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The 'Ideal' and the 'Real' interior in Elsie de Wolfe's 'The house in good taste' of 1913 / Penny Sparke [journal article]
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In : Journal of design history special issue: Domestic design advice Vol.16 No.1 2003 pp.63-76
journal article
This article focuses on the household advice book, The House in Good Taste, of 1913, written by the American interior decorator, Elsie de Wolfe. It emphasizes the way in which the content of the book derived from two
sets of articles that had previously been published in two different mass-market magazines, The Delineator and Good Housekeeping, a fact that gave the text a double identity. This ambiguity is shown to have been enhanced by the author's presentation of herself as both an amateur decorator (like the majority of her readers) and a professional working with wealthy, upper-middle-class clients. The article sets out to show, however, that the book's essential ambiguity was unproblematic in a historical context in which the expansion of consumer culture was such that the desire for a new interior and the elevated social status that came with it was as significant, for the reader, as the actual realization of one. The book's ambiguity reflected, in fact, the blurring of a distinction between the 'real' and the 'ideal' interior, mirroring the ambivalent relationship of the reader with the text. Elsie de Wolfe, the article argues, set out to exploit this commercially.
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