Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Habitat 1977

I've always had a soft spot for Habitat, though through my own experience I really I couldn't recommend working there.  Neither it nor I were up to scratch.  Regardless of that, a recent post by Ben Pentreath kind of re-ignited my love and I went and bought an early-ish catalogue on ebay - 1977 - and then another - 1978 - a week later.  Of the two 1978 is much more easy to photograph, the images (I don't mean the designs) just being that bit more interesting.
So what struck me?  Well firstly there is a sort of cheapness to some of the designs that disappoints, there is also the general sense of brown everywhere - all that hessian and cork tile, which doesn't help.  It is also far more mainstream than I imagined.  And there was a comprehensiveness, not wholly Modernist, perhaps Post-Modernist would be a better description.  Looking at images of Terence Conran's holiday cottage illustrated in two books by Mary Gilliat, 'English Style' 1968?, and 'A House in the Country' 1973 we see the clever juxtaposition of eclectic objects - a rejection of hard doctrinaire Modernism.  It would be just -just! - about possible to furnish a traditional looking home from the contents of the catalogue.  Far easier still to decorate a home and make it Art Deco.  In fact some it was more than decidedly traditional, and I'm thinking mainly of the pottery.  The fabrics and wall-coverings too are on the 'conservative' end of the spectrum.  There is still lingering the atmosphere of the late Sixties when taste moved away from Modernism; more than a hint of Victoriana and the ethnic (lovely dhurries and Batik), Art Deco Revival (viz Biba), Celia Birtwell,and Laura Ashley.  Odd the last one but the influence is there.  So perhaps less 'cutting edge' though newer trends are picked up: a hint of 'High Tech' and also, what Peter York dubbed, 'Chic Graphique'.  (Funny that whole shift in popular culture in the Mid-Sixties from the images of Modernity to something softer, romantic, nostalgic.  Funny because in certain artistic circles it had been bubbling away for years - think of the work of Bawden and Barbara Jones and also the photographers Cecil Beaton and Angus McBean, whose work was influenced both by Surrealism and Victoriana and whose houses were crammed full of old things and wit.  That influence flowed into Pop-Art, a British invention, and suddenly erupting in, among other things, the Peacock Revolution of 1966 which was, let's not forget, an upper class phenomena mediated through Pop culture.  That's also why it's lazy to talk about the 'Sixties', or the 'Seventies' etc.  It's more complicated and nuanced. But I digress!)


Front and back covers, the former almost looks back, the latter forward.



Love those rocking chairs.



The pornography of abundance


Love the Magistretti chairs and the dresser


Not much Modernism here



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