Painting an artificial picture of perfection

02:38, May 19 2014
 Jake Mirfin
OH DEER: Naomi Arnold is sick of antlers.

I got a letter the other day thanking me for being a loyal FlyBuys member of 15 years. Has it been worth all that swiping? I wondered. So I rang FlyBuys to find out.

"Your call may be recorded to help us get more excellent," the automated voice told me. Well, that would be great, because I have amassed a measly 180 points, which means I could get, today, for free, a Nicholas Sparks novel, a CD of 100 Party Classics, or a Jesus Christ Superstar DVD.

I also learned that after 15 years, I have received three rewards: a pair of Swanndri socks, to which I am devoted, a set of hair straighteners, and a subscription to Homestyle magazine.

I've gone on about this loyalty ridiculousness before, and obviously I just need to buy more things to get more free things, so I'm done with that.

What I really want to talk about is the subscription to Homestyle magazine, which is the biggest load of pointless tripe I have ever seen in print. I'm sick to death of it and all its simpering sisters, including Pinterest and design blogs. In fact, I will go so far as to say I regret spending my precious FlyBuys points on the subscription and not saving them for another pair of socks.

When the magazine arrives, I play a little game. I can read it until I come across the first mounted deer head, set of antlers or piece of vintage taxidermy, smiling woman slicing cake in her kitchen, Crown Lynn swan, David Trubridge lightshade, blackboard-painted wall in the children's room, or Eames chair.


Once I hit those, I have to stop reading. Needless to say, I never get very far into the magazine.

It's the antlers that really get my goat. They're an interior design trend I first spotted at the Vic Brewbar in about 2010, when I thought it was quite cool.

Now, years later, I cannot express how heartily sick of them I am, though they continue to sprout from the walls and doors of homes in nearly every magazine I read, doing nothing useful except screaming: "LOOK! TRENDY!"

Half of their owners probably don't even eat meat. In one issue of Homestyle, I counted 11 different versions of them.

People, I want to say, don't spend your money on antlers. Kill the deer yourself and feed the family. Go to the recycling centre to find your own personal decor, and save and invest your dollars so that one day you'll have the freedom, time and energy to create things yourself.

Obviously, I'm not saying that a David Trubridge lightshade is not gorgeous or useful - it would look incredible in my stairwell, just quietly.

Beauty, quality and usefulness are, of course, good criteria in deciding whether something belongs in your home, and clever designers must continue to create and get their ideas out to people somehow.

I don't see anything wrong with buying well-designed items you adore using. But so many of these trends are just shorthand for people to say, "Look at me - I am fashionable, and thus of high status. Notice me, and pay your respects".

Anyway, it's worse than that. I think these magazines are as damaging as fashion mags in causing that mild sense of unhappiness that makes you dissatisfied with your lot.

One study proved that young women who read fashion magazines wanted to weigh less, were less satisfied with their bodies, were more frustrated about their weight, were more preoccupied with the desire to be thin, and were more afraid of getting fat than their peers who read news magazines.

I reckon home design mags do the exact same thing, promoting the same expensive, impossible expectations of your life and space.

When you see one of these perfect - or cutely lived-in - homes, you don't realise that the photographer has brought a perfectly distressed chair to the shoot. You don't see the weeks spent cleaning, the fresh paint, the things the subjects rushed out and bought to complete their aesthetic.

"Oh, I see you noticed our oversized vintage railway clock!" they tell the mags, breezily (they also "laugh" or "chuckle"). "We got it shipped over from Italy. We just adore it. You see, our possessions define what we think of ourselves."

These people are nothing but shadows of real human beings, but it's not their fault. It's the magazine's.

Do the stories tell you how much the shipping cost? How the couple are now half a million dollars in debt from buying, building and outfitting their dream home? How the stress of that debt makes them fight and keeps them awake at night, and forces them into jobs they hate?

No. These magazines are selling a dream, which means they're selling lies. Drop in on that family at 7pm on a Thursday night. Show us the "before" photos and the total cost. Show us something real. In the meantime, I'm going to dig around on FlyBuys and find a book to read instead.

The Nelson Mail