A living area designed by Ken Fulk.nbsp
A living area designed by Ken Fulk. Photo: Douglas Friedman

‘Quiet Luxury’ Is Extending Beyond the Runways—And Into Your Home

By this point, you’ve likely come across the term ‘quiet luxury,’ the muted style movement that’s ironically making more noise than anything else right now.

We’ve seen it on the runways: at The Row, Loro Piana, Bottega Veneta, and far too many others to list. We’ve seen similar iterations of the trend in the past, too—never forget ‘normcore,’ the post-recession shift to understated dressing that lasted all the way up to about 2016. And we’ve seen it on our screens: Gwyneth Paltrow’s courtroom-wear showing how pared-back dressing can speak volumes, and the stealth wealth of Succession (and its infamous “ludicrously capacious” bag) exemplifying the offensiveness of the opposite.

At face value, quiet luxury is all of these things. It’s exceptionally high-quality, logo-free ready-to-wear. It’s minimalism with the edge taken off. It’s what we’re actually wearing. But it’s also so much more. Because at its core—especially compared to other timely-yet-fleeting trends (like the -cores from ballet to Barbie to cottage, and beyond)—quiet luxury is not a trend; it’s actually the opposite.

“Quiet luxury is about restraint,” says interior designer extraordinaire Ken Fulk. “It’s not about a style or look per se—which can be as layered and bold as ever—but rather a focus on quality and a dedication to making every moment matter. From the rituals of your daily wake-up regimen to the profile detail in a crown molding, it’s about investing in the pleasure and beauty of our everyday lives.” 

The lobby area of a home designed by Ken Fulk. Photo: Douglas Friedman

Colin King, interiors stylist and author of Arranging Things, shares a similar sentiment. “Quiet luxury is an approach that focuses on building a collection with intention—collecting things you love, rather than things that fit perfectly together,” he says. “It flies under the radar, meaning the source shouldn’t be immediately obvious—only when you look closer do the quality, form, and craftsmanship reveal its designer pedigree.”

Ceramics by Tomoko Sakai, styled by Colin King.Photo: Adrian Gaut

Contrary to what many think, simplicity in design is not necessarily the easier approach for any type of creative—in fact, stripping away the excess leaves more room for error and scrutiny. “It pushes us all to examine how we look at fabrication and manufacturing, how we source materials, and ultimately, gives us a runway to be more creative asking ourselves, ‘how do we create pieces that we will have for a lifetime?’” says King. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. This idea of quiet luxury may feel boring to most but I see it as a difficult challenge to simplify and study design that still feels relevant over decades of trends. Profound simplicity is what I am after and I find can be the most difficult to achieve.” 

A study area at a Sag Harbor home, styled by Colin King for Anna Karlin.Photo: William Jess Laird

It’s this exact aspirational aspect that lends quiet luxury its allure. Luxury, no matter how ostentatious or discreet, after all, is luxurious because it’s not easily attained. 

So how, exactly, does quiet luxury translate to interiors? King explains that the refined simplicity embraced by fashion houses runs parallel to how one might approach minimal interiors. “There’s a common consideration for palette, material, and construction,” he says. “The silhouettes are tailored and timeless but with a strong point-of-view, and each piece has a hand that feels crafted and thoughtful… It’s very much like building a strong framework for a room, focusing on the details that will elevate any pieces you bring into the space. Palette, wall texture, flooring, hardware, window coverings—I’ve found that if you can nail that, an empty room can be warm and inviting.”

A restful corner at a ranch property in Santa Ynez by designer Jenni Kayne.

Photo: Angi Welsch

“The key crossover is quality,” Fulk adds. “With so much information at our fingertips, we’ve all come to learn the difference between high-quality craftsmanship and lesser-quality goods. Even as we began to pull back on our excess a bit, we retain that knowledge—whether it’s a handcrafted loafer or a hand-tied sofa.”

The rise in accessible resources through social media and elsewhere has created a more conscious and versed consumer who’s craving quality across the board. And this could be just the beginning. “We’re going to see even more of a focus placed on investment-worthy pieces for the home,” says designer Jenni Kayne. “Much like this idea of a capsule wardrobe where curation is key, I’m excited to see more homes celebrating the less-is-more mentality while also highlighting high-quality pieces that will stand the test of time.”

The expansive living area at a ranch property in Santa Ynez by designer Jenni Kayne.

Photo: Angi Welsch

Educated (self- or otherwise) consumers gave quiet luxury its spark, but overarching cultural factors keep its flame alive. “The pendulum shifts back and forth from one direction to the other in a reactionary rhythm or in sync with shifts in the socio-political or economic climate,” says Fulk. “We’ve seen a lot of change over the past ten years so the natural recourse is a return to quieter, slower, and perhaps more subdued experience.”

Quiet, slow, and subdued? Now that sounds like the luxury of a lifetime.