For many people, the word “fancy” is a loaded weapon. It conjures up all sorts of mental images, most of them punctuated with glitzy embellishments and enough curlicues to make your eyes spin. I feel like this is a little unfair to the concept of “fancy,” though. At least, a certain aspect of it. Is it possible to have a solid appreciation for (and taste in) something fancy without ODing on gilded sparkly things?
The answer: Yes. Absolutely. In this article, we’re going to define fancy and then discuss what it means (and what it doesn’t necessarily mean) in today’s stylish home. Hopefully, by the end of your read, you’ll have a little more compassion, and an appropriately subdued mental imagery, of what something “fancy” can be.
The word “fancy” includes all sorts of variations on its definition; we’re going to discuss only those that pertain to interiors here. Also, keep in mind that the word has a very personal connotation – what might look and feel fancy to one may not feel the same to another. But the power of fanciness is still strong for the first person, so it can’t be disregarded. (Definitions taken and modified from Merriam-webster)
Define Fancy 1: Executed with technical skill and style.
An angular acrylic chair may not feel fancy to some, but when it includes and incorporates its own personal cactus growth, directly under the seated person, that is fancy! The design of this chair is both original and relatively complex; above all, it is certainly executed with serious style. Gold star for the technical skills showcased here.
Define Fancy 2: Not plain; ornamental.
While a table isn’t generally designed to be entirely ornamental, this particular table leans heavily in that direction. It’s functional as a table should be, but the fancy design in its cross-sectional appearance makes it ornamental and lovely. You’d certainly want to keep this table largely clear to be able to appreciate its originality.
Define Fancy 3: Of particular excellence of highest grade; impressive.
Take one look at the front of each of these drawers on this dresser/credenza, and you can’t help but be impressed. It is, to reiterate the fancy definition, “of particular excellence” with its three-dimensional, symmetrical, and precise aesthetic. I love the combination of fancy design with natural materials and décor as well – the juxtaposition is absolutely alluring.
Define Fancy 4: Extravagant.
Sure, most everyone uses some water knobs and a shower head in the shower. But it’s when these common items are designed and installed in a way that looks and feels extravagant that they enter the realm of interior design fanciness. Notice, however, that just because they’re fancy doesn’t mean the items aren’t still useful.
Define Fancy 5: Swank, posh.
If you’re wondering what those words mean, they mean: elegant, stylishly luxurious, upper-class, and impressive. This is probably the closest definition to what many people’s knee-jerk reaction to the word “fancy” might be with regard to home décor. Expensive and luxurious materials (e.g., velvet, marble, crystal) and stylish arrangements of said materials will undoubtedly look fancy to almost anyone. This doesn’t mean that they’re tacky, though! As this photo fully illustrates, fancy (even swanky) design works beautifully in a stylish contemporary setting.
Define Fancy 6: Fantastic quality or state (archaic).
As has been alluded to in the other fancy definitions, a thing in interior design can (and will) seem fancy if it is simply of high quality. Even a simple, straightforward wood bench – with minimal, if any, bells and whistles, mind you – gives off a fancy aura simply because of its quality workmanship and design.
As you’re aware, something that is fancy is often simply a conversion of something ordinary, “normal,” or regular into something more unique and extraordinary. Looking at these throw pillows, you can certainly tell that they’re individually and collectively fancy because of the details – color, matte/shine, pattern, texture, etc. It is these qualities that set these pillows apart from others and make them fancy.
Here are some other examples and discussion of things that are fancy in interior design. Remember that fanciness can be as much a state of mind (beauty’s in the eye of the beholder) as a physical condition.
A wise man once said: Never choose fancy over function. (Or, if he didn’t, he absolutely should’ve said that. Because it’s true.) When great design boils down to its core, one would hope that it is absolutely functional in the ways that it needs to be. This enables not only a fancy life, but an organized, stable one.
Shiny metallic, such as gold, nickel, brass, copper, etc., tends to have an instantaneous “fancy” effect on whatever item it’s paired with. This simple white chair, for example, is propelled into an upper echelon of fancy design due to its metallic exterior frame (and those mini hands!).
It should be noted, however, that brass and other metals aren’t the end-all of “fancy.” Humble materials such as wood, stone, rock, and other natural resources can be quite fancy themselves. Here’s another white chair with carved wooden arms/legs. No one could deny this chair’s placement into fanciness, what with that super-polished, cross-grain, gorgeous woodworked detailing.
Here’s another example in which polished, gleaming wood butcher block countertops could take on any marble or quartz in terms of aesthetic fanciness and appeal…and hold its own most definitively.
“Fancy” décor often involves the act of simply adding something extra to a regular, ordinary design concept. For example, hooks on a wall. Nothing new here. But incorporating wallpaper and clear acrylic plates under the hooks all of a sudden turns the wall into an artistic twist.
For some, merely having a hook or two ready to receive purses and bags near the entryway provides organization enough to feel “fancy.” For others, however, this feeling will come much better if the hook itself is fancified. These slender brass fingers will hold any bag with grace.
You may not feel like brushing your teeth in an airplane loo is fancy. (And I would agree with you.) But if you take that same compact feeling and combine it into excellent design, you just might create the most fancy teeth-brushing experience in your own personal bathroom that you’ve ever dreamed could be possible. The curves, the unexpected scale, the oval shape, all of these things and more combine to create quite a fun, fancy vanity experience.
Fancy design style may involve pieces or components that are decoratively or structurally elaborate. It may also involve details that are small and subtle. The ultimate element of fanciness, it seems to me, is those additions to the design that elevate a piece from basic necessity or fundamental into something just a little (or a lot) above and beyond.
Many with a taste for minimalistic design might shy away from the word “fancy” in décor, simply because it tends to evoke images of curly-cues and over-the-top embellishments. This isn’t necessarily the case with fancy design, however, as this stream-lined commercial-looking icebox/island evidences. It’s gorgeous and not simply another kitchen island. It’s fancy.
This is actually a simple wingback-style chair. It’s got hairy hide as part of its exterior, even, and “reverse” (inside-out) stitching over prominent parts of the upholstery. And yet, it feels fancy. Why? Because of the curves of the chair, the traditional, classic style, and the neutral-yet-sophisticated creamy color palette.
Tufted anything feels fancier than a flat surfaced piece of furniture. But when that tufted item is red leather, it goes above and beyond the typical bar stool. Tapered wood legs add elegance and a sense of lightness to balance out this fancy aesthetic wonder.
Geometrics aren’t necessarily fancy in and of themselves; but when the geometric forms show up as the primary characteristic of furniture, that story changes quite a bit. This is because these modern-type silhouettes and lines aren’t expected or common in this setting, which makes them, in a word, feel fancy. They’re unusual.
Mixed media and/or two-tone pieces tend to be fancier than their single-material and/or monochromatic counterparts. This is because there’s so much more to take in with a second element added into the mix. So much fancy, so little time! What are your favorite ways to include fancy design in your space?