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Let Me Tell You!: Abusing "Chic"

Possibly the most overused word in style writing, together with "juxtaposition" and "vernacular" is the word "chic". To me, chic entails that je ne sais quoi of an elegant taste, mixed with a subtle sophistication and a clear sense of individualistic style. It is not about richness or opulence, but rather that ability to appreciate the quality and simplicity regardless of provenance or cost.  When I was growing up, it was a whisper among well heeled ladies, an exclamation of awe and admiration, it was that untouchable sense of taste, it was a sophisticated elegance mixed with simplistic restrain. But not anymore. Now every Jane, Dick and Harry uses it for anything and everything that is average, pale grey and totally normal. For example, any blue & white combination is considered "chic" when, actually that combination is the most boring, overused and easiest way to conform with the norms. Don’t get me wrong, blue & white is a beautiful combination when it is well done, it is great. What is not great is the overuse and abuse and, as a decorator or want-to-be style setter, use blue & white as a safe heaven. 

Taste and style has been replaced by average normality. Now, it is all about looking the same, dressing the same, having the same hairstyle, living in the same hued house, driving the same car. The only difference is the price tag, whether you are scouring the second-hand shops or buying directly from Bergdorf's. 

Describing something as "chic" doesn't have the same effect anymore. And style-setters who write about decorating and lifestyle should stay away from declaring that everything in their world is “chic”.  I have really tried to not use the word “chic” when describing style. To me, things are: stylish, good-looking, elegant, trendy, new, sophisticated and great, cheesy or just plain ugly but very few things are chic. 

Let me just tell you about these table-setting trends I am seeing here & there: Napkins inside the glass. Yuk! Napkins under the plate like a flap. Yuk! Cane chairs without cushions. Yuk! Pile of plates and one fork. Yuk! Long, long tables. Yuk! Oversized urns on the table. Yuk!  This is not "chic". It is actually the polar opposite. And it shows no elegance, refinement or sophistication. It just shows that the want-to be-taste-maker learned the art of entertaining from the corner trattoria. 

To be refined and elegant, sophisticated and stylish you have to be able to open your eyes and learn. It is about seeing, appreciating and absorbing beauty and grace from what is all around you. Nature is a great source of inspiration as is music and art. Beautiful color combinations, classic lines, flattering light, complimentary forms.... and simple, simple, simple. 

At home comfort is key. Small tables next to the sofa, the perfect size bed-side table, thick curtains to block chills and light sheers when softening is all that is needed . Thick carpets, practical sisal, perfect outdoor carpets. Soft lighting, table lamps, candle light. And I consider comfort what is pleasing to the “eye”. I want to walk in and feel the comfort and ease of a welcoming home. I like soft colored bedrooms and bright and cheery living rooms. I like comfortable dinning rooms with books and prints and comfortable chairs made to linger at the table. I like practical kitchens that allow me to cook and entertain at ease but close the door and not see the mess if I don’t want to. I like collections and personal mementos. 

I don’t like the ubiquitous boxy white sofa paired with bad chintz chairs, I don’t like family photos in the living room nor do I like one-hued rooms (except for those beautiful English rooms with Bennison fabric on everything). I don't like all-white immaculate kitchens where you are afraid to put down a glass. I like refined comfort, elegant simplicity, sophisticated calm.... 

Dressing up and down is the same. I want comfort and ease but flattering and elegant. Blue jeans and a black turtleneck is chic, paired with big gold jewelry and fake eyelashes, not so much.