Per­sonal shrines in homes tacky and pre­ten­tious

Dig­i­tal cam­eras and In­ter­net blamed for ego-grat­i­fy­ing fad

Edmonton Journal - - Journalathome - MISTY HAR­RIS CanWest News Ser­vice mhar­riscan­west. com

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.

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