Should you care what your home says about you?
Shut up your assumptions to the contrary; caring about interior decoration is not just for Wilde, James, All Women and that Martha Stewart – there’s a rich body of literature which speaks to the distinct relationship between masculinity and interior decoration. We are all, as Fight Club would have it, slaves to the Ikea nesting instinct.
Yet the fact is, not all of us occupy spaces fitted out exactly to our liking. Bothersome things like time and money and a lack of decorating confidence often get in the way. There’s also the limitations wrapped up in renting (my reality), share-housing (growing reality), or still-at-home-living (your reality?).
So should we really judge a person based on their personal space? If we’ve wound up in someone’s bed, staring at the ceiling, and the ceiling happens to be an awful shade of unsexy, should we let that diminish our feelings for the person who put it there (especially when that person mightn’t be the one sleeping beside you)?
You might think it a superficial question. You might think it something beneath you. But let’s be honest. We’re wired to judge. We judge the appearance of people all the time, often unconsciously. It’s not unreasonable to think we judge homes as well.
So should we care? Should you invest as much time and attention tending bricks and mortar and bed sheets as they do the body, mind and spirit? Would this make you more attractive or more desirable? Would it give you a competitive edge on the dating scene, or help keep your home life happy?
There are strong, well-established links between psychology and physical space. Here’s a great study which shows how heterosexual British men who migrate to Dubai find their domestic house objects take on “a heightened significance in processes of identification”. Here’s another about ornaments in modernism and deep meaning contained within.
It is hard to deny the strong connection between space and culture. Whether our homemaking speaks to a national identity, or a political one, or perhaps even a class or creed, there are myriad mores enmeshed within our walls. So our spaces, and the things therein, influence our sense of who we are, or who we want to be. Let’s not forget the many voices who argue longstanding laws of good design and feng shui also bind the mind to the material.
Of course, the relationship between furnishings and feelings works outwardly as well. You need only think as far as the Oval Office to understand the role space plays in shaping first impressions. This paper paints a muse-worthy picture of how the personal brand of each President was imbued in their selection of desk, drapery, rugs and more. Superficial objects? I think not. Something we can relate to? Yes. In a theoretical sense at least (damn you cost of things!).
But should we hold our lovers to the same standards as leaders of state?
Friends or partners who get a gander at my little bit of (borrowed) land would hopefully get some sense of me from my stuff and the situation of my abode (read; likes books, fresh flowers, hip deco stylings and inner-city-living). But my bedroom? Not as it could/would be (ie more silk, sexier bed, exotic wallpaper, ‘treasure’ chest...). Could this be damaging my life prospects or general constitution? Potentially.
So, should I be worried? I usually make a point of not worrying. Especially when it comes to the judgements of others. Do I consider the messages I send to other people? Yes.
Would I like my space to be more attractive?
Well. Who wouldn't?
What stock do you take of a person's house and home? Does it have a bearing on your wish to be with them? And what if you're in a relationship - how do you manage sharing space and an aesthetic - is it damaging if one person's decorative voice smothers the other (insert your conventional gender assumptions here)?