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Remodeling magazine | January 2012

Everything New Is Old Again

Good design must fit your clients’ needs and wants


This column grew out of a discussion between several designers regarding the prevalence of contemporary style among projects that win industry design awards.

I’m not here to declare war on contemporary design. I admire contemporary architecture and am happy to work with those preferences when they are part of who my clients are.

But many people, afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes, continue to stride in lock-step reusing the same ideas. “Contemporary design” was only contemporary when it was new — 60 or 70 years ago (maybe 100 years ago, depending on when you start counting). Much of it looks the same now as it did then. My favorite example is the Wiener Werkstätte, or Vienna Workshop, an alliance of artists and designers in Vienna in the early 1900s. Many of their ideas are still touted as “contemporary.”

At the end of the day, good design is good design. The principles and elements are universal, whether pre-Columbian, Ming Dynasty, Italian Renaissance, or Bauhaus. All show strong design and are still harkened back to for reference and inspiration.

People are pleased by all kinds of different things because of their personal associations. Should I violate who they are by insisting that they like what I think they should like? I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me, and I choose not to do it to anyone else.

The arts need patrons, and my clients’ patronage allows me to work for them to explore solutions that will be rewarding to both of us — regardless of the design style that they prefer.

*Peggy Fisher is design director of Fisher Group, in Annandale, Va.

*Remodeling Magazine