I heard someone recently refer to it as 'Austerity Chic' coining perhaps one of the most controversial design phrases since fashion's 'heroin chic' after all, the economic downturn means more to a lot of people than a sofa with clean, simple lines.
I prefer utilitarian personally and even the high street is embracing this look which embodies getting rid of everything you don't need and replacing it with well built and designed pieces that will last a lifetime.
Of course utilitarian is nothing new, the Shakers practically invented the look with their simple yet functional furniture. The Shaker look is one that has been adopted over the years, influencing designer furniture and of course, there isn't a kitchen company in the land that doesn't have a Shaker-style kitchen in its collection.
The utilitarian trend also takes influence from the 40s and 50s, perhaps not surprisingly another era when all was not well with the world's financial situation and we were recovering from war.
Simple clean lines were the order of the day, offering a U turn on the glamour and decadence of Art Deco from the 20s opted for a far more structured and modest look.
The LCW (Lounge Wood Chair) by Charles and Ray Eames was designed in 1945, at the end of WW2. Its simple design and use of plywood, one of the cheapest woods around as opposed to the grandeur of walnut, teak or mahogany, reflects society to perfection. The Tolix A chairs designed by Xavier Pauchard have the same austere feel and look, although designed a little earlier in 1934, perhaps Pauchard knew what was around the corner and designed this simple, metal chair in reference to this.
So, where can we see this homage to the past and trend for 2011 and embrace it for our own homes? Well, in fact it's all around us from the Brutalist architecture of London's Southbank to designer furniture, both classic and contemporary. The Ercol Plank dining table designed by Lucian R. Ercolani is a perfect example. Designed in 1956, the table now available from The Conran Shop is as relevant now as it was when first designed. The simple shape of the table top, the splayed legs, the lack of any kind of detailing, letting the wood and design speak for itself without any form of embellishment epitomises this look.
Lighting offers another way to embrace this trend and the perfect one-stop shop for your utilitarian lighting has to Skinflint Design. Based in Cornwall, the rather aptly named lighting designers reclaim beautiful factory lights from the 30s, 40s and 50s. The fact that so many factories shut down, allowing these lights to be reclaimed perhaps offers a rather more sombre note to this trend.
So, in yet another age of austerity and a new generation facing the hardship of recession what can we expect when it comes to people furnishing their homes? Well, it's apparent people won't stop spending money on designer furniture. Otherwise, it would stop being designed. However, you can almost guarantee that people will turn their backs on the glitz and glamour of previous more prosperous decades (don't expect to see any Swarovski-covered beds anytime soon) so I predict we will see simpler lines and furniture that is made to last rather than passing fads.
But hey, it's not all doom and gloom, just think of all those wonderfully crafted heirlooms you'll be able to pass down to future generations.