x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rustic looks and affordable comfort carve out a niche

Cottage Chic recommends three distinct styles for those wanting to incorporate a little Americana into their interiors.

I recently met Brad Miller, who is the vice president of Stanley Furniture. If, like me, you have no idea who he is or, more importantly, what that means, let me explain. He was in Dubai representing the largest American furniture company in the world and explained that North Carolina, from whence he hails, is the furniture capital of the world. You learn something new everyday.

Miller was on a fleeting visit to Dubai (Stanley furniture is stocked at the newly opened Cottage Chic at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence) and he was delighted by the response to his brand and the eclectic audience who appreciates it. Cottage Chic, by the way, endorses all things American and stocks Rachel Ashwell's beautiful Shabby Chic range of accessories, bed linen and furniture. While Little House on the Prairie is a niche look in the slick condos of the Middle East, there's definitely an appetite for the US look here.

Three distinct styles stand out for those wanting to incorporate a little Americana into their interiors. First and foremost is the pure and simple New England style, which I personally always relate to Norman Rockwell paintings. Think Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren home ranges, with classic combinations of chino-coloured couches and blue and white striped bed linen and towels. In essence, New England style (which is reflected in Nantucket and the Hamptons) is patriotic, based on the colours of the American flag and endorses a laid-back, sporty lifestyle. Both Hilfiger and Lauren are self-made men who took a chance and a bank loan to sell jeans and ties, respectively, and are now national icons. Walk into any of their furniture stores and you buy into Ivy League style, American colonialism and more than a little influence of the Kennedy Camelot era.

One step removed from this style is that of the Shakers. Shaker furniture is based on innovative joinery, quality and functionality. The appeal of such simple chic to both modernists and minimalists is evident. Their tables, rocking chairs, cabinets and bedsteads have no doubt had a huge influence on mass market stores such as Habitat and Ikea, where the simplicity and adaptability of their designs lives on.

In terms of individuals, however, there is no doubt that Charles and Ray Eames are to American design what Elvis was to music. Their legacy is still as strong today (a century later) and no design aficionado worth his or her salt does not own one of their "organic chairs" or walnut stools (available at Vitra, Dubai). Today's methods for moulding plywood are still largely the same as those developed by the duo more than 50 years ago, while their experimentation with wire mesh has played a huge role in furniture design and innovation. What I admire most about the Eames team, though, is their desire to use new materials and industrial processes to produce high quality goods at affordable prices. More than that, they also endorsed comfort. Charles Eames said that the 1956 lounge chair and ottoman should have "the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt". Thankfully, the pieces don't look like that, too.