What comes after the Y2K renaissance?
Unless you’ve been living in a bag the past year (fair, dude), you’ve noticed that the naughty aughties came back. Juicy Couture recently partnered with Parade, the go-to Insta-underwear brand of Gen Z micro-influencers; Bella Hadid got piecey bangs; Gen Z found a new fascination for Paris Hilton as the proto-influencer; and my Von Dutch hat has somehow inched its way out of the crypt. Honestly, I’ve loved it. This was a grim year, and a bit of 2000s bubblegum Baroque did me good.
But now, I think this particular tangent of Y2K style is nearing its peak. The devil works hard, but the Depop babes work harder:
It’s been a fun ride—deeply gratifying, actually. As a former 2000s teen, I feel like I finally got to live out all my (then) premature dreams of wearing Nelly Furtado midriff tops and butterfly thongs. Now, I’m a little winded. Not that I’ll ever stop carrying this bedazzled torch, but for those of us nostalgic 30-somethings craving the next-past thing, I wonder: What comes in the wake of the terry cloth tracksuit?
I have a very beige theory. One that pulls from a niche 80s-90s (in some cases, early 2000s) style aesthetic that has been hibernating in that cozy, serif-font coffee house part of my brain, right by all my Frasier box sets and a copy of Myst. I didn’t have a name for it until I came across the archival work of the Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI), which is a collective association of designers and researchers who “categorize consumer aesthetics from the late midcentury,” and is basically building out a new, free taxonomy for these micro-movements (see: Cool Blob World and Mid Century Medieval) that are deeply embedded in our design conscious, but were otherwise nameless. We have them to thank for an interior design style known as “Frasurbane,” which so perfectly encapsulates my 90s beige-core aspirations.
“The style seems to have emerged in the late 1980s, as Baby Boomers were hitting their peak-yuppie years, settling down, and looking to adopt a more sophisticated aesthetic and lifestyle,” CARI’s Evan Collins told VICE, “I temporarily termed ‘Late 90s Urbane-Sophisticated Faux Worn-Vintage-World Vibes.’ [So] many aspects of the TV show Frasier [exemplify] qualities of this style; from the interior design of his apartment to the constant obsession with appearing cultured and sophisticated.” Thus, in 2017, the Frasier-Urbane portmanteau was born.
Admittedly, I’m thrilled for those of us who’ve been living on the Frasier fringes [folds linen] to potentially see a comeback. Frasier was the white noise of my childhood. There are entire episodes dedicated to caviar, Antiques Roadshow, and door knockers. The series was an ASMR pioneer. It was mostly about rain, manners, and giving the people a normcore blueprint filled with Scrabble, socks with sandals, and earth tones:
If all of this still feels a little all over the place, that’s because it is. Frasurbane is a postmodern stew, says Collins, and “there’s elements of Neoclassical PoMo, Biedermeier, [and] Art Deco mixed with a bit of the playful geometric compositions seen in works by Memphis-Milano, Robert Stern, Michael Graves, [and more].” Baby-level Frasurbane is a 1990s Scholastic book fair, or peak Discovery Store. Full blown, adult Frasurbane is about Vitrutvian Man decor, globes, and drowning your existential crises in espresso—it’s 90s Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, and companies like Bernhardt Design, or Donghia. As the character of Niles Crane says in one episode, “It's homey, but just hard enough to pronounce to intimidate the riffraff!”
Granted, all of the above is exactly why some people don’t dig Frasurbane. “The negative aspects align well with the comedy of Frasier,” says Collins, “[like an] obsessive concern with projecting an air of ‘sophistication’ to a point of fault, and the elitism and exclusionary nature of a style [that is] so tightly intertwined with the consumption of expensive architecture, fashion, and objects.” It’s the snobbery we love to hate, and love to love when we’re actually invited to the wine mixer. It’s the post-80s excess, grunge-hangover intellectualism diet. Also, a lot of crackers and swankity swank spreads.
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the staying power of its Design Toscano Greco-inspired pillars. For those of us millennials and Gen X-ers who are ready for a brain break from the bubblier side of the 90s and 00s—or as Collins would say, “McBling”—Frasurbane extends a cool, cashmered hand with room for a pensive nostalgia, and a postmodern departure from the reigning, bright color palette of newly re-trending Memphis design. “[Frasurbane] took postmodern design in a new direction,” says Collins, “There’s a sense of playful surrealism which I personally appreciate.” An apt aesthetic, perhaps, for our increasingly surreal times.
It might not pack the visual punch of rhinestones, but it finally feels like we know what to do with that tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.