this year's model

we are moving house.
i'll be offline at some point possibly for a few weeks, but this explains why i was keen(for once) to spend the afternoon in a housewares emporium(let's call it... ikea, fr'instance...), as well as the reason for a lot of creative downsizing in the last couple of weeks, as i gear up for this momentous up-heaval.
it was disorientating enough that we found ourselves in coventry - which makes you feel like you've wandered onto the set of here we go round the mullberry bush, but to visit this store is like stepping back into the 80's(of course, what would you expect).

i used to pour over a copy of the habitat catalogue that i had back in the early 80's... living in my parent's 70's decor was not good for a young man, i needed something modern to aspire to(even if that modern was tinged with a love of atomic fifties iconography), - all that ordered symmetry and red door handles was like manna from heaven amongst the late 60's furniture and council estate style of my home... habitat was all so thematic, unlike the mish-mash decade-blending(thank you douglas coupland) that my parents unwittingly indulged in - our next door neighbour's house was worse, with their tacky mock-baronial fireplace, replete with brass heraldic shields/swords and abigail's party furniture(the former i got into trouble dueling with and the latter which my mother trashed when she fell over at a party, one evening).
this house also had those staple 70's item: the yellow corner peice sofa, and cylindrical opaque orange standing lamps so beloved of play for today.
but, all that measured order and calmness in the habitat catalogue engaged me(this was when the conran empire was seen as something tastefull, not like today where they sting you £45 for some cardboard boxes with handles on them, etc...), and it was almost warhol-esque, the bright primary colours and stack 'em up, sell 'em off that spoke of happiness and bountiful supply(which was the general idea, to encourage you to buy lots).
admittedly, the only people i knew that owned this stuff were social workers, who wore green cords and had haircuts like mike reid, but we can all dream of our shangri la at least.
this particular shangri la in coventry however, smelled of burnt toast as we entered it's vast front door(on the way there i remarked how the building seemed to be sucking the life out of the nearby area), and the huge elevators were immediately off-putting, like the ones they have in some underground stations, and seemed to have no directions or info about them, it was merely a case of jump onboard.
upon arrival on the sixth floor, we were meeted&greeted by a smiling blonde girl who was handing out oversize shopping sacks(there's that illusion of choice, again), and it was only after i'd walked past, that i noticed she had very, very small arms, totally out-of-context with her body-size.
now this threw both of us out of sync for a bit, so slightly dazed we orienteered our way to the wardrobe section, following the handy map we were given(with it's shortcuts included for brevity)(now is it just me, or does it seem a little bit odd that you should need a map to get around a shop?), and i noticed a few times that there is a direction you have to walk round in... we'd invariably go against the tide, like salmon swimming upstream, only to be met with slightly surprised and almost offended little dry coughs(the english thing that english people do, to express annoyance and indignation)... i also noted the look on (mainly) men's faces, forced to walk round as their other-half's nesting instincts enthused to them about furniture you sit on or sleep on - but the menfolk sported a look that spoke of life slowly draining away from a tortured soul, or of a tired mind that wanted to be down the pub where all his mates were probably.
also interesting was also the amount of tattooes people had - even if they were mainly of the celtic-ibiza beckham-inspired tosh that says nothing about the person other than the fact that they have spent a bit of money on the tatt... designed to look good in the beer-garden in a sleeveless t-shirt... but not something i'd expect to see in this doyen of conformity.
the other half found all the little vignettes quite depressing(the pieces where they would have a whole room laid out like sets in a TV studio), they did have some sort of marie-celeste quality about them... although to me, it just brought back memories of the 80's habitat catalogue(see above), and it was quite easy to lose yourself in them, like wandering in and out of people's homes, through mysterious walls, like a ghost.
cutomers got quite avoricious though, and occasionally they would get a leather-jacket swinging accidentally in their direction if they got too close to where i was standing... there was certainly an air of desperation involved - although i was enjoying it all, finding the atmosphere quite entertaining(i don't think that was the idea though...), a bit like a contemporary museum, or more like stepping back into the 80's...
i found some of the ideas very tastefull, there's definately a 50's aesthetic to a lot of the furniture(despite the industrial 80's wire mesh and big red clocks)... i saw a few chairs that recalled Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen and Harry Bertoia... all very stylish and understated.
my favourite was the round dining tables with the moulded swivel chairs(that ITRW would last about a month), and plenty of low slung, close to the ground lounge furniture that was similarily inspired, although i never made it over to the moulded plastic orange coloured chairs that would have matched our 50's dining table.
we were however, only indulging in speculative consumption(to purchase that stuff from the website), so only bought a 50's inpsired throw for the sofa, but all-in-all not a bad concept for a day out(despite being amused at the caretaker nation aspects of the way people were co-erced into moving around the store).
not exactly relaxing though and the canteen was crap.
like a motorway self-service restaurant.
shame on you.

1 comment:

Helen Highwater said...

The 80s lamps were quite disturbing - it was like being inside John Hughes' head. I thought Anthony Michael Hall would appear at any second in snow-bleached denim with the sleeves of his jacket rolled up.

All those imaginary lives in the pretend rooms... I'm sure Michael Bracewell will have waxed erudite about the place somewhere.

But it was fun walking the wrong way round the shop and annoying people.

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