Cocaine Chic: How Mirrors, Glass Bricks, and Conversation Pits Took Over Social Media

Since launching in August of 2020, Cocaine Decor has gained over 24,000 followers on Twitter, but it is hardly the first and only account of its kind to build up an audience over the last year. On Instagram, for instance, there’s New Age Cocaine, which boasts over 96,000 followers at the moment. Other accounts that don’t have the drug’s name in the handle, but share similar content, include Neon Talk, casacalle_, and 80s_Deco. These accounts feature decor familiar to those that lived through the 1980s, or have just seen Scarface. Think of the Boogie Nights scene with Alfred Molina in a silver robe, brandishing a pistol as “Sister Christian” plays behind him, and you will literally get the picture.

But cocaine isn’t just on social media. Peruse estate sale websites like AuctionNinja and you’ll find bidders fighting over tessellated travertine and glass coffee tables and monstrous white leather sofas from Italy. Brick and mortar vintage stores and Etsy sellers alike are seeking out Art Deco-inspired ceramics from the Reagan era, and mirrored console tables with brass or green marble accents. At a Connecticut estate sale over the summer, my wife and I witnessed a van full of Brooklyn-bound furniture dealers loading up a truly “Yes, yes, and more YES” beige laminate bedroom set with a wardrobe big enough to hold the largest of power suits. Even the big players in the home decor world, like CB2 and Le Creuset, are getting in on the look. Cocaine Chic, it seems, is the new Midcentury Modern. But why?

“It makes sense that these accounts have gone viral in the last year or so,” says Kate Wagner, the architecture critic behind the popular McMansion Hell site. “I think a lot of it stems from the fact that we’re living in times of great self-deprivation with the pandemic and it’s fun to escape into these plush, glass-atriumed houses that represent a totally different era.”

That is part of it, of course. I’m not here to critique the political economy that supports the production and distribution of cocaine, and I’m certainly not here to malign people who use cocaine — and many will attest: it can be really fun. And these days, nobody is having a good time. At the very least, our living spaces should seem fun. After a long reign, and a long time staring at our too-tasteful furnishings, the coolly unenthusiastic, economical Mid-Century aesthetic is dead. Our collective need for Cocaine Chic’s elation, power, and energy finally killed it.

“Decor revivals are cyclical. The 1970s are fun but messy, and for millennials, the 1980s are just long enough ago to feel like another world,” says author and design critic Alexandra Lange. Whether or not the style has staying power, Lange isn’t so sure. “At most people will buy a knockoff 1980s mirror or coffee table at Urban Outfitters, but I think this trend is mostly for fun looking online.” But Lange, who is working on a book about malls—“which is likely to have teal, pink, and/or neon on the cover”—admits that it would be fine with her if the trend stuck around a bit longer.

When your living room could double as a Bond villain’s lair? That’s cocaine chic.

Eliot Elisofon




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