Anti-Instagram home decor: a shopping guide

Photo illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

As much as Instagram can be a source of inspiration, there’s a certain (and inevitable) point where it becomes an arbiter of too equality. We started seeing this happen with fashion trends in the mid-2010s (off-the-shoulder tops, fur-lined Gucci loafers, ridiculously small sunglasses, prairie dresses). Now that we spent a lot of time indoors during the early stages of the pandemic, we see the same thing happening with interior design trends (Togo sofas, Cesca dining chairs, mushroom lamps, etc.).

It is an interesting phenomenon to observe in any context, but especially with interior decoration, which has a greater sense of permanence than the average outfit. The resulting ubiquity can feel almost eerie at times, like we’re in a Simsstyle video game in which there are only a limited number of preset options for naming millennial living spaces. I think that’s why I’m increasingly appreciative of domestic aesthetics that feel less intentional and a bit more arbitrary. There’s nothing more upscale to me than a home with a collection of very special things that have been owned and loved for a long time – whether by the current owner or someone else.

There are many possible ways to cultivate that kind of space — some more casual, like incorporating hand-me-down decor from friends or relatives, and others more intentional, like buying one-of-a-kind vintage pieces or eccentric finds from around the internet .

To help you get started with the latter, below is a list of recommended alternatives to some of the biggest Instagram home decor trends I’ve seen crescendo in recent years. (Of course, don’t worry if you have any of the items I’m suggesting a replacement for. There’s a reason why they’re or were trending in the first place, and that reason is probably because they look really cool. The trendy item is styled with an assortment of other personal things, it can definitely work in a way that still feels unique to you). Okay? Okay! Disclaimer over. Scroll on, dear ones.

Writer Sydney Gore asked the right questions when she wrote a piece for The Strategist last summer titled “Why Are Tiled Cube Tables Suddenly Everywhere?” Of course, part of the answer lies with Instagram’s recent penchant for pastel playfulness – as contagious as a belly laugh. Instead, I’d look for side tables with ripple or bubble edges. They scratch the same pleasure, oversized object itch but feel softer and more sculptural due to their more rounded edges.

I think I could write another 1000 words about the fact that every other vase these days seems to have a few areolas. For the record, I’m a fan, but I also like having an equally irreverent but still PG-rated option for when your dad visits, like say, a whimsical fish-shaped vase.

Murano glass tumblers are all the rage these days, especially the speckled confetti styles. For an equally colorful and cheerful alternative, I love mint cups. Many of the vintage sets online come with a matching jug (so precious!). They are fuddy-duddy in the best way, like something you borrowed from your grandmother and never returned.

While trends tend to cringe a bit at their peak, there’s something special about the rare times you discover one that truly fits your personal style and that you consciously choose to hold on to, even as its place in the Zeitgeist kicks in. dip. Checkerboard rugs (and checkerboard home decor in general) fall into that bucket for me. I’m not sick of it yet, and I don’t know if or when I ever will be. But if so, which is entirely justified, consider a Beni Ourain rug with an abstract pattern.

For context, many of the checkered rugs you’ve probably seen on Instagram are (or were inspired by) Berber rugs from Morocco. The three most famous categories of Berber carpets are the Beni Ourain, made of high wool, the Boucharouette, made of recycled fabrics, and the Azilal, mostly made of wool and cotton. Beni Ourain rugs are considered the best as their designs are typically unique and made from the highest quality wool. There are thousands of beautiful Beni Ourain rugs with abstract patterns on Etsy that I highly recommend browsing through.

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Michel Ducaroy designed the iconic Togo sofa in 1973, and it’s still in production today – a truly impressive feat, and again, I totally get the appeal (adult beanbag vibes!). But thanks to Instagram, they’ve become so ubiquitous that they’re starting to give me the same feeling I get when I eat too many sour candies: “This is delicious, but I need to taste something else now, please!”

If you are in the same boat and looking for a sofa, modular floor sofas are a good alternative. Like Togo sofas, they have an element of “cozy futon,” but with a bit more structure, and there are so many different shapes, configurations, and colors that you can put together something very distinctive.

I totally get the madness of the mushroom lamp. Mushrooms are adorable, and mushrooms that illuminate your room with a warm glow might be even more so. But if you’re feeling mushroomy and in the mood for something different, check out Sicilian pigna lamps on Etsy and eBay. They are pine cone shaped (pinecone means pinecone in Italian) and, like mushroom lamps, come in a wide variety of ceramic colours, but their atmosphere is more Italian villa than a teenage bedroom.

Marcel Breuer’s famous cantilever chairs with chrome armrests and cane backs are another iconic style – one is even on display at New York’s Museum of Art. For something different that has the same “neutral yet interesting” effect, consider a set of French Mullca stacking chairs. Originally designed in the 1940s as school chairs in France, these chairs have charming tubular frames with wooden seats. Best of all, they’re stackable, perfect for getting out of the way when you’re throwing a party in a small apartment.

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