Home: A place of refuge or a battleground of ideas?

Front cover of Designing the French Interior (Cover: Bloomsbury Publishing)

The bedroom as sanctuary

In her chapter in Designing the French Interior: The Modern Home and Mass Media, Fae Brauer explores how the bedroom in fin-de-siècle France came to be seen as a sanctuary from the stressful conditions of the metropolitan city, but also as a site of psychological self-exploration, self-projection, and self-fashioning.

Japan - Japanese Women pose for a photogrpah with babies

The modern Japanese home

In 1920s Japan, the home became the site for a modernization program sponsored by the Japanese government. In his book Modern Asian Design, D.J. Huppatz describes how Japanese citizens were encouraged to shun traditional living practices and organization of space in favor of ‘a modern home centered on the nuclear (rather than extended) family, and on design principles such as functionality, simplicity, and efficiency.’ In place of the flexible, minimal spaces of a traditional Japanese interior, this Westernized home featured partitioned rooms with discrete functions and fixed furniture.

Vintage Living Room

Retro homes

Home can also be a site to display individual taste through design choices. In her book Retro Style, Sarah Elsie Baker interviews ‘retro enthusiasts’ about the meanings and values represented by domestic furniture and decorative objects.


Home as "a place where things can go wrong"

Sometimes home can have more uneasy connotations. In The Architecture of David Lynch Richard Martin writes: ‘In Lynch’s films, images of home hold immense power. A single shot of Henry’s apartment in Eraserhead, the Palmer residence in Fire Walk With Me or the Madison house in Lost Highway is enough to induce rich associations… For Lynch, our most familiar surroundings inevitably contain unhomely elements. Home, he contends, is “a place where things can go wrong.”’

Marshmallow Sofa

OBJECT FOCUS: the Marshmallow sofa

Originally marketed as the Marshmallow love seat #5670, the Marshmallow sofa was designed by Irving Harper at George Nelson Associates’s New York City studio and manufactured by Herman Miller. The sofa’s playful design features 18 circular ‘marshmallow’ cushions, which can be covered in fabric, vinyl or leather in bright colors, arranged over a metal frame, in such a way that they appear to float on air. For sale from 1956 until the mid-1960s, the sofa was revived as part of the Herman Miller Classics range and continues in production today.

Homepage image: Retro Interior (Getty images)

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