Ed Driscoll

Interior Desecrations

As James Lileks recently wrote, “The season of nonsectarian joy and fellowship is finally upon us, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Baby Claus Tree”.

If you’re looking for gift ideas, I have a review of his new book, Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes From The Horrible ’70s, over at my Electronic House newsletter, and reprinted below.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, you’re probably looking for fun gifts for the holiday season. One book that might make a great gift, and at 24 bucks or less, not break the piggybank, is James Lileks’ new “Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes From The Horrible ’70s”.

How hideous? The book’s back cover flashes a stern WARNING! in a 48-point all caps bold sans-serif classic-1970s font, followed by this disclaimer:

This book is not to be used in any way, shape, or form as a design manual. Rather, like the documentary about youth crime “Scared Straight”, it is meant as a caution of sorts, a warning against any lingering nostalgia we may have for the 1970s, a breathtakingly ugly period when even the rats parted their hair down the middle.What does this have to do with furniture? Nothing. Everything. The kind of interior design you’ll see in these pages is what happens when an entire culture becomes so besotted with the new, the hip, the with-it styles that they cannot object to orange wallpaper— because they fear they’ll look square.

Please note that the author and publisher are not responsible for the results of viewing these pictures.

Hideous Photos, But Captions Make The Book
Hear me now and believe me later, these photos are staggering in their horrific ugliness. If any of your rooms look like those in “Interior Desecrations”, you don’t need a Roomba; you need a flamethrower and a gallon of napalm to start fresh.

But as frightening as the photos are, it’s Lileks’ captions that make the book so much fun. Lileks, who toils during the day for the “Minneapolis Star-Tribune” newspaper, and writes one of the Internet’s best Weblogs at night, is a humor writer on par with Dave Barry and P.J. O’Rourke.

Underneath a particularly horrendous area rug combining patches of blue, teal, green, yellow, red, orange, and a dozen other colors not found in nature, arranged in a pattern charitably described as “abstract”, Lileks writes: “Mommmmmmmmmmm! Fido threw up Smurfs all over the rug again! To fully grasp the horror of the era, you have to realize a crucial, telling fact: this was the perfect rug for someone’s room. They were happy when they found this rug.”

Blame Park Avenue
Lileks alludes to the subtext of his book in its introduction, but it’s worth repeating: by and large, these aren’t photos of average, everyday 1970s American interiors. Rather, they’re photos that Lileks has collected and scanned from 1970s-era home decoration magazines.

In other words, these photos reflect the collected wisdom of decorating pros working posh office buildings high above Manhattan’s Park and Madison Avenues in the 1970s, and their take on what would be best for homes that wanted to stay contemporary.

I gotta say though, as much as I hate everything else pictured in “Interior Desecrations”, that “2001”-style bathroom with the curved Orion Space Shuttle walls is pretty radical. Next time we remodel Casa de Ed, I’m soooo there! I wonder if I can find that abstract Smurf rug on ebay?

Resource Links

  • Amazon.com
    If it sounds intriguing, you may buy the book here.
  • SmartHome.com
    What the intelligent home wears—inside its walls.
  • Lileks.com
    Both a sneak preview at the horrors of “Interior Desecrations” and an extension of the book: this section of Lileks’ personal site contains material found after the book went to press.