Thursday, January 15, 2009

Regarding page 76 of this month's domino magazine:


...my friend emailed me this:

"Some examples of chinoiserie are borderline racist, and I did feel pain for any Asian reader seeing that. It's got an "Uncle Tom" quality....It looked like something executed in tempera paints on a day care center wall.

Honestly, I think I will let my subscription to domino lapse when it expires. Whenever I read it, I feel like the tired old uncle, babysitting the 7-year-old nieces as  they run around shrieking and hitting each other with My Little Ponys."




And then there was THIS post over at Style Noir about Sheila Bridges "Harlem Toile de Juoy" wallpaper.

So, here are the questions today, kids:

1) What do you think of Mary McDonald's room with the parasol-toting Asian figures painted on the wall?

2) Is Sheila's "Harlem Toile" wallpaper bad news?

148 comments:

Misconscrewed said...

Oh, go ON! Kitsch is kitsch. Hummel-ish motifs do not offend me as a German-American. Political correctness now extends to whimsical interiors?

Anonymous said...

Making fun of Germans, or white people, or Republicans, or Episcopalians--it's a different thing than making fun of Asians, Jews, blacks-- groups with histories of being mocked and worse.

With Germans, white people, Republicans, Episcopalians, there is no history of powerlessness.

Hester said...

It all depends whose house it's in...

Anonymous said...

I love the color combinations and patterns. The figures....not so much. I'm not sure I would have thought this to be racist. Would a picture depicting Asian figures in full ceremonial regalia be considered racist? Perhaps, it could be a celebration of ones heritage. Many people who may not be of Asian decent might feel that the graphic quality of the figures merely suggested nothing more than a love of the culture. Perhaps the homeowner had lived or visited an Asian country and feels a connection and merely wishes to be reminded of it's charm. I am kinda thinking we have become a society too obsessed with being politically correct. Sometimes finding fault where there is none. But I am willing to admit perhaps I am naive. Can anyone tell me why this would be racist?

Carol

Auntydeco said...

The chinoiserie figures are not racist. They are just awful. On the other hand, the Harlem toile is brilliantly designed and very clever.

Anonymous said...

The first is just a giant paper cut-out providing mirror images of stupidity. It looks like a moron repeated the theme of perhaps one 'special' item in the room. At least there's balance.

The second is so much richer and bitchier. Common African American themed antiques are Uncle Tom in nature and there is great demand for them. This reflects and stabs at the same time. I love it.

What worries me is that page 27 features some bitch named Trina Turk who wants you all to have Satan's ass babies.

That muumuu is what you will be wearing when Ruth Gordon makes you Lucifer's bride.

Never fear: Mia Farrow left pills in the cinderblock headboard - which you can purchase ($4800) from DWR.

Anonymous said...

These 30-something wannabe intellectuals with money who are offended by things not even intended to be racist are so ridiculous. These same people think calling a white person from the south a 'redneck' is perfectly acceptable.

You're not progressive for thinking something is racist. Now get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

the best comment is about the DWR ABSURD $4800. price tag. can we talk about that? and when everyone else has 50-60 and additional percents off...major sales, they have only 25% off. get over yourselves DWR. expensive beyond ridiculous!!!
and as far as what people put on their bedroom walls.....who cares? if they want to live in their bad taste bedroom let them!!! seriously people get a grip.

Lolo said...

Caricatures are racist and satire is not.

Now, if some of you see homage to culture in that first room then okay. Perhaps you'll extend your tolerance to using this as a motif but I say they're from the same pool of stupid.
http://www.buckleshop.com/images/4604.jpg

Jen Fu said...

“No Offense”

If you wonder why
I’m not laughing, go ask
Brian, the sixth-grade cutup
the one with the most dirty jokes
who requested the tribal African song
Tina Singu each music class, black
vinyl spinning while Brian made
faces, knocked his knees together
like eggs. If you are curious about
me, just ask the boy who riddled
the whole playground or me
& my friends walking
home: What do you get
when you cross a black person

with a Smurf? I am sure today
he would answer you, would explain
now that he meant No offense just
like he did then above the crowd
of girls leaning close or the boys
trying to get his timing down,
just as after the punchline
he always said You know I don’t
mean you. It’s OK. And when
you see that boy whose last name
I don’t seem to remember, be sure
to tell him that this here Smigger
could care less yet could never care
more, that my blue
& brown body is more
than willing to inform
him offense is one hostage
I have never taken.

– from Dear Darkness: Poems by Kevin Young (via What Tami Said blog)

Anonymous said...

"These 30-something wannabe intellectuals with money who are offended by things not even intended to be racist are so ridiculous."

"30-something" = wrong. 50-something.

"with money" = wrong (and irrelevant. Only poor people are entitled to comment on racism?).

"not intended to be racist" = irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Hester (12:26 AM) is on to something.

Those of you defending this wall: How many of you would have installed this in an ASIAN client's home?

Anonymous said...

I'd imagine an Asian could have it in their home and catch the least criticism for it (in regards to racism).

Design-wise, it just doesn't do much for me.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Harlem Toile, as a African-American, hecks no! I think of it as satirical as well. I agree the idea is kitschy. I'd rock out the yellow toile fabric (cuz in comes in fabric too) in a kitchen with some crazy color contrast piping on a bench seat or with painted wicker! I like the traditionalism of the toile but with the modern aspect of the images,wearing traditional attire.

Anonymous said...

What if, instead of Asians with coolie hats and parasols, the images had been of old-time black sharecroppers, toting loads of cotton?

Ivy Lane said...

Okay, It is awful..colors are good, but I don't see racism here..

Kwana said...

Hmm... this is a tough one. Yes, being pc does extend to whimsical interiors. For me it does depend of whose home it's in also. Being a Black women, I would probably be taken aback at first if I didn't knwo the background going to a white home in Savannah and seeing the same kitchy Aunt Jemima cookie jars that my older aunt collects. It's just a sensitivity thing from personal experience and everyone's experience is different.

That said the Harlem Toile is lovely and for me true art. It does not seem mocking or done in a ridiculing manner, but thoughtful and elegant so would be beautiful anywhere.

As for the Mary Mc Donald room I don't see that same thoughtfulness. It's not well designed and does seem offensive. Are we suppose to laugh behind our hands and not smile? Then it's not right.

Anonymous said...

The room is awful. Bravo Decorno for posting on this atrocity.

katek said...

Those silhouettes are just so ugly. All I could think of when I saw them was how most ballet companies still have really, really stereotypical "Chinese" dancers with parasols mincing around during that couple minutes of the second act. It's always a little embarrassing, because it's so outdated.

Anonymous said...

I totally thought the same thing when I saw this. And i don't have a good answer.

I feel terribly conflicted about my own love of those pieces of kitschy vintage pottery, like mid-century lamps of dancing geishas painted that wonderfully garish green. I have to draw the line, though, at the painted vases that depict Asian women toting "buckets" on either side, with holes in the large wooden slat she's got shackled across her shoulders from which you can hang real string. Too much.

The comment at 2:28 made me spew oatmeal out my nose.

Irma said...
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Irma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kelly said...

Oh, Decorno! I am so turned off to that room with the chinese people on the walls... seriously. It's a joke. Like chinoiserie over kill...

Anonymous said...

As for the McDonald disaster, it would be mediocre regardless of the ethnicities portrayed. However, I don't believe it could truly be labeled offensive -- unless to the eyes -- or "racist". It's just bad design.
Chinoiserie was never meant as a realistic depiction of Asia, but rather as a fanciful fantasy of Cathay, a mythical land the Europeans concocted to fulfill their loose interpretations of "the other".
BTW Decorno, love the "Paris-in-Houston" comment! As a Houstonian and a lover of all things French, I can relate to that lofty aspiration ; )

Anonymous said...

PS, I personally love the "Harlem Toile" and think it's totally subversive and hip.

the quarter rat said...

And Vogue Regency is finally brought down for its racist undertones...

Anonymous said...

I adore the tongue in cheek toile...the Asian figures are just poor design. They have a YMCA rec room feel to me...racist? It think not. Being PC is getting a little out of hand.

Anonymous said...

I think the Mary McDonald figures are in poor taste. We all need to be more sensitive to images that are portrayed and how they create stereotypes and prejudice. Racism can be overt, but also very subtle. There are so many beautiful ways to style a room, why pick something like this? There are more tasteful choices to pay homage to Asian design and culture.

Anonymous said...

I did not find the Chinoiserie wall art to be racisct--just lame. I think the bedroom would be kind of great with out all the extra ornamentation. Know when to stop!

Reggie said...

Pheh! All I can say is people should lighten up and get a sense of humor. Anyone ever see Kara Walker's art? She's brilliant and mines this vein to the n-th degree.

Simone said...

sheila bridges' toile tells a story in a most elegant way. why is depicting happiness in Black life offensive? hmm.

the domino piece - it's not a race thing. it's poor design choice.

when magazines write articles about "ethnic" designs being a la mode, that is offensive. why even use the word 'ethnic?" isn't everyone ethnic?

pick your battles people.

eileen said...

I am Asian - and I dont feel offended. I just think it is bad taste. Way overboard with the theme -- we get the Chinoiserie from the headboard, no need to put stupid silhouettes. I have the magazine but dont have it handy, is this Mary McDonald's guest house? I honestly don't get the Domino love for this designer. Her rooms are ugly, extremely themey, over-decorated with craftsy projects and have excruciating color combinations. She needs to edit her rooms. I understand being bold (a la Miles Redd) but her rooms are LOUD.

Anonymous said...

There's a zone of behavior that isn't quite racism/anti-Semitism/xenophobia/etc., but is just sort of thoughtless and inconsiderate and cringe-inducing. That's the zone McDonald hit.

Anonymous said...

eileen,

Pitch-perfect description of McDonald's work in general: "themey."

She designs to get published, looks like.

Petra Voegtle said...

To name this "racist" is ridiculous. In my opinion this is simply plump and very bad design as it has no proportion. If it were tiny figures in a much more subdued colour hue it might look even intriguing - yet definitely not to my liking as the whole room is stuffed too much.

Christina said...

A side note- Decorno- would you be willing to have a monthly feature where we have a discussion of certain spreads from the recent issues of Domino and Houe Beautiful?- it's SO fun to hear what other people love and hate!

Little Lantern said...

I think that room is just plain ugly.

Anonymous said...

Sheila Bridges' wallpaper: Witty.

Mary McDonald's wall: Witless.

Anonymous said...

I find them both to be tacky. Isn't that what style is? Not necessarily whether it is PC or not, but whether or not you like it.

Anonymous said...

I see it as an homage to a culture, not mocking it or being racist in the slightest. Why does the world tend to see differences (that are pointed out) as racism? People are different. Recognize the beauty in every culture and shirk the cynical tendency to call it racism.

puck said...

I don't think it is racist... just lame and poorly executed.

BTW, saying "white people" have had no history of being powerless is just ignorant. Lumping all nationalities into a group of "white people" as a whole and implying that none of the individual groups have ever gone underwent some adversity is ridiculous. Unless you are to say that one "white" nationality murdering/oppressing/etc another "white" nationality does not count.

And on that uplifting thought, I'm back to looking at the pretty pictures.

Anonymous said...

I can't get past the actual design of the room. WHO would want that in their house. It's hideous. Racist or not.

SuzMoore said...

Domino wtf? First the unfortunate room with the plaid, now this?

Anonymous said...

Puck,

You're right. All generalizations are bad. Including the one I just made.

Mary T. said...

I think anytime something inspires this much debate over "Is it racist?" it's probably racist; just my opinion. At the VERY least it's such a gray area that it's impossible to pull off, so just leave it alone. I do think the Harlem print is great, and on a completely different level than this room; the two aren't even related really, as the Harlem piece was done with intentional satire in mind.

Jen Fu, awesome poem. Thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

It has its place; a stage set for The King & I, or something...

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of Rosie O'Donnell's infamous "Ching ching chong" impersonation of Chinese people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0HtTReGt08

Lolo said...

So what may start out as homage careens into derivative whimsy?

Mmmyeah, I'm asian too and if I saw that hideoma of a room in someone's house I would likely blurt out "how delightfully ching chong of you".

OH well, all I can hope is that McDonald does a room for Amy Tan and that it gets featured in Domino's Fukian Tribute issue.

stella said...

1) total disaster
2) no

i've never understood the mary mcdonald worship..... all she does is cover brightly-painted rooms with white-painted or black-painted crap. this particular room is no exception. in my opinion, she pretty much defines trendy decor that looks dated in 6 months.

sheila bridges, on the other hand, i've loved ever since seeing her blue-green apartment on the new york social diary website. i personally wouldn't buy the "harlem toile" but i don't see anything wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

The Ladies Who Blog love McDonald. I guess because she's so fabricky.

Maria said...

i think people take themselves way too seriously. but that's just me.

Cristina said...

thank you, puck.
Let's not confuse racism with culturism, if that's a word.

As for being mocked, who here has been called a cracker? You've been mocked. racially. and you're probably white.

goddammit, I'm making up a new word. RACULTURISM! Now we can all feel equally put down.

I don't like the room. If you're going to go that far, you might as well make it a mural or something nicer.
with the wallpaper, at first I got my back up reading the reviews and when I looked HARDER at the paper I nearly choked on my drink. It's ironically funny. But I wouldn't decorate with it.

Anonymous said...

I think it's just ugly. The whole silhouette thing by the bed, just kinda creeps me out.

Why is there a camel on the bed side? Why is there so much clutter on the tables?

I like the comments regarding it looking like a stage set.

Regarding the wall paper. It really reminded me of the French countryside patterns that were big a few years ago. So I didn't really see the irony or the racism. Maybe I'm just an idiot or naive or something. Can someone explain why I should be offended? I didn't have any of the associations as the Aunt Jemima figurines.

kat said...

First room, no comment. As for the toile - the idea of subversive images and re-interpreting toile was first done by Timorous Beasties. (Scenes of muggings in the park etc in London.) Check out their stuff.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that figural represenations should be considered racist. As a matter of fact, figural representations of buxom, naked gals on the back of truck flaps don't scream sexist to me either.

Rachel said...

I have to say that I feel the same way about DOMINO as your friend, Decorno... only my feelings have been this way for a little while. While some of their stuff is pretty cool, I always thought they seemed like they tried a little too hard. That, and I got tired of seeing a bunch of overpriced stuff used just because it was overpriced. I think the straw that broke it for me was when they did a kitchen remodel and spent money on Viking appliances (mind you, this was a tiny kitchen) - the big fridge and range, etc. But then they installed plain white formica countertops. Really?? If I was going to spend that kind of money on the appliances, I would at least splurge on silestone!

The first image - really bad design. Cartoonish. I don't really see it as being racist, but then again, I don't go looking for things in that way.
The toile is okay. Not really what I would have chosen, but I don't think it's offensive or bad.

Oh, by the way - I do kind of like toile!!! Especially the New Orleans toile from Hazelnut. BUT!! I totally got a kick out of your comment about Paris-in-Houston!! LOL! That's exactly what I think - There are too many "Tuscan villas" out there in Dallas!!! ;-)

JM said...

I don't care for it but I don't see how representing things from the history of a culture is racist. What if someone wanted a room all about Egypt? To me, the silhouettes of the East Asian temple and the people, would be no different than having the pyramids and hieroglyphics. Is anything vaguely Chinoiserie racist? Is it the fact that people are represented? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was yet another horrible issue of Domino. What are they doing over there? And what the hell is with the profile of a 13 year old girl and her 'room makeover' - WTF? Is that the new target audience for them? It appears so. I've over it.

S. said...

Racist silhouettes? Not quite.
Insensitive, ethnocentric, and cring-inducing? Yes.
Ugly, weird, out of place? Yes.


I kind of like the wall paper. I don't think I'd put it up in my house, but it's very witty and clever.

The wallpaper says "fuck you" to traditional toile.
The silhouettes say "fuck you" to good design.

S. said...

sorry, cringe-inducing...

Anonymous said...

I was SHOCKED to see this house in Domino because I've seen it in person (for sale for $2.25M - what a joke) and the entire house is offensive! While the pictures clearly cannot hide the bad design, they actually do a decent job of masking the cheapness and poor execution. It looked as though some DIY-er still in training wheels went crazy with masking tape and paint. There are "designs" on pretty much every surface (floors, walls, furniture)and you just wondered what was under the carpet or behind the swaths of fabric covering most of the walls. It was sloppy, gloomy and mildewy. And there were so many busts, feet, hands and various detached body parts strewn throughout the house it was downright creepy.

Anonymous said...

"who here has been called a cracker? You've been mocked. racially. and you're probably white."

That's not a race thing. That's a class thing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:45 PM--

First, I LOVE that you exposed one of the biggest scams in the shelter-magazine industry: Using "articles" as essentially nationwide sales brochures. So many of the houses ("projects") profiled have been tricked out mostly because they are being aggressively marketed. The house sells, the decorator gets a clip, the magazine fills six pages.

Second: You are a great reporter. Start a blog, and start chasing down the truth behind all these homes that are meant to make us wet ourselves with envy. You have the gift! You could be the Ralph Nader of the Decor Industrial Complex.

Lisa Hunter said...

Like most theme rooms, this is tacky.

The Harlem Toile, however, is delightfully clever. It's not in the same category as cheezy chinoiserie at all.

Anonymous said...

The images are awful because this room is pure fuckery...on all levels! But really, if Jonathan Adler had it a damn piece of pottery or a needlepoint pillow, it would be on couches and tablescapes everywhere!

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Adler would call it "a Palm Beach take on chinoiserie," so the whole exercise would be Teflon-coated with wink-wink irony.

Melissa said...

Seems to have realised the fanciful imagery of chinoiserie to the point of artlessness.

Anonymous said...

i am asian born in america. korean to be exact. and i am offended by the bedroom cutout . it's kind of like golliwog dolls to a black person or aunt jemmima. all you white people are so use to "Asian" themes you think its ok just like aunt jemima use to be. i mean how many of you cringe when ordering "asian" chicken salad?

Tara.Fields said...

More fun with toile:
http://www.historically-inaccurate.blogspot.com/

This guy essentially vandalizes toile with embroidery. While I really like toile, this kind is probably the only kind I'd put in my home. I like lots of things that I do not want for myself (toile, hot, young waiter, etc.)

corine @ hidden in france said...

It's no more racist than picturing a French man with a beret and a baguette. It's cliche, maybe, fugly for sure.

Lolo said...

Okay, now my liberal, asian guilt has been bludgeoned by the plight of the poor, oppressed, exploited french.

Anonymous said...

What if the image was of a Frenchman surrendering in every war and never bathing?

Anonymous said...

i've never been a mary mcdonald fan and nothing in this issue caused me to rethink my opinion. the blue walls with white trim...been there, done that.

Nick Klaus said...

I think both are just ugly.
the Harlem toile is clever, in a sort of 'lets embrace stereotypes in a completely tongue-in-cheek way, and in doing so, critique their very existence'. but I am not a fan of toile, so I would not use it.

sylvieK said...

I can't make sweeping comments about what is racist and what is not. But I can tell you this:

If I, an Asian American woman, were on a date and the dude swung open his bedroom door to reveal the Chinoiserie bedroom set, I would promptly go home and erase his number.

Interpret that as you will.

Traci said...

The Mary Mcdonald room is very HGTVish but I love the Harlem toile, not that I'd use it in my modern decor, but I get the irony. Reminds me of Kara Walker or some of Kehinde Wiley's works, telling a story or using a classical theme and infusing it African American Culture. As an African American designer, it's good to see something other than Kente cloth or animal print (hate when you see that in a spread and it's called exotic).

Anonymous said...

I feel like the 1st Anonymous post was the most racist of all, for implying that the main reason this is inappropriate is that all whites have a history of power and Asians have a history of powerlessness.

The ridiculousness of this statement implies prejudiced thinking on the part of the author - though there is definitely racism in the US, when it comes to history, China is now one of the most powerful nations on earth, and has been for the entirity of human history save the last 200 years or so (a drop in the bucket considering how old Chinese civilization is).

It also diminishes the struggles over the years that many groups have had, merely because they are white - especially if you consider that the reason many are here in the US was to escape persecution in Europe.

Anyway, I think this is wierd, but not racist - If you go to China, a lot of farmers still wear those hats - they are actually quite practical, especially when it's raining..

Anonymous said...

For both examples: racist? not at all. silly? most definitely.

Anonymous said...

sylvieK,

Yours is the comment I take to heart.

Ms. Suebee Honey said...

Basically, what these images do and along with other chinoiserie decor, is turn Asians into caricatures serving as an “exotic” landscape for white America.

Sacheverelle said...

Sheila Bridges' wallpaper is brilliant. The Chinoiserie room not so much.
The headboard is acceptable I guess but the Chinamen flanking it are superfluous & evoke a retro-cheesy Chinese restaurant-lounge vibe. The figures serve no real purpose either so you have to figure someone must ahve been really attached to the idea of having them there, which makes it even more retarded.

Anonymous said...

You wonder why she didn't do a plantation theme, with the headboard done up like a bale of cotton, and the happy slaves on either side, bendin' down and singin' hymns.

Anonymous said...

i think the reason why "white" is lumped together is because so many of the conflicts (french v german, saxons v normans, brits v irish etc) are kind of done. and once these different varieties of white people got to the new world there were other people to exploit - people easily identifiable by skin color. once whites settled here, it didn't matter if you were french or german or swedish or irish. you became the master race in a sense. the images aren't offensive - it's just why? (but i'm italian-american) and especially WHY would a magazine feature it? that's the question!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, THIS is in Domino? It's just hideous! Are those plates on the bedside table (left side)? Why?

The silhouettes are tacky. I thought the editors knew better. For shame!

Anonymous said...

And another thing...what is that shiny bedspread made of? It looks cheap and flammable.

orsalia said...

I never reached the question of racism; the ugly had me running from the room screaming before I could think about.

Jenny said...

I don't like either of them, and wouldn't have them in my house. They are not pleasing to me. I can see the cutout isn't great design - it reminds me of the budget weekend makeover, all MDF and paint and fabric stretched over things you don't want anyone to see. But the wallpaper seems in poor taste to me, and if that's so, why aren't the cut outs?

I don't understand why the wallpaper is clever, ironic or whatever you choose to call it, and the cutouts are racist. Could someone elaborate on this please? Otherwise it seems like everyone is singing from the same songsheet and the debate doesn't really advance matters for those of us outside the choir.

I'm from the asia pacific, so is there something that I don't understand?

Cheers

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I dislike the chinoiserie wall treatment only because it seems hamfisted and ill-executed, with no finesse. Sheila Bridges's Harlem toile de Jouy is thought-provoking and purposefully satirical, designed in 2007 by a black interior decorator who did so with a sense of humor and pride, marrying the pastoral qualities of toile de Jouy with images of the African-American community.

Anonymous said...

wow, Italian-Americans have gone through a huge amount in the US. Perhaps you should learn your history, in WWII they were actually placed in internment camps by the US government. They were barred from many good jobs for a long time. But thats ok with your idea of whites being powerful, because it was other whites that exploited their immigrant labor, right?

I also don't think that Asians as a group consider white people to be a "master race" - what kind of crap is this? In the US, as a whole, they are much more educated and high-earning than whites as a group, for example. I'm not saying prejudice against Asian people isn't big, but sorry, being 'mocked' by whites is just not a huge or defining part of our history like you imply, and to imply that it is, and not for other groups that happen to be white, I have to say that is very ignorant..

On the other side of the coin, many whites who go to Asia also experience some prejudice or ignorance. As someone who is both white and Asian, I've experienced both, and its messed up. I know you mean well but a lot of the things you are saying betray a hugely provincial mode of thought.

Anonymous said...

While we're into this exercise of stepping into one another's shoes, here's something else I'm offended by:

use of the word "retarded"

Anonymous said...

Saxons v. Normans is "done"???

Not in my neighborhood, mister.

Anonymous said...

"many whites who go to Asia also experience some prejudice or ignorance"

Oh please. Many XXX who go to XXX also "experience some prejudice or ignorance." You can make that generalization about an infinite number of ethnicity-nation combinations.

As far as internment in detention camps in the US during WWII, Japanese-Americans had it far worse, in scale and extent, than Italian-Americans.

Jill said...

Love the toile...I'm Greek, so you can imagine how that could be represented in a pastoral design...my gay friends would love it! On the other hand, the chinoiserie figures are just scary and sad. Can you imagine trying to go to sleep with two giant Disneyland men staring down at you all night. It's like Adler on crack.

Anonymous said...

I still love Domino. I've been displeased with the last couple of issues, but I thought this one had a lot of nice work. I especially like the piece on the Ruffalo's house.

Anonymous said...

The point is not to tally up points as to whose experience was worse during any particular incident, but the fact that people are singling out Asians for 'powerlessness', (which is a big thing in racism against Asians fyi) and whites as a 'master race'. As in the reason it's wrong to pick on Asians is because they are so weak and defenseless, and whites are just so powerful.

Janet said...

We actually tackled this very room over at www.moggit.com

C'mon over & vote!

Oh, and we also wrote an 'If These Walls Could Talk' piece on the blue & white room...
J&J
www.moggit.com

Decorina said...

Italian-Americans were NOT put in internment camps during WWII. Japanese-Americans were put in camps so that others could steal their farms. Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand why the wallpaper is clever, ironic or whatever you choose to call it, and the cutouts are racist. Could someone elaborate on this please?"

The wallpaper takes an old convention--toile--and twists it into something new. It removes the traditional figures of rich white folks frittering away their days at idle pastimes and subsitutes black folks, who are not traditionally associated with such fancy-pants playfulness. So it creates something new, original, and provocative.

The wall cutouts simply repeat images that have been around for decades. Nothing new, nothing original.

michelle said...

what's so tabu about your own culture? this isn't even close to offensive.

Anonymous said...

Michelle:

1. "Taboo."

2. Huh?!

Anonymous said...

It's true: History is the one dimension that keeps definition of "offensive" changing.

Let's not deny that in signficant periods of American history, Asian Americans were in fact despised, mocked, and powerless.

And the figures in Mary McDonald's house are historic in their stylization, and belong to that period.

And to settle an increasingly irrelevant argument:

According to the book Una Storia Segreta : The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War II:

250 Italian-Americans were interned for up to two years in US military detention centers.

Anonymous said...

It looks like they are about to attack whoever is in that bed, as a revenge for colonialism and the Opium War..

Decs said...

Ha!

Anonymous said...

geez- what would happen if a white man/woman designed the Harlem toile wallpaper? Would it still be clever for this lot of people? What if said designer had lots and lots of African American friends- would that make it okay? Or what if the desgner was gay? Is that okay? I am about to scratch my eyeballs out with all this crap about race and culture. get over it people because really, no one is that special- white, black, gay, etc...It is all giving me a headache. I guess I am not sensitive enough. Darn it.

Anonymous said...

I'd still love it, for the same reasons.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated Sheila's efforts because it was well done, even if it is not my particular taste.

The Mary McDonald piece in Domino just got completely skipped over because it was ugly/tacky/cheap/silly from the first page to the last. My eyes would not focus until I saw something other than her design in the magazine. It was a design survival instinct I have honed over too many years of reading design magazines and going to show houses. If I opened up the magazine right now, the same automatic response would kick in.

As an aside, I did think this month was better than Domino has been in some time. I particularly enjoyed that it had more advice and design and less fluff.

Anonymous said...

It's just awful. Her work is entirely too themed and is as overproduced as a Williams-Sonoma Home catalog!

Iheartfashion said...

Cheesy, theme-y and badly executed, if not offensive (the stenciled chinamen)
The Harlem toile is witty and clever but I wouldn't hang it in my house for the same reason I wouldn't hang Kara Walker piece. Somehow it would feel phony and trying-too-hard for a middle-aged WASP.

Anonymous said...

Hah! "Chinamen"! That word reminds me of the old original Hardy Boys books. The Hardy Boys were always being knocked out by evil Chinamen launderers.

Anonymous said...

Yikes.
I agree with many of the comments here - and roll my eyes at the usual "I don't get it people, get over it ... I guess I'm just not 'sensitive' enough... political correctness nor extends to whimsical interiors..."

Those Mary McDonald rooms are vomitus. Whimsy is something only the best designers with a precise editing eye can do. My 7 yr old niece creates a more stylish and authentic sense of whimsy in her bedroom than does McDonald.

And about the toile - context is everything. OF COURSE it would be different if a white person had designed it! Duh. Education really helps when it comes to understanding complex issues of race. Try it, people.

Those 'chinoiserie' figures are beyond offensive, and not only because they are poorly executed and tacky to boot. The idea that one can use problematic images of someone else's culture as an overblown decorative element is an example of the insensitivity and narrow world view that gives Americans such a bad rap. Why use these silhouettes? They aren't beautiful, or stylish, or chic - are they ironic? McDonald doesn't seem to have the irony that Jonathan Adler protectively swaddles himself in. I think that SHE thinks they are cute. Funny. Let's see - what other culturally insensitive caricatures can we use in the name of 'whimsical' design? Other than the usual suspects ... I've seen enough sleeping mexicans made up in pottery to last me a lifetime.
And to Misconscrewed - maybe Hummels don't bother you, but if the same company came out with porcelain figurines of a more problematic caricature of the German culture - maybe examples of an Aryan 'master race', that might make you feel differently.

Robin said...

this room makes me have seizures and shoot laser beams out of my eyes.

decorno, how's about showing some pics of my room that was featured in this issue? it's far less racist and actually livable and doable, which is far more than i can say about most articles!!

www.robinjoysillau.com

xo

Anonymous said...

Would a silhouette of a Victorian gown-wearing parasol-carrying woman be offenive too?

I JUST don't get this argument. Sure, the room as a whole and the large decal-looking figures don't LOOK great, but where is the racism and stereotyping? If anything, perhaps its an homage to a style the designer finds beautiful (even though it wasn't rendered very well).

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:26
I'm guessing you are the friend Decorno referenced in the post.
Look, we all get the idea that it's important in this day and age to be sensitive to cultural differences. The sins of the past continue to shape who we are. And learning from those predjuces in our past and present has its place. But, I can't help but think this is just another disfunctional knee jerk reaction we have overused to hide our feelings of guilt. The notion that this is offensive for any other reason than the obvious...poorly designed, overstated rendition of chinoiserie, is lost on most of us here. And the superiority in the tone of your letter implies that you feel the need to educate the readers of this blog of their lesser intellect. I think it's time to come down off your soapbox.

m said...

Anonymous @ 11:47 -

What?! Being racist toward Germans is okay but toward Jews is not? Err, how many Germans are Jews?

I think this kind of thinking is how Hitler started out... We'll just get rid of any that don't fit your neat classifications. That'll be easy.

paul said...

People who see racism in a decorative silhouette are projecting their own prejudices onto others.

Why would one even attribute negative characteristics to to these simplistic depictions?

One would first have to believe that there is something intrinsically inferior about the cultural aspect depicted, otherwise how could its presence be embarrassing or offensive?

Then the repressed racist will that a step further and appoint themselves to be the defender of the supposedly offended culture...presumably because that culture's people are so weak and naive that they can't do so themselves.

An attempt to allay their own guilt. Pathetic.

As someone else mentioned, these are the same people who are first in line to mock rural Americans, Christians or anyone else who doesn't share their twisted and hypocritical worldview.

They also seem to believe that racism was invented and solely perpetuated by white Americans (because they themselves are just that -- white American racists).

It would be so nice if they would get out occasionally so as to realize that human nature is the same, and the instances of racism -- real or otherwise, occur in all cultures.

One would have to be quite racist to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

hi decorno and everyone else,
i do not particularly see this page and "design" as racist. just thoughtless, boring, and seriously banal! just like the magazine! the whole and entire issue was "been there, seen that and done that". 1stdibs is not a NEW and EXCITING design resource!!!!!!!!! How much money is he throwing at them to get placement???? That story originally was suppose to include vandm.com and bondandbowery.com as the 3 online resources but Michael Bruno refused to be in an article with aforementioned. Why, Michael? He thinks he has (and should have) a monopoly on the e-commerce retail business. But back to that wall. Just plain TIRED. I like Mary and really would have expected more from her. She does not usually rely on kitsch. Thanks for posting this page 76!!

Hallie and Joe said...

just super ticky tacky.I feel like fear of folding has made the editors of Dom throw darts at a wall covered in every shitty idea they could brainstorm in a single session.
shiny (thunk)
asian rice farmer cut outs(thunk)

To the comment describing the room as "YMCA rec room, " mwah! Perfection!

Hallie and Joe said...

Oh good god, just enlarged it and noticed the camel and what looks like a beer on the nightstand.
WTF?

Anonymous said...

Lots of touchy white folk commenting...

Anonymous said...

God....this is getting monotonous.

Anonymous said...

It's monotonous because no one is listening to each other.

It's just a lot of "Hey, I'M not racist! YOU'RE the racist!"

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:23

That was EXCELLENT gossip about Domino letting the 1stDibs guy determine the editorial content of the article.

Are fashion magazines as whorish as decor magazines, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

Well decorno congrats on stirring the pot once again. I picture you in your lair, stroking the whiskers on your chin approvingly as you tally up the web traffic on this one.

Okay, here's the comment to end all comments.

No, the mural isn't racist. It's lame. (But good job on getting readers of all races really worked up over it.)

Yes, people who think it's racist are being provincial. (Bravo to whoever wrote that earlier.)

No, I did not know about Italians in WWII. Glad I picked up at least one useful fact while reading this.

Not all people who like toile are uber-fem French wannabe Houstonians with more money than class. Some of us just like pattern.

Never mind this toile, Sheila Bridges is overrated. Peter Dunham's large scale toile is a lot better. (And Sheila, could you please wear a wig already? You're proof that not all black people can pull off the shaved head look.)

ALL toile is ironic. Sheez! Am I the only one that gets this?

Yes, this issue of domino sucks more than a swinger's party in the San Fernando Valley.

Yes ALL magazines are whorish. It's how they pay the bills. EXCEPT for Consumer Reports and Cook's Illustrated, which run no advertising. (And they're very, very boring. Hmmm... coincidence?)

Tami said...

I HATE HATE HATE the Harlem Toile! When you see it up close and personal it is TERRIBLE! I like the idea of the paper, the themes are great but the faces of the "people" look like little black animals. It is just awful! It is a humiliating caricature in my opinion. I would love the paper if the images were more life like. I was very surprised that Shelia Bridges approved such images. Oh...and I am black!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"here's the comment to end all comments."

Wrong.

Tami said...

Oh...and Anonymous, Shelia Bridges wears a bald head not because she chooses to but because she has alopecia. You should be a tad bit more understanding and know what you are talking about before you go throwing out statements like wear a wig because not every black person can wear a bald head. She is just happy to do her and be healthy.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anon #2, white folks are mocked and worse all the time. What about the Irish?

joyandjanet said...

Hmmm, just love all of these 'anonymous' comments... if people feel so strongly one way or the other why don't they leave their name?

Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Tami,

Anon 1:57 is clearly Anne Coulter. Lower expectations appropriately.

Anonymous said...

My family is from Pakistan and I am extremely offended when the term "Asian" is used to describe people who previously known as "Oriental".

It is as if the rest of us (people from Pakistan, India, Israel, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar and on and on!!) don't matter! Our identity has been hijacked by Oriental Americans.

How do you think Germans, Irish, Spanish and french people would feel if Scandinavian countries co-opted "European" for themselves? The name "Scandinavian" would now be taboo and all things "European" would be referring solely to them.

I'm taking Asian back for all the people of Asia.

The bad artwork on this wall is Oriental. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I thought Oriental was a slur.
I need a handbook or decoder ring.

Anonymous said...

Tami I'm well aware that Sheila Bridges suffers from alopecia, a non-life threatening disease. She should still wear a wig. At the very least so she won't be confused with a cancer victim.

Lindsay said...

No, and no. It's decor for white people who think (or pretend) that they're just joking, but these jokes are falling so flat that all you can hear is the ensuing awkward silence and some throat clearing and a cough. I can just imagine the apocalypse of inviting my asian and black friends over and gesturing excitedly at my new bed, my new wallpaper - "voila!" And they do have a sense of humor. Lack of awareness about the subtleties of the symbolism around race can't be hidden behind the words "kitsch" or "irony". There are so many problems with the toile, including its mixed race and class messages - it's not very well thought out. It may be aiming for satire but as others have pointed out, it falls off satire straight into a pit of caricature. And if you match that to the history of toile, which is already, and quite literally, bourgeois kitsch, then the whole project turns back to bite the wrong people. An I don't agree with Misconscrewed: kitsch isn't just kitsch. Objects communicate something whether you deem them kitsch or not. Obviously people are free to decorate their houses any way they want, but if you're going to welcome people of mixed backgrounds at your place, I'd nix these.

Lolo said...

You're welcome to try and pry the term asian from my wizened, amerasian claws but there's no fucking way I'm going back to being called oriental unless I'm skinned and turned into an oriental rug.

Anonymous said...

Clinging to the term Asian just means that you are ashamed to be Oriental and you want to blend in with the Russians, Israelis, Iranians and Pakistanis.

To say that "Oriental" only refers to rugs is like saying that "Scandinavian" can only refer to furniture and is a slur when used to identify people from a certain area.

Rejecting "Oriental" indicates self-hate and shame of your own culture and history.

And a cry for attention.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:28

The only "cry for attention" seems to be coming from your deliberate attempt to engage in verbal sparing.

The only thing is....your a little late to the party here!!! Buh-bye, I'm tuning you out. La,la,la,la.

eeps. said...

actually, edward said (pronounced SYE'-eed) said (third-person past tense of the verb 'to say') the term oriental was used during colonial times to designate any race that isn't white. basically, "oriental" meant "the other," regardless of the orient's geography.

i'm asian-american and i'm insulted by the wallpaper. but i'm more offended by the room's general fugness.

alis said...

1- I don't see the racism. It's just butt-ugly.

2- The wallpaper is cute.

Anonymous said...

Let's all change the subject back to Domino: Whenever I see kids' rooms featured, whether it's on HGTV or in Domino ... I turn away quickly. I love children, have them, even...but if I want to decorate a kid's room, I can find all sorts of parenting mags for that. Which brings me to the hideous wall decoration at issue: Not racist at all - just childish and stupid, Disneyesque, not to mention that even if one did actually like this, wouldn't the novelty wear off in less than a week? The toile is clever and trite all at once, and again, novelty wearing off fast... but racist? Nope. All this talk is so tiresome, really!

And FYI to "JoyandJanet": No mystery here...I'm pretty sure the reason there are so many anonymous postings is bc it's so fucking hard to post and the anon option is the simplest route.

Anonymous said...

"All this talk is so tiresome, really."

You're late to the party, aren't you?

HomeSavvi Team said...

You might be interested - Domino just sent out an email survey to their newsletter subscribers. If you would like to voice your thoughts, feedback, etc. you could do so on the survey/general feedback. I'm sure they're listening.

Anonymous said...

"All this talk is so tiresome, really."

You're late to the party, aren't you?

January 19, 2009 9:52 PM

Actually, no; I've been following this discussion with avid ennui since I posted on 1/16. Pseudo intellectual crap. The only comment worth a damn is the 1/17 posting decrying the cavalier use of the word "retarded"...I cringed when I read that. What a swell party.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit taken aback when I saw them. Was wondering what kind of statement was trying to be made. what's next-Geishas?

grumblebunny said...

I'm having trouble getting past the kitsch to the content. Sometimes the question of whether a design is good or bad becomes secondary to the fact that it's just ugly. IMHO, natch.

Sacheverelle said...

I don't think I have ever seen the comments to Decorno get quite this far off the subject. How did a post about a tacky bedroom lead to arguments about Italian-American internment camps during WWII?
Anyway, one thing that's pretty clear here is that "Mary McDonald, the interior designer" is definitely not going to be forgotten anytime soon by the folks who read this blog.

Kerry Ann said...

Lots of insightful comments here, but I'd like to remind you all that Chinoiserie is kitsch (perhaps the oldest form of kitsch, going back 400 years). It wasn't intended to be racist, but rather evolved from a fascination with a strange and exotic culture few had ever seen, and owning chinoiserie was a sign of someone's high level of taste and sophistication. If you are interested in reading more, you can check out my article here: http://poshsurfside.com/what-is-chinoiserie. Of course, times have changed and in the ensuing years Asians have experienced racism and oppression, but these wall decorations seem like an ode to kitsch to me, they are so cartoonish.

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