Untidy is the new chic. Careless, carefree decor that says: “I love my home as it is, not some pared-back, clutter-free version, rigid with effort and strangled by hospital corners.” It’s a style that celebrates the tiny events of domestic life, rather than racing to clear up everyday scenes of contentment for an imaginary visitor. Untidy is the hot new look that retailers and designers are trying to encapsulate in their autumn collections. How fortunate it is that many of us are already gifted in this area.
If you are unlucky enough to be naturally neat, you may need some tips on untidy. You probably think disarray is simple. Just kick the duvet into a heap, leave the breakfast detritus, the newspapers and the Lego, step away from the Marigolds, and voilà. That’s just messy — a completely different species. The beast we’re after is happy disorder. Key elements of untidy are bravado, unironed linen, books and open shelves that make a display of random household objects. Textures are anything that crumples, from paper to slubby, open-weave fabrics.
Linen is the queen of untidy textiles. Majestic examples include natural linen tablecloths, such as the dove-grey job available from the Linen Works (from £100;thelinenworks.co.uk) or the tumbled linen throw by Volga Linen (£149;volgalinen.co.uk). Untidy, however, can’t be pinned down to any specific product or design. You can’t buy untidy off the shelf. It is an orchestral work bringing together texture, detail and placement. Various websites run by clever stylists give valuable pointers. Cachette and Bodie and Fou are nothing short of untidy role models. Check out their images featuring folded paper lights (€89) and grey cardboard baskets (€14; both cachette.com), or the House Doctor wooden chest that looks like a pile of differently sized drawers (£590) and the wonky woven seagrass basket (£27; bothbodieandfou.com).
One brand stands head and shoulders above the rest in the field of untidy, however. Charlie Marshall, founder of Loaf, is a standard-bearer for untidy decor. He reckons nonchalant styling is the natural result of modern, less rigid, ways of using our homes.
“Over the past 20 years is there’s been a breakdown of boundaries in the home. Traditionally, you’d have the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, sitting room, study. Now, we’ve knocked through many of these rooms and we use the spaces in different ways. You can send an email from the loo, work in bed or from the kitchen table. This brings a sort of mental relaxation that means people have become more chilled in the way they show off their homes.”
He cautions, regretfully, that this is not a universal solution: “My mother-in-law comes over and comments that our beds aren’t made. But we don’t have sheets, we’ve got duvets we chuck on — that’s the modern way of living. And at Loaf we have people say our photos look a bit messy. Whenever I get those comments, I think: you may not be a customer of ours yet, but you will be when you change to the more normal way of living.”