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Offbeat – 20 April 2012

In situations where uniformity is an absolute requirement, décor is as much an expression of this uniformity as is the ability to spout the slogans of the day.

Praying hands and doilies are about to get competition. I have been watching, with horror, the wall stickers which are about to start spreading.
There are splotchy shapes and motifs which seem to come off the free clip art sites. There are cliched motivational statements in fonts which pass for classy, as long as you don’t know typography. It’s going to be hard. Lounges will become design danger areas.
I know stuff I don’t like and I know when it is going to sell like hotcakes. Usually the two go together. In my own small world, these stickers are what I consider half-baked. Unfortunately someone is about to take them out of the oven, start selling them and make a lot of money. Fortunately, if not for the mall and the backyard, I could easily be classified as agoraphobic: there is very little chance of me being invited in and insulting everyone by doing a runner thirty seconds later.
The stuff showed up about three years ago, predictably in London. The first sticker designs showed the sort of combination of edginess and class that makes it instantly ‘wantable’. Unfortunately only the stickers made it this far.
Myself? I’m ‘cottagey’. I like shelves full of old things picked up cheap from beaches and the bottom of dusty old boxes. Everything has a feeling to it and the feel is that it belongs. If not for my desire not to hang out, people who like cosmic blobs on their walls might well be running and screaming from my lounge in an interior decorator’s karmic nightmare.
Décor is important. In order to define yourself, you need to identify yourself, not just with your name, but also with your lifestyle, the visible signs of which are the things with which you surround yourself. If you are able to own décor, or come up with some form of embellishment to the environment in which you regularly find yourself, it means that you are a bit more than an anonymous slave
In other words, décor is a symbol of certain aspects that indicate a civilised society, or a society headed in that direction: permanent shelter, the right to personal identity and some form of economic ability either to buy the stuff or in the form of enough free time to create or make the goodies.
Once the hurdles of economics and basic human rights are crossed, personal identity becomes  important.  
Here’s the interesting thing. In totalitarian countries, the embellishment is normally officially approved and quite uniform: pictures of the main man, resolute soldiers or state approved scenes of happy peasants in abundant fields of whatever food it is the nation lacks. Deviation from the party line is unwelcome, and probably leads to even less appealing décor in a re-education camp or gulag.
Something similar happens in large organisations and governments. A photo of a CEO or the political leader of the day establishes allegiance, or else. In fact, in many governments, replacement of the photo of the leader is a smooth and practised operation.
In situations where uniformity is an absolute requirement, décor is as much an expression of this uniformity as is the ability to spout the slogans of the day.
What does this say about wall stickers with neutral expressions or subject matter which will not cause any remark, other than a nice comment about the size of the wall on which the sticker is applied from friends, or a mutter about North Korea from stray graphic artists?
What I think it will become, as a logical competitor to praying hands, is an expression of a different kind of uniformity, social uniformity. Like the praying hands piece, a bland sticker, not so different from one hundred other stickers, marks the household as ascribing to certain values which are in synch with other like-minded households. Taking it a step further, in the absence of enforced orthodoxy, we seek out the orthodoxy of society.
It’s a sorry state of affairs, and worrying, when safety in orthodoxy is a requirement. Forget the democratic process. What the world needs is low-cost interior decorators.

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