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drunken monkey

That second room looks kind of like...a room in The Sims. As in flat, with a bunch of hodgepodge pieces put together in a way that is "nice" but doesn't really grab or invite you. Which is too bad, because it's not in a video game.


Another thing that irks me about the "after" room -- and I cannot believe I am still interested in this, but I suppose this is what remodeling is doing to my brain -- is how sharply the decor disconnects the room from the outdoors.

One of the things I like and admire about the Arts & Crafts movement is the emphasis on the idea that your interior surroundings ought to smoothly and gracefully integrate with your exterior ones. This is why you see a lot of earth tones, big windows, structures meant to blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors (porches, porticos, etc.), natural materials in the house, etc.

Obviously, in some places this isn't possible and the most effective decorating is that which ignores the grim neighborhood or treeless exurb or what-have-you. But look out the window in that first shot: they have what appears to be a beautiful view. That view is like dynamic art for the room. And the room frames is beautifully.

By contrast, the second room seems to cut any link between interior and exterior. It deliberately removes the vibrant outdoors element, and creates a little cartouche world that feels airless and jangled.

To me, anyway. As should be evident from this comment, I place a high value on being able to flow smoothly between interior and exterior spaces, and that influences my taste. Other people's values in re: what their house should do and how it should relate to the wider world will obviously influence their tastes too.


See, I look at both rooms and think, boring Pottery Barn facsimiles. (The first from a fall/winter catalog, and the second from one of the "decorate your beach house!" ones.) I like kitsch because it's not trying to be anything it's not. I look at a lot of design shows and catalogs and think, this is all way too organized and boring and grown-up.

But I happen to own (through various methods, mainly inheriting and thrift-store finds) a real hodge podge of furniture and decor. I don't like things that are attempting that bourgeois sheen. I prefer funky, international and downright strange when it comes to decorating.


I wish I could articulate my reactions better- my main thought on the second room was that the curtains were grody.


Maggie, it's funny that you write "I like kitsch, because it's not trying to be something that it's not" because one of the arguments Ward makes in his book is that one of the separating factors in kitsch is that it's promising something it fails to deliver. The disconnect or lack of genuine-ness is what vaults it into kitsch. I am not sure I buy the argument, but it's a starting point for articulating the quality that separates kitsch from the non-kitsch.

That said, I always admire people who can master that funky, eclectic, multiethnic thing. It takes a real gift to pull it together.


I think kitsch really depends on the individual reading of the object(s), and how they're presented. For instance, Precious Moments figurines are an example of high kitsch, but largely displayed unironically. (Plus they're sickening pastel monstrosities.) My random collection of bamboo furniture, painter's pallette coffee table, and photo of the Creature from the Black Lagoon actor holding his "head"? I like to think they incorporate more of a postmodern reading of '50s decor.

I'm far from a master though. I just like oddball things colliding together.


Maggie, I totally agree that kitsch always lacks irony. When irony comes into play in the kitsch arena, it is camp. (You might remember one of the best Simpson's episodes ever.)

I think anything that tries too hard to communicate "exclusive" or "upscale" becomes kitschy. There is a little "bistro" in McLean, Virginia (Kitsch City! Vegas is camp.) that tried so hard to look like a little Parisian bistro. I could not stop laughing (well it was really sneering) at the fact they had bought brand new mirrors but took steel wool to them. They were aiming at an old mirror look, but it really looked like new mirrors scratched up with steel wool to look old. This bistro was the kitschiest place I have seen. Sadly, the food was terrible so there was no ironic joy to be found.


Oh, forgot to add my opinion of the rooms above. Do people live in them? They give a very studied air. I sense no personality in either of them. It is almost like a sitting room in a low-end boutique hotel. Yawn! The owner(s) must be purchasing managers or something.

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