In a scene that has become famous in Mad Men, the TV series that tells the story of America in the Sixties through the events of an advertising agency, the team of copywriters and graphic designers led by the fascinating Don Draper is gathered to show the boss the sketch for the advertising of the first spray can of shaving foam. Thinking of best interpreting the brief, and the emotion transmitted by an object that, for the time, looked to the future, the team of creatives put the spray can in the hand of an astronaut, but the response they get from the boss is lashing. : “Don't you know that people are afraid when they hear about the future? Put a cowboy in the place of the astronaut”.
The future frightens, the past reassures. Perhaps this is the answer to the question why, having crossed an abundant fifth of the twenty-first century, we continue to furnish our homes with a sometimes unsettling quantity of furniture and objects taken from that past not too distant to be antiques but sufficiently distant to evoke an 'other' world, the vintage world. And perhaps here too is the answer to why, cyclically, entire epics such as that of the 1950s return to impose their own soft, enveloping, reassuring codes even in the production of unpublished works.
In memories – and therefore in vintage – there is life, but you can also remain a prisoner of memories. Which is a bit like the sensation we get when entering certain rooms that show light bulbs with Edison filament or old bicycles hanging on the wall (why should a bicycle hang on a wall?). Alessandro Baricco, in The Game (Einaudi), mentions a little caustically the places inspired by the old dairies (and who has never seen one, between Milan and Rome), to signal our fear of the future.
In short, the step between creative embrace and cage, between emotion and fake is very subtle: "I will never forget that time when a client asked me to design 'something vintage' for her to be made (from scratch) by a craftsman", he says Daniele Giorgi, interior designer and architect, coordinator of the University Master in Interior design of Quasar Institute for Advanced Design in Rome. “Well, situations of this type make us understand that something has gotten out of hand; that the ethical choice and / or opportunity has been replaced by style, by fashion. The best vintage, I always tell my clients, is the one you already have at home ”.
“A vintage object makes more sense if it tells a story that is the story of its owner; its values and ethics are told” continues Giorgi. “From this point of view, I fear that today the same operation is being done on vintage as was done on antiques in the 1980s when an army of new rich people filled their homes with antiques without knowing and recognizing them, depriving them of their history and correct contextualizations, only to simulate a status that money (but this was understood many years later) could not buy”.
And therefore vintage, if taken as a design theme, “must be approached with intelligence like all design themes. We must never forget that planning, design, is the search for ad hoc solutions for specific problems. When a solution becomes too recurring or repetitive, something is changing and the design is turning into style. Today, as a designer, I make vintage one of the sustainable solutions from an environmental point of view”.
“Between buying something new and reusing something existing, I tend to reuse as much as possible” concludes Giorgi. “The goal is to reduce the impact of waste produced by my professional activity and my creative gestures and to limit the use of 'new' products. From this perspective, therefore, there is no room for vintage as a style, fashion or cliché but it is brought back to the path of ethical choice. At the base of every choice there must be awareness”.
Cover photo and in the article, a former country church renovated and transformed into a home in the Basque Country based on a project by Garmendia Cordero Arquitectos.