Rebecca Purcell is one of the most unique designers of interior spaces that I’ve ever encountered. There’s an eccentricity to her aesthetic which really appeals to the eccentric in me. It’s beyond shabby, and it’s often dark, even a bit threatening. There’s a Miss Havisham quality to many of her rooms, as if they have existed, cluttered, airless and unchanging, for decades. Others are bright and spare, like retreats where the man-made world is allowed only in measured doses. Her rooms are places for contemplation and escape.
Though on the surface about as far from the brilliantly colorful, cluttered interiors of Kaffe Fassett as one can imagine, there are similarities. Like Fassett’s designs, Purcell’s require time and effort. You don’t accomplish these looks with one afternoon at a flea market or on eBay. And they’re not always as cheap as they might seem. There are details in some of her rooms which set the cash registers in my head cha-chinging and ironically, her book, Interior Alchemy which apparently is now out of print, is being offered used on Amazon.com for more than $50.
These are (for the most part) rooms in which objects are built up, layer upon layer, until the effect is one of age and experience, years of collecting, cherished memories, and a retreat from the cares of the world. If this look appeals to you at all, it’s possible, even likely that some of your spaces already have a good start on this look… assuming you aren’t one of those place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place sorts. Because this look is also about the art of clutter. Not mess, this isn’t messy, but it is jumbled and will often impress people who prefer the orderly and modern as dirty-looking. (My sister visibly blanches when she looks through Interior Alchemy, then goes home and cleans out a closet.) And I confess, the design called “Humble” makes me itch a little, assembled as it is in an old henhouse with stained walls, half a ceiling and so much dirt in the corners the owner grows herbs in them.
Eh, if we don’t have reservations about design and designers, we’re not thinking for ourselves, are we? And much of what Purcell is showing us here is about thinking for yourself. There’s no way to duplicate the rooms she shows us; they’re meant to be inspirations, not blueprints. Take what you like and leave the rest.
I was happy to find Purcell’s website — Organon 9 Worlds — and to see that she offers both her artwork and designs (mostly jewelry on the site) all of which are as complex and eccentric as her room designs. She also has a number of links which look fascinating, so I’m looking forward to exploring Organon 9 more thoroughly later this afternoon.
Purcell isn’t for everyone. I love much of her work, more for what it could be for me, than what it is on the pages of her book. And in my opinion, that’s when you know a book on decor has succeeded.