Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Usé Opulence

I received a wonderful book as a gift this weekend, The Way We Live by Stafford Cliff, and came across the concept of usé opulence. The opulent, abundance of this type of interior is comprised of well used and even slightly worn furnishings, and the accessories are not merely for decoration but also have a purposeful use. It's the luxury of being surrounded by many things that are well loved and frequently enjoyed.
It seems that usé opulent interiors can't help but be personal and revealing of their owners.
Here Fortuny fabric serves as the backdrop - not for the expected portrait or antique mirror - but for a framed collection of locusts and grasshoppers. (first three images from At Home with Pattern by Sally Conran and Katherine Sorrell, photography by Claire Richardson)
This library is in London, of course. English style and usé opulence seem to go hand-in-hand. The furniture is certainly worn but still seems to retain its dignity. It must be the classic form that allows one to view the worn and sagging leather as rather charming. On a less classic piece, it would just be old and tired. (Image from The Way We live by Stafford Cliff, photography by the late Gilles de Chabaneix)
This room is from the book Living in Flanders by Piet Swimberghe and Jan Verlinde. A bit more organized in its abundance and with furnishings that have been well cared for, I think it could also be considered usé opulent or, maybe not...what do you think? (image via Habitually Chic)


Lona de Anna said...

Great post..nothing better than seeing something well used and loved ;)

Rita said...

What at wonderful post. I loved seeing the books stacked...I feel better about mine.

tartanscot said...

I am absolutely in love with every single image.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


How very wonderful.
Lovely concept--and such a great antidote to so much spare modernism.

The chair you missed (gilded back) in the previous post: it was actually designed by Steven Volpe for Michael Taylor Designs, and is not an actual Michael Taylor (himself) design.
Wow, $75 and in original condition. Someone got a bargain.
Cheers and happy days, DIANE

jamesxvi said...

It all looks so comfortable... a livable style of opulence. Thanks for introducing me to 'usé'!

Susie said...

Thank you so much for visiting my (very new) blog! Love these gorgeous photos & you are so right - the English do this style effortlessly...we have noticed since being over here that this style is very much in evidence in 'country houses' - however, we're unsure whether it's by design or the tendency for the English aristocracy to hang on to everything until it's in shreds!!! Warm wishes, Susie x

Scott Fazzini said...

.... I never knew of that term. My ex lives that way, and while I appreciate it very much as his taste, it was suffocating for me. Those pictures do conjure up a lot of stories though. I can image that I'd happily wander around in any of those rooms to explore all of the treasures. Thanks for teaching me something new!

magnaverde said...

Those are great images, but I'm not so impressed with the new term. Every pot may need a handle, but, somehow, slapping catchy stylistic labels onto things as evanescent as the look of these beautiful rooms always seems to be the first step in those things' commodification.

The relaxed, informal style we now know as 'Shabby Chic' existed long before Rachel What's-her-name gave it a clever name & marketed the hell out of it, and cheap knockoffs of its individual components--in catalogs & at crafts fairs--debased the look & drove the style into the ground. I once heard a woman describe Charleston (the Bloomsbury Charleston, not the SC one) as "like an abandoned Shabby Chic store."

I love these rooms & I love the dark colors, faded fabrics & worn finishes of my own apartment, but if anyone ever refers to my place as "Use' Opulence" they're not invited back.

MzMannerz said...

There is a participant on HGTV's decorating/design message boards whose apartment was featured in O At Home Magazine last year. It definitely falls under this description.

I can't find a link on Oprah's site, but here's a link to it from Apartment Therapy:

MzMannerz said...

And now I'm laughing because I went back to read the other comments, and the apartment owner I referenced is a reader of your blog (of course) and posted himself!

Waving to Magnaverde (It's Ridgely from HGTV).

MzMannerz said...

Hmmm. I think I'll respectfully disagree that labeling should be avoided. Labels can be helpful for people who visually know what they want but have a difficult time describing it.

My Notting Hill said...

Thanks for all these comments everyone. Glad you enjoyed the images.

DDS - Interesting info about the chair.

Scott - Just saw the term in a book I was reading this weekend. Pretty sure it translates to worn abundance.

MzMannerz - thanks for the link!

Magnaverde - Fair point about the hazard of boiling it down to a phrase. I read it in a book, copyright 2003. I LOVE your rooms. I know you've heard this before, but do you think you'll ever blog? Michele

magnaverde said...

Michele, I don't have a blog for the same reason I don't have a dog: I don't want to worry about upkeep. Besides, it's more fun to play with everybody else's dog.

Thanks, too, for the nice words about my own place. Those photos are all that's left of it--I just moved downstairs to a new apartment with better light & more windows. Lots of work ahead!

Nice to see you here, MzM.

House and Life said...

I just sometimes want to go and paint my whole downstairs when I see images like this. So warmth and depth. I was happy to see you pop up on the blog, thanks for the compliment! said...

love those distressed leather chairs and books.

prashant said...

I feel better about mine.

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kanishk said...

I loved seeing the books stacked.

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