Does your décor say, “Saved by science,” or “Saved by nature”? It’s an interesting dichotomy, and perhaps a false one today. But an intriguing paper suggests that decorating with natural objects and colors is a form of protest.
The setting of the study: “Socialist apartments in generic modern buildings,” in Hungary.
When: Before and after the Cold War.
Variables under examination: Décor
The observed trend line: From man-made plastics and concrete toward wood flooring and high quality roofing tiles.
Researcher’s conclusion: The “organicization” of post Cold-War apartments was “a critique of the modernist project and its “unnatural” attempt to dominate nature and engineer human souls.”
I like this! When I think about the evolution of American interior design, I think of our own post-war (WWII) infatuation with scientific marvels like polyester drapes, formica, and vinyl, and bubble-gum pink, and turquoise, and plasticized everything. It was an Exuberation of Miraculous Man of Materials!
Which got old. As rivers caught fire and fish bellied-up, a rebellion not unlike Hungary’s slid over the walls of American homes. Brown paints and green carpet strove to create a homegrown forest. Macramé, perhaps the crowning achievement of this return to natural forms, spread like a sinuous fungus across the domestic landscape.
Where are we now, décor-wise? Divided, perhaps.
A few years back American researchers cataloged the contents of dorm rooms, noting the arrangement of each article. Based on their results, they found they could predict with fair accuracy the political inclination of each inhabitant.
Liberal kids had more art and music in their space. Conservative kids had more organization and less clutter.
But whether adults could be thus distinguished, I don’t know. If contemporary American décor says anything about us as a people, it is…?