flores-Vianna for AD)

Anna Yung, a model with a taste for peaceful, light-filled spaces, spoke about how a particular object might start the design of a room, but not end up as the centerpiece.

Every space is so different for me so it really just depends on the space and then I usually pick one thing to start with and slowly incorporate other objects.

A Delightful Object is sometimes the showstopping element of a room; but at other times it is a component piece: an inside joke, a bit of whimsy, or an unexpected surprise.

In the LA hillside retreat of Richard Christiansen, another multi-hyphenate creative, the former is more the case. There, a folding screen by David Hockney and a carved stool that came to be worked into the logo for Flamingo Estate anchor the room.

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Whimsical or elegant wall treatments are often the center-piece object of delight. In apartments in LA and Chicago, bold wallpapers gather other Delightful Objects to them, like patterned magnets.

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A whimsical wallpaper and collection of treasures divide the space between a living room and kitchen in a Chicago apartment.

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A long-coveted wallpaper and a family lamp led the color scheme for this West Hollywood bedroom.

Elsewhere in East LA, a multitude of delightful objects enrich a Glassel Park Spanish Revival bungalow that a group of post-grads slowly transformed into a home and entertaining space.

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When they first moved in, they had only the brick-red fireplace. Myka Kielbon says of the candles,

A lot of them we accumulated but some were in the fireplace when we moved in. I remember the first night I got keys, and the power still wasn’t on. I sat on the hearth and lit the candles and wrote a poem there, feeling so strange in my first post-college house.

The picture of Joan Baez was cut out of a French music magazine, the rooster painting and abalone shells from a Pasadena estate sale. The white side table was a DIY project and the lamp atop it came from a St. Vincent de Paul where Mac DeMarco complimented it.

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The end of the living room is anchored by a solid wood stool and a puce velvet armchair. The chair came from a prop house in Burbank and Kielbon says they almost didn’t buy the stool because of how ridiculously ‘80s it looked in the store, but once it came home, it was perfect.

It seems one of the magic qualities of decorating via the Delightful Objects Theory is a space that feels rich and sumptuous without being cluttered. Letting delightful objects lead the charge results in beautiful spaces that feel lived in.

This piece was originally published on author Shawn Cremer's newsletter, High Noon.

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