Dykes take on decor heaven – lesbian interior decorators and design analysis – Brief Article

B. Ruby Rich

It all started with a desk. I needed a new one since reorganizing my tiny office in an attempt to improve my destiny. With all the feng shui (of course!) requirements to position my back to the window to enhance my power and to clear the clutter from my fame corner to keep my career humming, my old desk no longer fit.

That’s when I saw the ad on Craig’s List, the Web site the San Francisco Bay area loves even though it’s just a computer grab bag of classified ads.

“Retro desk for sale,” read the listing, “previously in a convent.” A desk filled with righteous karma from prayers and good deeds seemed like just the ticket. “It’s some kind of wood. Walnut, maybe,” the seller told me. “Whatever it is, everyone always feels good around it. And it has a really feminine look, with rounded edges. It’s not all square and masculine.”

Her comment set me thinking. Feminine lines? Convent furniture? Hmm, just the desk to satisfy my lesbian aesthetic. You see, I’m deep into the new zeitgeist of “shelter” magazines and their attendant shopping frenzy. My name is Ruby, and I am an addict, hooked on Nest, Dwell, Metropolis, Metropolitan Home, One, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest. Celebrity houses in inStyle. Even tips in Martha Stewart Living.

There’s no denying it: I’ve been seduced by “homeowner’s porn.” But how can I be seduced if I’m not even there? That’s where my convent desk comes in. There just ain’t no lesbian furniture in these designer photos. Or any lesbians with furniture. With the exception of one glimpse of k.d. lang showing off her California Zen retreat, there’s barely a dyke in decor heaven. There are heterosexuals galore and decorative gay guys, but lesbian visibility in the new crucible of power and glamour? Missing entirely.

Don’t lesbians have taste? A chic friend of mine explains our absence handily: All the rich dykes, she says, are closeted, while the out girls are also out of cash. It’s true that activism prepares the good lesbian to abhor such class-based trifles as sofas and armoires when there are barricades to be stormed.

Style isn’t something I take lightly, however, nor should you. Design is the new ground zero–and we’ve been left out! Notice how fast the old models of citizenship are being replaced by new modes of consumerism in this country, and our disappearance from the despicable marketplace becomes a worrisome sign of identity jeopardy.

Ladies, it’s time to fight back! We have a proud history of lesbian interior design, dating back a hundred years, with one shining name to prove it: Elsie De Wolfe, the world’s first professional interior decorator, an innovator in her own time. De Wolfe and her 40-year companion, Elisabeth Marbury, were “The Bachelors,” and the stylish salon at their exquisitely decorated home at 49 Irving Place in New York City was all the rage. (The address is fighting for landmark status, if you’re in search of activist opportunities.)

After all, it was De Wolfe who, upon seeing the Parthenon for the first time, famously cried out. “It’s beige–my color!” Busily designing modernity in the opening decades of the 20th century, De Wolfe urged the expulsion of Victorian clutter, streamlined the domestic look, favored mirrors and flowers, and jumpstarted contemporary style. With such a foremother, how can lesbians have fallen off the radar, the butt of jokes instead of the vanguard of taste?

It’s time to retrofit the lesbian home in popular imagination. And it’s not necessarily about the money: My girl and I are redoing our kitchen in `50s chic instead of the requisite high-tech splendor of Viking stoves and Corian counters. (Don’t get me started on why “mid-century modern” is hip only where it costs a lot–the living room–but not where it’s a bargain–the kitchen.) No, it’s time for us lesbians to follow in the trailblazing tradition of Elsie De Wolfe. Let’s band together to escape design purdah. Reclaim domestic space, sisters! Tear out the womb room, recycle the menstruation hut! We have nothing to lose but the seashells above the futon and the macrame dream catcher swinging in the stained-glass window.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

You May Also Like

Summer Movie Preview. – movies with gay themes

Summer Movie Preview. – movies with gay themes – movie review Gregg Kilday OUR ANNUAL GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD’S SUMMERTIME ASSORTMENT TU…

Rudy’s roomies – New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

Rudy’s roomies – New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – Brief Article Chris Bull New York’s mayor shacks up with a gay couple It …

Air America radio’s Rachel Maddow is out, brilliant, and ready to defend the other L word: liberal

Left and centered: Air America radio’s Rachel Maddow is out, brilliant, and ready to defend the other L word: liberal Etelka Lehoczky <…

Look before you click – online chat lines

Look before you click – online chat lines – Brief Article Randy Dotinga You’re logged on to an Internet chat room for gay men. You …