One might imagine 60s design as smooth and sleek, a space-age vision of the future with plenty of transparent plastic and white curves. But take a look at the films and images of the decade, particularly the second half of it, and another aesthetic emerges. Colour and ruffles, velvet and tassels, ethnic patterns and swathes of silk. Think Victorian dandy on acid.
Christopher Gibbs, the interior designer who recently died at the age of 80, was a pioneer of the look he called “distressed bohemian”, as The New York Times recounted in his obituary. A happily dissolute aristocrat, Gibbs was an antique dealer whose style – Chelsea by way of Tangier – became so admired that he was appointed editor of Men In Vogue.
His taste ran to Moroccan chandeliers, silk carpets, towering book-cases, and sprawling sofas based on 18thcentury designs. He designed the set of the film Performance, which, as Architectural Design reveals, included a bed inspired by the story The Princess and the Pea: “Many mattresses on top of one another” with a “stack of multi-colored velvets” that were “trundled north from Morocco”. The tiling in the bathroom was based on a 16thcentury carpet. The star of the film, Mick Jagger, also got Gibbs to decorate his own home.
Getting the Gibbs look requires time as much as expense: you need to be the kind of person who loves flea markets and can’t walk past an antique shop. Probably you’ll need to hop on a flight to Marrakech too.
But this month’s other 60s design icon is a little more accessible, if you’re quick.
Christopher Gibbs would probably have cocked a puzzled eyebrow in the direction of Ikea. He favoured faded grandeur rather than smart new furniture.
But, incredible though it might seem for a brand that feels so contemporary, Ikea is celebrating its 75thbirthday this year. To mark the occasion, the retailer is reissuing some of its most iconic designs from the 50s and 60s right through to the 2000s.
The collection, called Gratulera, includes a sexy tulip floor lamp, a curvy bentwood chair – and the Strandmon wing chair (with matching foot stool), which would by no means be entirely out of place in a Christopher Gibbs setting. With the judicious use of the Ikea and Royal Air Maroc websites, the “distressed bohemian” look could soon be yours.