One-on-One with Thom Filicia

In advance of this Sunday’s Design Week keynote address, Midwest Home Editor Rachel Hutton spoke with designer and author Thom Filicia about the Midwestern aesthetic and trends for 2013.

Does the Midwest have a different design sensibility than the coasts? How would you describe it?

I think there’s more of a difference in terms of lifestyle and point of view, and the Midwest tends to be more grounded and down to earth, which affects its aesthetic across the board. I grew up in upstate New York, which has a rather Midwestern sensibility, so I can relate to it.

Today, with information at our fingertips and with people being able to go online and see things and shop, everybody has a lot of the same things available to them. More and more so, the aesthetic is becoming more about demographic—about age and lifestyle—than location or geography. Whether you live in Minneapolis or Atlanta I think you’re going to have similar wants and likes if you’re in a similar demographic. Still, the aesthetic in the Midwest tends to lean more traditional, even when it’s modern, there’s a little more earth and grounded-ness to it.

Here in Minnesota, the heritage movement seems to be gaining steam with the popularity of traditional, artisan-made clothing such as Red Wing boots, leather satchels, and flannel shirts. Have you seen this style crossing over into interior design as well?

I’ve been seeing it across the board in general. I think every region of the U.S. is starting to feel the interest in regional products. Whether you’re from an area that predominately produces dairy or apples or oranges, each region of the U.S. is going through a renaissance of having a greater appreciation for regional uniqueness. From farm-to-table to original crafts and artisans, I think that it’s exciting that we’re seeing it in everything from food to design. I think it’s appearing in communities where people are thoughtful about what they’re eating and drinking and driving. We’ve been thinking about the environment a lot lately and those concerns feel very regional—and especially resonate in the Midwest, since it’s a big part of the quality of life.

Regarding furnishing and decorating on a budget, I’m curious what you think of Target’s new home collection in partnership with Minneapolis’s Blu Dot?

I think it’s a great springboard for a lot of young people who are starting out, like students or young people starting out in their careers who want to emphasis their personal design aesthetic. The style is international but also young and irreverent. They’re nice elements that can be mixed with existing pieces you own or have been given from your family or pick up at yard sales. I’d call them stylish modern basics. It feels like an American spin on what you’d see on Sweden—there’s a huge amount of that influence in the Midwest already. They’re a nice bridge: the pieces are simple in their design—you can choose the robins egg blue table and mix with Grandma’s chairs you painted white—and a great way to bring the old and new together.

What design trend are you most excited about for 2013?

One of the things I’m absolutely loving right now is the idea that people are starting to really personalize their interiors: mixing things—new with old, or high with low—in a way that feels unique and authentic to you and your lifestyle. Putting your stamp on your interior is very much of the moment. It adds layers to the design process and gives the design more soul. Authenticity in design is something people really gravitate towards.