Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Taste, Style and Loos

^Il Bagno Blu in D'annunzio's Vittoriale. An extreme illustration of the points below.

Two extracts from the collection of translated essays by Loos "Creating Your Home With Style" that summarise in the most unadulterated form I could find his stance on the relationship between the inhabitants of a space, their evolution as human beings over time, the design of that space's interior and the disposition and gradual accumulation of objects and furniture within it governed by the interaction of those various agents. It is the only view I could conform to entirely in the collection, and whilst it was repeated in various guises elsewhere, it tended to get mixed up in strange ways with his fear of dirt, with his Anglophilia, hatred of ornament and his utter terror of freestanding cupboards, amongst other very odd things. This is followed by a small statement on the circularity of fashion as being at its core a primer for finding pleasure in things once loved, which given a certain period of time away from our gaze -with a drizzle of scorn- can once again be enjoyed... ad infinitum.

The painters however were right. They who, thanks to their training and experience, have a much sharper eye for all outward appearances, have always been able to recognize the superficial, pretentious, the alien, unharmonious nature of our “stylish” apartments. The people do not fit in with these rooms, nor do the rooms with the people. But how could they? The architect or the interior designer hardly even knows the name of the person for whom he is working. Even if the person has paid for the room 100-fold, they are still not his rooms. They always will remain the intellectual & spiritual property of the person who created them. That is why they do not, simply cannot appeal to the painter. They lack all intimacy and personal connection with the people who live in them. They lack that unique personal touch that he finds in the room of the simple peasant, the poor labourer, or the old spinster.

I did not, thank God, grow up in such a “stylish” apartment. It was just not possible at that time. Now, sadly, things have changed in my family as well. But in those days… Our table for instance, was a crazy jumble of wood adorned with some dreadful metal ornaments. But it was our table, our table! Can you imagine what that meant? Can you imagine the countless joyful hours that we spent at it –by the lamplight? In the evening when I was a little boy I could just not tear myself away from it, and my father had to imitate the night watchman’s horn to make me scuttle off in fright to the nursery. Then there was the desk, and on it the ink spot, where my sister Hermine had spilled ink on it when she was a tiny baby. And the pictures of my parents –what awful frames! But they were a wedding present from my father’s employees. And this old-fashioned chair here, a left-over from my grandmother’s home. And here a knitted slipper in which you can hang the clock, made in kindergarten by sister Irma. Every piece of furniture, every object, every thing had a story to tell –the story of our family. During the period in which the pressure to furnish one’s home in “style” became greater and greater –when all one’s acquaintances had “Old German” rooms, how could one simply refuse to adapt? So, all the old junk was thrown out. It might be junk for anyone else, but revered relics for the family. The rest was left up to the upholsterer.

Now we have had enough. We want to be masters of our own four walls again. If we lack taste, that’s fine, then we will furnish our homes in a taste-less manner. If we have good taste, all the better. But we refuse to be tyrannized by our own rooms any longer. We will buy everything we feel that we need and what appeals to us.

What appeals to us! That is the style that we have been seeking for so long, the style we wanted to bring into our apartments. The style that does not depend on all-pervading lion’s heads, but on taste –or, perhaps the lack of it- of an individual or family, things that comply with their sense of well-being. This sense would be underscored by the fact that the owner had selected all these objects & pieces of furniture in a room. And even if he were to prove to be somewhat capricious, especially regarding the choice of colours, it still would not be a disaster. A home that has grown along with the family can put up with quite a lot. Putting just one single ornament that does not belong into one of the “stylish” rooms can ruin the whole “effect”. In a “family” room it would immediately be absorbed into the whole. Such a room is somewhat like a violin: just as a violin is broken in by repeatedly playing it, a room can be “broken in” by living in it.


Taste and the desire for change have always been closely linked. Today we wear narrow trousers; tomorrow they will be wide, and the day after narrow again. Every tailor knows this. Well then, couldn’t we just forgo the wide trouser period? Heavens no! We need it in order to enjoy our narrow trousers again. Just as we need a period of simple rooms for festive occasions in order to prepare us for the return of lavishly decorated ones.

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