A Whiter Shade of Beige: The Sanitising of the Australian Domestic Interior

By Gene Bawden.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1952 The Australian architect and writer Robin Boyd created a scathing and critical tableau of objects and furnishings titled “good taste, bad taste” for the Melbourne furniture retailer, Bruce Anderson. In it, an arrangement of frilly lampshades, ruche curtains, a veneered cabinet of ornaments and a moquette-covered rocker were juxtaposed as the appalling opposite to a Grant Featherston chair, a Clement Meadmore lamp and a Frances Burke fabric panel. Boyd implied that good taste is inextricably linked to contemporary designers of notoriety, and those who identify with modernity and willingly dismiss nostalgic backward glances as unproductive, retrograde and indeed, in bad taste. Good design, and thereby good taste, is an intellectual and forward pursuit but one easily achieved through the informed purchase of some key design objects.
Boyd’s simple “before and after” technique through a singular store window display of limited viewings pales in effectiveness compared to the current host of media that present the average homeowner with endless guides towards achieving a well designed dream home worthy of its actual asset value.
This paper intends to investigate the role of various media in Australia as a persuasive design collective – television, magazines, the internet, real estate make-over’s, store displays and catalogues – that has irreversibly shaped the ordinary domestic interior. It will attempt to determine whether this influence over a collective national aesthetic has enriched the cultural value of the Australian interior or led us towards a homogenous and characterless collection of rooms that leave us struggling to find personality and difference from one home to the next.

Keywords: Domestic Interior, Taste Makers, Media, Interior Aesthetics, Design in Australia

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.205-216. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.413MB).

Gene Bawden

Faculty of Art & Design, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Gene Bawden lectures full-time in graphic design, typography and illustration at Monash University, Faculty of Art & Design, and coordinates the Faculty’s Visual Communication degree. Prior to joining Monash in 1997, he worked as a senior designer and illustrator for both of Melbourne’s daily newspapers, The Age and The Herald Sun. Gene is currently undertaking a PhD that intends to investigate the political, historical, cultural and personal relevance of “the good room”: Australian domestic interiors constructed purely for display rather than use. In 2008 he secured a British Council Design Researcher Award to pursue his doctoral studies in London.


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