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THE DÉCOR CHARM OFFENSIVE (THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OFFENSIVE)
Lessons from ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY, NEST MAGAZINE, director GREGG ARAKI, steely fashion brand ACNE STUDIOS
Through our ongoing investigations into décor “SWAGGER” (report soon), another compelling dimension of the homescape has made itself apparent and worthy of analysis: CHARM.
To understand charm is to know how to avoid arrogance, and can instil in your homesphere a certain HUMANITY. It ergo serves as a useful framework to determine: “Is this décor an asshole?”
We are going to do so by speaking of:
1 → The 2001 hospital room of American journalist ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY
2 → a décor showroom battle between BDDW and CASSINA, both of whom opened expansive new showrooms in Los Angeles this year
3 → set decoration in GREGG ARAKI films (superstar-to-us homosexual director)
4 → An ACNE STUDIOS muse about whom there is now a book
We shall be taking for granted that you think CHARM is a good thing, and we shall proceed as follows:
Define charm — Example 1 (epitome) — Example 2 (comparison) — Example 3 (non-décor, for good measure) — Cautionary note
“CHARM” [/CHärm/], like most worthwhile things, is both a noun and a verb. In the décorsphere, it is that: a quality, but also a power. "Charm" is, of course, the strategic use of aesthetics and arrangement to elicit an emotional and psychological response in occupants. To break down this response, we shall use a tool introduced to us by good friend, John Venn:
REVERENCE: of course one might easily be charmed by a thing/person not liked or respected, but some degree of ‘awe’ is required. One must admire, for good reasons or bad, that which charms them
ATTRACTION: the laws of décor attraction are many, however, consider “AROUSAL” as a synonym – not necessarily full-sexual, but the tingle. This could be due to a sense of care and comfort, which turns some on; or, it could be power, distance, etc. DÉCOR CHARM mirrors HUMAN CHARM in that you may be décor-charmed by something that is cruel
DELIGHT: where REVERENCE and ATTRACTION contain a certain good-bad duality, DELIGHT (i.e. joy, pleasure) becomes a crucial ingredient to pull a response into “CHARM” territory. Without that, REV. and ATT. produce the less desirable "INFATUATION” – intense, distracting, and painful.
EXAMPLE 1: VISUALIZING “CHARM”
Let’s take for example the time that NEST MAGAZINE (RIP) editor JOSEPH HOLTZMAN, was tasked with helping ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY decorate his room at New York’s LENNOX HILL HOSPITAL, 2001:
Despite the mass murder of foxes, this décor, no matter your proclivities, is DEEPLY CHARMING. Let’s explore:
REVERENCE: A trinity of established-yet-outsider cultural figures (ANDRÉ, JOSEPH, and one sees FRAN LEBOWITZ in the window), whom are all quirky-beloved.
ATTRACTION: A trinity of core emotions explored: comfort (to make the cruel hospital inhabitable); defiance (to assert individuality in by-design-sterile environs; also, Fran’s smoking); inevitable boredom (a room designed for convalescence)
DELIGHT: in this case, joy is derived through a kind of lightweight surrealism in seeing tropes of domestic extravagance so condensed, and also one that reclaims a space where most of us feel great unease
This helps us to understand CHARM as a deeply HUMAN pursuit, i.e. requires layers of human expression and an understand of human psychological needs and desires. It is why the following environments are NEVER SUCCESSFULLY CHARMING though they purport to be:
The 'fun’ or ‘home-like’ corporate offices of tech companies such as GOOGLE, AIRBNB, LINKEDIN, etc.
99% of hotels, which are often NICE and EXPENSIVE-LOOKING, too often mistaken for charm (exceptions: DEETJEN’S INN; this place in Southern Italy we have promised to keep secret; COLOMBE D’OR; this place in Rajasthan we can’t remember the name of; DAR RBAA LAROUB in Marrakech, etc.)
99% of homes designed by star interior designers (too perfect)
EXAMPLE 2: SHOWROOM BATTLE (CASSINA v. BDDW); i.e. THE IRONY OF WHY “HOME” DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN “CHARM”
This year we attended the openings of new furniture showrooms for CASSINA (Italian; keeper of much mega-classic stuff) and BDDW (American; by this fellow named TYLER HAYS). These events are commonly referred to, derisively, by FOR SCALE spouse DANNY V. as “chair parties”.
In any case, they provide an interesting comparison because of their failed (CASSINA) and successful (BDDW) endeavors to charm by creating little domestic worlds for you to enter (as fancy furniture showrooms essentially all do), i.e. IKEA showroom style.
What they reveal is the difficulty of CHARM by simply trying to make something “INVITING” and “DOMESTIC”.
UP FIRST, CASSINA:
To our left, we see CASSINA. Aside from the fact we repeat “living room” and “dining room” again and again, its vignettes are legibly domestic. But CASSINA forces us into décor “UNCANNY VALLEY”, i.e. the set-up is too exactly a homescape resemblance, yet clearly NOT, that it triggers eerie discomfort.
In its valiant attempt to be AS HOME AS POSSIBLE, it betrays just how fake it is. (To be honest, very often this occurs in literal homes.)
This tells us that “charm” is not natural to “home”. A simple domestic arrangement doesn’t necessarily give us pleasure. For domestic charm to be achieved, we require some personal expression.
How can we, as human people, connect to an arrangement if it is wiped clean of humanity?
UP NEXT, BDDW:
Not PERFECTION but there are curious details that offer a sense of self-awareness.
The arrangements are LESS “DOMESTIC”: they are a blend of ‘domestic’ arrangement and stuff-in-a-shop arrangement (i.e. less stuff per ‘room’; a lonesome stool); they emply self-conscious merchandising tactics (i.e. matching upholstered boulcé giraffe toy)
In its self-awareness, we see the humanity. To explain:
Too much effort to mask the how-you-actually-use-a-room result in FORMAL STUFFINESS, a kind of FACADISM that strips away an ability to charm. To unmask yourself (to a degree) in décor can set you up for CHARM.
SUB EXAMPLE: GREGG ARAKI’S “THE LIVING END” (masterpiece 1992 male-homosexual Thelma & Louise fantasy) and the lead character of sh*tty film critic “JON”, whose home is loose, deeply personal, and essentially replete with film/culture artifacts.
Those artifacts aren’t bougie; they aren’t good, they are sh*tty. Posters aren’t framed, they are tacked up; things are kind of STREWN. To enter Jon’s home, you GET HIM ergo FEEL HIS HUMANITY, and are therefore open to be charmed by it. (Set designers are f*cking so much better at this than interior designers.)
Imagine all those film posters floating in thin birch frames and how Jon would then come across not as a film buff, but just as a pretentious f*ck.
EXAMPLE 3: NON-DÉCOR (i.e. HAVING A MUSE)
Acne Studios is a purposefully steely Swedish f*shion brand; we’re sure you’re aware. It espouses a kind of complacent “cool” whose commercial core is only betrayed by Acne’s obsession with Influenc*rs and in particular their partnership with the worst of them: Kyl*e Jenner. (We should clarify we mostly adore Acne.)
There is precisely one charming aspect of Acne Studios, and that is MAGNUS CARLSSON. He’s kind of like a “?????”-at-large for Acne, a title-less ever-presence, and muse for Acne boss Jonny Johansson.
This is his vibe:
A CHARMING book was just made about him, by Acne Studios, and so now he’s *officially* Very Important to them:
(This also continues the SPIRAL BOUND trend in the “FAT MAGAZINES AND KIND-OF BOOKS” category, really accelerated by CAPSULE MAGAZINE.)
WHY WE ARE SHARING NON-DÉCOR:
We are not suggesting that décor made with ‘someone else’ (muse) in mind will produce “CHARM”.
Instead we want to highlight that CHARM is accessed by EXPRESSED HUMANITY, used in a strategic way to introduce one of the THREE QUALITIES OF CHARM (i.e. admiration, attraction, delight), if one is missing. For Acne MAGNUS adds the element of DELIGHT.
And for a brand so concerned with stone-faced “FASHION”, and the obsession with Follower Numbers, the HUMBLE EXPERIMENTER is crucial in grounding a lofty-desperation that held our reverence and aroused us but never speaks “JOY” to us.
If you or your décor seem to be charmless, attempt to isolate which quality you are missing, and consider importing it.
There is a continuum of CHARM that runs from “ABSENT CHARM” to “WEAPONIZED CHARM”, two extreme positions that both have their narrow value in society, but ultimately are not suitable as a décor strategy.
As with any truly “GOOD” décor, a fine (and usually only partially-intenional) balance has to be struck.
Be sure not to overdo it, for to too-counsciously foster charm (as unfortunately is the case with much décor) is to seemingly use CHARM for ulterior purposes (i.e. wealth displays, often; faux-humility, often; compensation for lack of personal charm, often).
To attempt and fail at CHARM can result in major RED FLAGGERY.
Until next time. Love and good luck,
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