A new Nanna State! Granny Chic or Kitsch?

Design Clarity Director, Kristina Hetherington, talks to Sydney Morning Herald about the trend to bring a nostalgic touch to interior design. Is it chic or granny kitsch?

Grandma’s house is back in fashion, writes Louise Schwartzkopf for SMH.

Tuesday afternoons often see Beth Bradey enjoying a strong, fruity martini in a basement nook on Clarence Street. At 85, she is several decades older than the usual clientele at Grandma’s Bar but she fits right in with the decor – a mix of wallpaper, retro couches, crochet blankets and knitting baskets selected by her grandson, James, the bar’s designer and co-owner.
”It’s different, isn’t it?” Beth says of her grandson’s design strategy. ”Do you think it will attract some older people? I thought he would have wanted something more modern but he seems very happy the way it is.”
Her husband, Alec, who joins her for a whisky, suggests his grandson should open a second venue – called Grandpa’s, naturally.

Perhaps in time, if pipes and brown leather become as trendy as fringed lampshades and macrame baskets, he will get his wish. For now, though, granny kitsch is shorthand for chic.
Bradey and Grandma’s co-owner Warren Burns are part of a growing group of small-bar owners taking style tips from their nannas.

”We wanted a place that was small and cosy and friendly and intimate,” Bradey says. ”We also wanted that element of familiarity and that feeling of a home away from home.”

Bars are not the only businesses experimenting with nostalgic touches. Dried flowers and faded prints are creeping into cafes. Antique mirrors and china figurines feature in fashion stores.

The director of Design Clarity, Kristina Hetherington, doubts the style will ever find favour in boardrooms but some of her large corporate clients are embracing the look in their retail outlets.
For a Nando’s restaurant in Adelaide, her company used gingham-patterned tiles and wall shingles. Their design for Napoleon Perdis stands at David Jones featured ornate plaster cornices, wallpaper and gilt frames. A new Quiksilver store in Byron Bay will sell bikinis from beneath a shelf of bric-a-brac. It may also showcase second-hand furniture and maidenhair ferns in hanging baskets.

”Some of our clients, while they might be big and corporate, they don’t want to give that impression to their customers,” Hetherington says. ”That touch of nostalgia that comes from lace doilies or anything that might have come out of your grandma’s house. It adds character. It’s a conversation starter.”

What works in bars and shops, however, may not work in private homes. Bring too many doilies into the dining room and the tongue-in-cheek factor may be lost. ”The home is the original context for these objects,” Hetherington says. ”If you put it back into the house, it’s not the same thing. This is about taking an old style out of its original context.”

For the design director at Hardwick & Cesko, David Hardwick, there is nothing wrong with a well-placed doily. ”My wife has a Croatian background and when we got married, I started to see a lot of these crazy Croatian creations,” he says. ”Suddenly, there were crochet doilies on all my tables.”
Rather than fight the inevitable, he embraced the look, designing a series of coffee and side tables cut with delicate, concentric patterns. ”Instead of having a doily on top of the table, the table becomes a doily,” he says. ”If you design something in this style, it’s important to understand where the appeal lies and bring it into a more contemporary context.”
Hardwick believes the fascination for nanna’s sitting room is part of a backlash against sleek minimalism. The explosion of design markets and websites such as etsy.com have made it easy for designers to sell handmade wares.
”I think people are beginning to appreciate when something has been made with a bit of love,” he says. But even as designers poach their style, the bona fide nannas of the world may have moved on. Beth Bradey says her home decor looks nothing like her grandson’s bar. ”As long as it’s neat and tidy, I’m happy,” she says.

See the online version of this article: here

Grandma’s Bar online: here

Great online shop to granny up your house: here