If you’ve been following my interior design blog, you know I’ve been on an “all-American” road trip to explore American interior design styles throughout the country. However, the summer of 2022 has brought rising gas prices, heat waves, and political shifts that make the drive between states feel like you’re crossing the frontline. Amongst the division, I’ve felt tempted to banish the car to the garage and board a flight to explore Art Nouveau architecture in France, retreat to English countryside estates, or even shut away inside a Moroccan-style riad. But while searching for equally inflated transatlantic flights, I realized that my once cherished “all-American” style might not be so American after all. It’s time to reevaluate what American interior design really means. After all, every road trip needs a pit stop, and I think it’s time to change course.
A Rip in the American Patchwork Quilt: An Unnecessary Division
The current political climate in the states has many of us questioning our choices of where and how we live. Like the Lost Generation of writers, some of us daydream about what our lives would look like abroad, strolling the streets of Paris with a croissant in hand. While some want to jump ship, others are buckling down — sorting themselves into categories and moving to states that align with their politics and thinking. Increasingly, American culture is becoming about separating vs. connecting. It’s becoming us vs. them. The American patchwork quilt combining our diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and styles has ripped, and now I am searching for the common thread to tie us back together. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be American, and it has me reevaluating my love of American interior design and what that label even means. When you break it down, you find that American interior design (like Americans themselves) is a beautiful mix of something “not so” American after all.
The Faded Fabric of the Country: A Longing for Nostalgia
Not only is our American patchwork quilt ripped, but it’s also faded. It has many of us longing for the days when things were bright, vibrant, and optimistically colorful. Nostalgia is a strong theme, not only for the state of our country but also for the style of our homes. Trends from the 70s and 80s are back in style, if not only for the familiar comfort they offer during these times of distress. As a child of the 70s and 80s who loved all things Laura Ashley, I was excited to join the retro revolution. However, it had me questioning why we were moving back to these design elements.
My family settled in Texas a long time ago, and I grew up in Austin when it was just a medium-sized town with only university, government, and Air Force jobs to offer. Our neighbors were mostly folks who liked the low cost of living, the hippie lifestyle, and the local swimming holes. Amidst the rising skyscrapers, the influx of tech bros, and the natural spring closures, it seems that those days are long gone — and I miss them. While things in Austin have changed drastically since the 70s, so has the country as a whole. Back then, the federal government made an effort to fund the arts, look for alternative energy sources, and connect the country. Things weren’t perfect, but it felt like there was a clear direction to something good. So if my Laura Ashley bedding reminds me of a time when I felt optimistic about the future, you bet I will buy the new collection. Most importantly, I hope we will soon get back some of the positive things I got to experience in 1970s America.
So What is This “Not So” American Mix of Interior Design Styles, Anyway?
When I think of “all-American” style, I initially picture a Ralph Lauren dreamscape of East Coast elegance graced by white picket fences, Fair Isle sweaters, polo matches, and an ever-coordinating palette of off-white, cranberry, and navy. But this American dream is a farce. A closer examination of the American style shows us how much we owe the aesthetics of our country to the immigrant cultures that have settled here — with each region having a beautiful celebration of vastly different designs. So I’m changing course and planning to explore a new travel itinerary focused on these diverse design styles that make up our country. Of course, I will go into more detail and share the discoveries of my travels along the way.
I’m looking forward to exploring the Italian and Irish influences in New York City, the French Creole style of New Orleans, San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Polynesian influences in Hawaii, and the Mexican vernacular and German builds here in Texas. I don’t anticipate finding any white picket fences on this leg of the journey, and I am more than ok with that.
Sewing the Quilt: Searching for a Common Thread Through Interior Design
America isn’t made up of a uniform culture. We’re not a beige throw but rather a vibrant patchwork quilt. America is about the amalgamation of people who come together to create something uniquely beautiful and robust. But right now, we require some repairs and updates. While I don’t think a home renovation is the solution to our problems, I do believe we can look to the architecture and interior styles of our country to remember how we can coexist and thrive together. You don’t see a singular design trend when walking down American streets. Even cookie-cutter suburbia combines a mix of recreated Mediterranean, French Provincial, and Scandinavian contemporary styles. Our major cities are even more vibrant and diverse. Let’s try to remember the common thread that ties us together.
Our streets are a beautiful collection of architectural styles living in harmony, and someday I hope our country can be too.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.