Is Y2K Coming for Interiors?

Tucked into the historical moment between Girl Power and Girl Boss, the Y2K aesthetic was forcefully girly. Last year’s Barbie movie tried to travel this middle path, occasioning a lengthy discourse on her Dreamhouse by hipster design bible Pin-Up. Brands followed suit: Pink iterations of classic Italian design comprise the Barbie x Kartell Seating Collection—ready to decorate your dollhouse in miniature versions of Ero/s and more, or even your own dreamhouse, with full-scale limited-edition pink versions of the Louis Ghost and Masters chairs.

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The early 2000s weren’t just a time of aggressively cheerful girl power, of course. Designers were still processing the paranoid world-building of ’90s cult favorites like The Matrix and The X-Files as technology and crises—from 9/11 to climate change—darkened outlooks. “There was a weird coming together of things that were very worked by hand, almost ancient, and then things that were very techie,” says Adam Charlap Hyman of AD100 firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero. “Like the façade of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s American Folk Art Museum in New York, for example.” The 2001 building was controversial from the start, and—equally controversially—demolished in 2014, but the retro-futurist élan it shared with contemporaneous work in fashion by Helmut Lang has inspired a loft Charlap Hyman is currently overseeing. “We’re doing a room that’s all natural felt, in a gray-brown color. Felt, everywhere,” he says with a laugh. “And then these weird little steel lights that are very ‘2000s track lights’ in feeling. And lots of glass.”

The now demolished American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Back in the day, those track lights were inevitably trained on textured walls, a staple of early 2000s construction. That finish has largely gone the way of the landline, but lately designers have swapped out smooth walls for something with a bit more visual interest. “Limewash has become really popular,” says Leanne Conquer of the San Francisco interior design firm Chroma. “It requires artisans and artistry to apply, but I think there’s something really beautiful [about it]. We’re all for texture on walls, in a thoughtful way.” Need something easier to apply? Bullard notes his clients are looking back to the silk craze of the 2000s, from walls to upholstery. “It’s certainly back again, in trends for chinoiserie-painted wallpapers and the use of more rough-hewn raw silks,” he says.

Of course, the ultimate symbol of the period is the infamous brown Tuscan kitchen, with its tangled stencils of vines and tortured wrought-iron fixtures. The style might be unredeemable, apart from the undeniable appeal of camp nostalgia. But Charlap Hyman sees something worth rescuing in its theatrical recentering of the kitchen: “It was the reinvention of the kitchen as a place where the owner of the house might actually spend time and be connected to the food they’re eating and the process of making it,” he muses.


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For designers of a certain age, there might be a temptation to look back at their formative years, once they have power and influence. This is just how inspiration often works. Yet it can also be a trap, catching designers in a loop of chasing trends. “No one should ever follow a trend,” Bullard says. He recommends a certain kind of historical promiscuity. “I pull from all periods of design to create my interiors. Certainly, there are things from the 2000s that I will use again and reference in my designs—the same way I will from the 1900s and the 1800s.”

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