We don't need #HouseGoals

When #interiorspiration changes how you live your life, it's gone too far

By Emma Chong Johnston | Published: 9 Sep 2016

House Goals
Photo: Living4Media/Click Photos

My biggest weakness is YouTube. I fritter away hours on Asos hauls, contouring tutorials and capsule wardrobe how-tos. At best, these binge sessions can prove useful – the other day Lisa Eldridge taught me what kind of pink lipstick suits my skin tone. At worst, they can make me really angry. And the culprit is always the home makeover shows, framed in concise seven-minute YouTube snippets.    

Anger may seem like an extreme reaction, but it’s the artifice of it all that I can’t stand. When did houses become mini museums dedicated to the Shrine of Me? Don't get me wrong – your house is your own and you should do with it what you want. If that means outrageously expensive palm leaf wallpaper and a dining table made out of a single slab of uncut granite, great. But who are you doing it for? Is it because of the pleasure you get staring at the wallpaper every morning over your first cup of coffee? Or is it so that you can casually incite a #wallpapergoals smackdown on Instagram?

But worse than tricking out your own house like an Instabait café is someone else doing it for you. Which is why these makeover videos make me so mad. It's one person, with one particular sense of style, going into someone else's house and imposing their own ideas and aesthetic on their life. "But they're experts!" you cry. "It's their job to impose their ideas on other people." Okay. I can accept steering someone in the direction of a blush pink wall; I can understand nudging them towards a Welsh dresser. But I cannot fathom when people are forced, via ridiculous interior decoration choices, to live impractically. Once I watched a video where a girl's books were rearranged in order of colour. "They look so much more beautiful!" she chirped. How on earth are you supposed to find any book if you have them arranged by the arbitrary colour of their spine? Books are meant to be arranged by author name, title, or your own complicated version of the Dewey Decimal system. Colour does not come into the equation at all!

After I'd calmed down (and gazed at my own very uncolour-coordinated bookshelf), I sat down and... watched another video. In this one, our crusader swooped in on someone's master bedroom and painted a mural on the wall. Okay, I thought, determined to be understanding. Maybe she'd discussed the mural with the owner beforehand and agreed on the scope and colours and theme. Maybe the owner was a huge fan of murals. Then she filled the bed with throw pillows of every size and shape and colour. Where do these pillows go when you sleep? Do you chuck them on the floor? Do you lie prone beneath them, like some kind of soft furnishings fort? And then she covered the bedside tables with stuff: 'quirky' animal statuettes, chunks of crystal, a vintage baseball. I became enraged again. Bedside tables are not for objets d'art or the detritus of an antique shop. They are for these things: tissue boxes, alarm clocks, phone chargers, reading lights, lip balm. The absolute last thing anyone needs when waking up in the middle of the night with an itchy nose is a bloody baseball. 

Why does this make me so angry? We're all judged, every day, as soon as we walk out of the house. We're judged by the clothes we wear, the way we speak, the food we eat. Your house should be a judgment-free space; somewhere you can indulge your unironic love of Disney cartoons and tabloid magazines. Your house does not need to be photoshoot-ready at the drop of a hat. You should be able to leave yesterday's newspaper and used mugs on your coffee table without worrying about displacing a perfectly centred plexiglass tray. You should not feel any pressure to make your house fit any kind of aesthetic except the one that you love; you should not have to fill your shelves with artfully curated knick knacks to impress anyone but yourself. And you should not allow a stranger to burst in and paint a mural on your bedroom wall.

A less prescriptive, more realistic approach to decorating your homeHome by Ellen Degeneres
When she's not dissolving her talk-show guests into fits of laughter, Ellen is buying, renovating and redecorating houses. 

The Nesting Place Myquillyn Smith
Myquillyn's guiding philosophy when it comes to decorating your house is to work with what you got - even if it's unending piles of toys and mess. 

The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman
Domino founding editor Deborah Needleman's practical, realistic guide to making your home beautiful. 

This feature first appeared in the July 2016 edition of ELLE Malaysia. 


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