It’s home sweet shrine time
Tacky trend has Canadians putting egos on their walls
The old notion of the humble home is being challenged by a growing trend that has Canadians turning their living rooms into personal shrines.
In what might be called the “ home as autobiography” movement, today’s houseguests are being bombarded by their hosts’ wall- sized glamour portraits, endless family photos and enough self- documentation to make Paris Hilton blush.
The bookshelf braggadocio has become so vulgar that Marian McEvoy, a leading expert on social graces, is calling for a moratorium in the September issue of Domino magazine on “ family paraphernalia” in living and dining rooms.
McEvoy’s breaking point came after enduring a luncheon held in the shadow of a photo of her hostess breastfeeding.
“ It was unbelievable,” says McEvoy, Domino’s Muse Marian columnist and former editor- inchief of Elle Decor and House Beautiful. “ I know [ the home owner] meant it to be, 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 can be pretentious.
McEvoy says such “ flagrant self- documentation” may be due, in part, to the increase 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 are expected to reach nearly 89 million units in 2006.
“ 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 of Calgary’s pop design group inc., says even a single photo of oneself in the living room is typically one too many.
“ When you’re decorating, it should reflect who you are,” she says. “ But it shouldn’t be super obvious . . . As soon as people have one garish picture or photo of themselves — and generally it’s a giant one — then it starts to get really creepy.”
Okamura says most Canucks are clueless when it comes to displaying personal photos and mementos. She recalls one couple’s wedding painting that was so massive, the brushstrokes could practically be seen from the neighbour’s house.
“ The trend with art today is to go huge,” says Okamura. “ So I liked the idea of the scale of it. The fact that [ the painting] was of them was the problem.”
Barbara Mitchell, an associate professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University, believes the Internet may play a role because it fosters the extreme personalization of everything from media content to blogs and searchengine queries.
“ The Internet, in a sense, atomizes and individualizes people so their own personal place in the world has an opportunity to become more visible,” she says, adding that placing your own picture on the living room walls may be a natural 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. “ So maybe we’ve just got more space to fill, more walls to put things on.” mhar[email protected] canwest. com CanWest News Service
Tucked away in a powder room, Marian McEvoy’s personal photo collection feels charmingly selfdeprecating. But other Canadians are not so restrained.