Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm loving ...

"Many cottage interiors still reveal an enchantingly stubborn rejection of modern standardization in matters of ornament, a marked predilection for exuberant colour, objects crammed closely together, family photographs and pictures of Royalty, national heroes and religious subjects. Mrs. Hockey favours Nelson and, as some unspoilt country people are still wont to do, frightens her grandchildren with threats of Bony. Cottagers consider exposed ceiling beams unsightly and old-fashioned and commonly paper over them, as Mrs. Hockey has done here."

The author's description is as quaint and unspoilt in its own way as the country people, the Cottagers, she portrays and I wonder if it could have been written today.

However, that apart, the accretion of objects on and above that chest of drawers brings to mind how some of today's decorators, celebrity major or minor, that lay layer upon layer, sedimentary as the dust that settles, are unable to leave any surface, horizontal or vertical, unadorned. In the quotation above, clutter, though that word is not used, is seen as a class signifier, a stubborn rejection of modernity to use the author's phrase. If that still holds in today's celebrity-driven market could we still make the same value judgement of cluttered interiors?

The language of design critique once it goes beyond the gushing "I'm loving .... " can be objective but frequently is more of a value judgment - witness my use of the word gushing. It is difficult to separate language from biases and because aesthetic perception is not what one expects of today's writers on design and decoration, it seems to me that there is a need for a fundamental retelling of The Emperor's New Clothes. That is a post for tomorrow or later in the week.

Source: English Cottages and Farmhouses, Olive Cook, 1954.


  1. "...aesthetic perception is not what one expects of today's writers on design and decoration..." Good grief. I'm an amateur and prefer to read the critique long after I see the work. I take "I'm loving" as a value judgment as I skim the surface of design. But I'd certainly enjoy more criticism and less gushing.

  2. My point is that I wish the design press were not so accepting - that decorator "A" or architect "B" gets published doesn't mean we have to suspend all judgment on the assumption that because it is in a magazine it must be worth of notice.

    Yes, I'm making a value judgment as I would expect anyone to do, and I refuse to be deferential to celebrity. Being critical is essential.

  3. Interesting point. Thinking about contemporary interior design magazines, I don't believe I've ever read an article that makes any criticism, or to be more exact, make any point at all beyond lauding the celebrity/designer for their exquisite taste. Perhaps that is the proviso for allowing the magazine into their homes.

    What's more interesting is that until this article, I'd never even thought about the lack of any form of editorial judgement before! Does that mean that we are conditioned not to question the taste judgements of both the magazines and the celebrity/designers that inhabit them?

  4. We can question all we want but in which forums can can we express ourselves? Blogging maybe, but generally speaking that sphere is too accepting and uncritical. I'll do a post about this at the weekend when I'm down from my 15-hour days.

  5. Yes, how great would it be to have a few fussy and cranky and critical design bloggers?

    It's easy to find genuine hate in architecture blogs. Buildings are so expensive so public and so long lasting that bad ones certainly deserve the worst. I'd be happy with bit more "dislike" from design blogs.