Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Make-over takeover

click photo to enlarge
Ever since they took up residence in caves people have felt the need to beautify their surroundings. From those distant images of the hunt smeared in ochre and charcoal, to today's electronic picture frames that endlessly cycle through a selection of favourite photographs, mankind has personalised and decorated private space.

However, the rise of manufacturing, whilst it gave more people the means to furnish and brighten drab rooms, also brought standardisation and fashion, and introduced a trend to uniformity as opposed to individuality. In the eighteenth century no English mansion could be considered complete without its Gobelins tapestries and Adam-style plasterwork. By the 1930s streamlined veneers were in homes rich and not-so-rich, often reflected in angular bevelled-edge mirrors. And in the 1960s the formica-topped tables and coffin-like radiogrammes had, it seemed, taken over everywhere. Today we have our fashions too, and they come and go with the rapidity of Charlie Chaplin in a revolving door.

One of the current driving forces of interior decoration is the so-called "make-over" TV programme. These awful shows with their equally awful presenters urge us to re-model our interiors, following their lame advice, with MDF, paint and cheap "objets". And, it seems, many people are happy to follow these grinning gurus. Consequently, individualising personal space has often been replaced by creating rooms that are virtually identical to your neighbours. "Laminate flooring is in - let's have laminate flooring!" "Pelmets are passe - tear them down quick!" It seems that people have lost confidence in their own ability to create interiors that please themselves, and instead produce rooms that please others. Their own pleasure seems to come from the satisfaction of being "fashionable". One can only despair at this.

In a primary (4-11 years) school the other day I saw the arrangement in the photograph above. The teacher had decorated a small room for teaching groups of pupils. She hadn't slavishly copied a TV programme's idea, or looked in a catalogue for inspiration - she'd looked inside herself and consequently created something both attractive and unique! In this part of the room she had made and hung yellow and blue curtains at each side of a small window. Then she'd displayed a red flower between, creating a little composition of primary colours. Perfect, personal and pleasing.

I took this photograph with the evening light coming through the window. This introduced different depths of colour to the three main parts of the composition, and shadows that emphasised the central component.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen