Design in Bloom speakers say pandemic prompted ‘new Roaring ’20s’

In the past year or so, architect Bobby McAlpine has shifted to a less busy schedule and, as a result, has gotten way more done. And, he says, his new work life is likely to stay.

“I have not busied myself with travel and hotels and airplanes. I have concentrated on work, and I have gotten to sit in one place for months,” Alpine said. “I hope I remember to not resume my old pattern. I know that’s not how we’re wired … but I’ve loved the slowdown.”

It was a little over a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the world; organizers of the annual Design in Bloom event had to contact McAlpine and other speakers that they were postponing the event to summer. Summer turned to fall and then a whole new year; now Design in Bloom is back on the schedule.

The full 2020 lineup will be on hand at the Houston Design Center, including McAlpine and his business partner, interior designer Ray Booth; floral designer Laura Dowling; and landscape designer Keith Williams. Their panel will be moderated by Margot Shaw, founder and editor-in-chief of Flower Magazine. Additionally, the speakers will give individual presentations and demonstrations and sign copies of their books.

McAlpine and Booth agreed that many families working and attending school from home have assessed their houses as inadequate and are stepping up with new furnishings, remodeling, adding pools and outdoor pavilions.

Who: Interior designer Ray Booth, architect Bobby McAlpine, floral designer Laura Dowling, landscape designer Keith Williams and Flower Magazine editor-in-chief Margot Shaw

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 18

Where: Houston Design Center, 7026 Old Katy Road

Tickets: $10-$100;

It’s been a busy year for architecture, design and landscaping.

“Gardens are now tremendously important outdoor spaces. They are on our radar more now than they already were,” McAlpine said. “Also, people are more prone now to ask for at least one room with a door in it. They can’t do a Zoom or phone call without going out to their car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that myself, and I don’t even have children. I’m in my car right now because my housekeepers are in my house vacuuming.”

McAlpine, who is based in Atlanta, likened the busy architecture and design world to a similar era of creativity a century ago.

“I think we are back to where we were 100 years ago. The 2020s are the new Roaring ’20s,” he said. “Look at America. When were the wonderful buildings almost uniformly, across the board, built? So many were built in the 1920s specifically. We’re in a realm of great design, music, film and creativity.”

Our need to be home so much more the past year has driven the focus on remodeling and refurnishing, but also, McAlpine said, because our homes are one thing we can control in a time of great upheaval.

And what clients are asking for is getting more interesting, both Booth and McAlpine said. Dreams of rooms that look like 1,000 others on social media are out. Unique interior spaces are in.

“People are tired of looking so much like every other place they go and everything they see,” McAlpine said. “Antiques and eclecticism allow a real, very important signature on an interior, and I think having imperfect possessions is a great signal that we are not perfect, and our capacity to love imperfect people has a lot to do with our love of antiques.”

More contemporary and modern design are on the rise, and McAlpine said antiques still fit well into those interiors.

Booth, who is based in Nashville, Tenn., specializes in building homes that have character. He said he and his colleagues across the country are busier than they could have ever imagined despite a volatile economy.