Personal shrines in homes tacky and pretentious
Digital cameras and Internet blamed for ego-gratifying fad
The old notion of the humble home is beingchallengedby agrowing trend that has Canadians turning their living rooms into personal shrines.
In what might be called the “home as autobiography” movement, today’s house guests are being bombarded by their hosts’ wall-sizedglamour portraits, endless family photos and enough selfdocumentation to make Paris Hilton blush.
The bookshelf braggadocio has become so vulgar that Marian McEvoy, a leadingexpert on socialgraces, is calling for amoratoriumin theSeptember issue of Domino magazine on “family paraphernalia” in living and dining rooms.
McEvoy’s breakingpoint cameafter enduringaluncheonheldin the shadow of a photo of her hostess breastfeeding.
“It was unbelievable,” says McEvoy, Domino’s Muse Marian columnist and former editor-in-chief of Elle Decor and HouseBeautiful.
“Iknow thehomeowner meant it tobe, like, a groovy contemporary art statement or something. But I thought very differently of her after that lunch.”
Although personal portraiture can be a tasteful addition to bedrooms, dens and even powder rooms, she believes giving your ego a shelf life in more public spaces — namely, the great room, family room or dining room— can be pretentious.
McEvoy says such “flagrant self-documentation” may bedue, inpart, to theincrease in ownership of digital cameras, which has led people to take hundreds more pictures than a traditional roll of film would allow.
According to market research firm InfoTrends, worldwide sales of digital cameras areexpected to reachnearly 89 million units in 2006 — a 15-per-cent increase over 2005.
“It’s oppressive. It’s too much information,” says McEvoy, who is based in New York. “You are forcing people to react to your private life and that’s not a very nice thing to do.”
Canadian experts seem to agree. Julie Okamura, president ofCalgary’spopdesign groupinc., says even a singlephoto of oneself in the living room is one too many.
“ When you’re decorating, it should reflect who you are,” she says. “But it shouldn’t be super-obvious … As soonas people have one garish picture or photo of themselves — generally it’s agiant one — then it starts to get really creepy.”
Okamura says most Canucks are clueless when it comes to displaying personalphotos andmementos. She recalls one couple’s wedding painting that was so massive, the brushstrokes could be seen from the neighbour’s house.
“The trend withart today is togohuge,” saysOkamura.“SoI liked theideaof the scale of it. Thefact that thepainting was of them was the problem.”
Barbara Mitchell, an associate professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University, believes theInternet may play a role because it fosters the extreme personalizationofeverythingfrommediacontent to blogs and search-engine queries.
“TheInternet, in a sense, atomizes and individualizes people so their own personal place in the world has an opportunity tobecomemore visible,” she says, adding that placing a picture of yourselfon thelivingroom walls may beanatural offshoot.
Then again, the explanation could be as simple as square footage.
“We’re definitely seeing a really strong movement toward larger homes compared to previous generations,” says Mitchell.“Somaybe we’vejust got more space tofill, more walls toput things on.”
Tucked away in a powder room, Marian McEvoy’s personal photo collection feels charmingly self-deprecating.