Culture of want

I mourn the demise of Domino as much as the next gal, but the wave of online magazines to spring up in its wake – and the even greater proliferation of design-focused blogs, from one woman shops to multi-contributor extravaganzas – is both cool and troubling.

First the cool: inspiration. I have literally thousands of images saved into folders for design inspiration, from space planning to styling to design, room by room. The act of compiling these images has given me insight into color palettes and prevailing styles that I’m drawn to again and again – this sounds stupid and obvious, but I promise you that in the act of making a big purchase, one that involves too many choices, it helps to be able to remind yourself that, say, the fact that something’s massively on sale doesn’t mean you should shy away from the one that you’ll still love a year later.

The other cool thing is that by and large, at least in the blogging world, the budgets mirror my own. The design bloggers I read are as apt to be appalled by the beautiful $10K stove I first spotted in Domino as I was. It’s nice to see how others have approached the same budgetary restrictions I faced. I subscribed to Elle Décor for a year after Domino folded, and while there was almost always a room or two I would rip out, I got pretty f*cking tired of anything sold only to the trade, and at prices I expect I’ll still find daunting at the peak of my earning abilities.

But you know what? That’s fine. It’s fine. Here’s what troubles me about all of these publications, Domino included: the consumerist angle. Domino was pattered on Lucky, a magazine about shopping, so the thrust was always to incite some kind of consuming frenzy, or lust for particular items (with handy stickers to mark them). The online shelters can conveniently link to the products directly, or through a shopping aggregate site.

There’s another side of this argument, which is that Domino wasn’t purely a vehicle for consumption, but that it was also pushing forward a new interior design ethos, at once less precious and more attainable than the high-end magazines. (Living Etc continues to do this.) But the unfortunate side effect was that Domino became a look, and that look still trickles down to the online design community of ladies in my age bracket. This means use of elements such as geometric fabrics, Chinese potting stools, ikat, painted Chippendale chairs, suzanis, etc, etc, etc:.

I just read Joan Didion’s The White Album, which includes an essay about the gubernatorial mansion Reagan built in California. It cost over a million, but Didion talks about its faux surfaces and bland character, as opposed to the original governor’s mansion, a turn of the century house with narrow stairways and high-ceilinged rooms. She mourns the loss of “eccentric domestic architecture.”

Domino presented a certain generation with a vision for eccentric domestic design, but that vision has permeated the culture. It’s no longer eccentric. I’m not saying that the blogs I read lack distinct character, but that there is a kind of Domino nostalgia that underpins most of them. I read lists of “products (or clothes or shoes) I’m loving now” and feel pulled two ways – often I share the love, but I’m also disgusted by the culture of want that I seem to have fallen into.

I’m trying to claw my way out now. It’s part of the reason I’m purging my house of everything I’ve acquired that I don’t wholeheartedly love, or need for day to day life.

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2 responses to “Culture of want

  1. I used to save so many images the way you do from interior design blogs before and after Domino that I started to wonder if I ought to be an interior designer. Only, of course, because I’ve never had the budget to be that much of a consumer.

  2. Ha, exactly! I feel like I mainly save stuff now for ideas on how to arrange the stuff I do have (often thrifted).

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