Domestic Interior is as close to us as our clothes – Illustrate

‘The domestic interior is as close to us as our clothes’ (Borzello, 2006:186).

 To what extent do you agree with this statement?

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The fashion and design industry are rapidly growing as people continue to come up with various designs both in terms of clothing and interior design. Interior design and the textile industry have become inseparable in the sense that people want to feel as good in their houses as they feel in their clothes (Rice, 2006). People are yearning to improve their living environments as they improve their mode of dressing. Interior design has been a venerable concern even during the times of Moses (from the Bible). In the Book of Exodus 27:16, God instructed Moses on how the gates of the court were to be designed and the colours that were to be used. People used to practice this art not having in mind what it could be in terms of defining or even understanding the art. For example, the kinsmen from the past could paint the walls of their caves long before architectural works began; the same way they were cautious about their clothes. The aim of this paper is to illustrate how domestic interiors are as close to us as our clothes by using examples from the fashion and/or textile/ design/ art industries/ popular culture. The relationship between interior design and clothes is an important aspect of achieving this paper’s aim.

In their book, ‘introduction’, Massey and Sparkle (2013), talk of a complex analogy between the interior and human life. While this might be the case, it is important to also note that the very field of interior design came about in a domestic context as a novel theme of an all-encompassing interior, albeit in the form of articulating the comfort and desires for privacy, and by integrating definite familial and gendered roles in human life (Borzello, 2006). All of this was intended to associate consumer culture with the realisation of domestic settings that pointed towards accepted norms, cultural values, and practices but perhaps more importantly, it aimed at achieving representation of the self in one’s domestic life. Viewfinder at the form this context, it emerges then that the aforementioned analogy between the interior and human life may not be actually as complex as we had imagined. Accordingly, the domestic interior is, as Borzello (2006) deftly put it, ‘as close to us as our clothes’ (p. 186).

The field of interior design draws its historical roots to the desires for comfort and privacy, the integration of familial and gendered roles in human life, as well as in domestic practices that encompass consumption and crucially, self-representation (Rice 2006). Before dwelling any further into the discourse on domestic space, it is important to differentiate between home and house. the house is largely viewed as a physically built dwelling within a fixed location where people live, whereas a home, while it could possess the material attributes of a built dwelling, refers to a feeling, idea, or space, and need not be situated in a fixed place (Briganti and Mezei, 2012).

However, the house, with its associated concepts of identity and shelter, informs our ideation of the concept of home. The notion that the home is a fixed place that though able to connect the future and the past, is distinct from the public and hence private, has been the subject of focus of various scholars, including Foucault. The home replicates the agendas and ideologies of society, whereas the socio-geography that characterised the house defines relations between classes and sexes. For this reason, the home and house are time and again viewed as symbols of the psyche, body, and self (Briganti and Mezei, 2012). For instance, the idea of modernity has resulted in the association of the house with the female body, as manifested by the correspondence between interior decoration and fashion. However, the focus of this essay is on the close association between the domestic interior and our clothes.  In other words, it means that our lifestyle, values, and more importantly, our clothes influence our interior design. Again, this blends in very well with the very definition of a home as we aspire to express our feelings or ideas in the interior space. Crisp has deftly put it well that home ought to be ‘something that you put around you, like your clothes, in order to tell people who you are’ (1981, p. 77-8). The implication made is that people can tell the mind of the person you are by the interior design that you identify with.

Perolini (2011) opines that the interior/exterior environment plays a pivotal role in giving meaning to people’s lives, in that it contributes to their physical comfort, emotions, sense of belonging, and well-being. Interior designers are thus charged with the responsibility of not only defining the spaces that we live in but also shaping these in such a way that they meet the aforementioned needs. According to Butterworth (2000), places, bundling, and spaces are not just mere props in our lives. They are rooted in deeper cultural and personal resonance and meaning, and at the same time symbolise interpersonal relationships, personal histories, and individual sense of belonging and values. Nonetheless, in order that a place may cater to the well-being of an individual, it should ideally give such an inhabitant a sense of belonging and identity. In other words, it should be a place that affords the inhabitant both social interaction and privacy (Butterwoth, 2000). The preference for aesthetics in our built environment aids in reinforcing spatial experiences, thereby bringing life to the space and evoking responses, comfort, senses, control, and movement in people’s lives. Nasar and Auguctin (2007) acknowledge that the felt visual attributes of built environments have powerful impacts on human experiences.

Designers are acutely are of the thin line between clothing and interior design. Miguel Adrover, an American, Spanish-born fashion designer, is one such artist who integrates the unexpected recontextualization strategy. In one instance, he came across a fabric that had been salvaged for a mattress belonging to the late Quentin Crisp. Aware of the rich history of the fabric, Adrover transformed the fabric that had now been worn by stains into a tailored coat that resonated with the personal and public life of its former owner (Koda and Bolton, 2008).  The narrative behind the fabric and the memory of its owner, calls to mind the ‘Romantic cult of ruins….’ (Evans, 2003, p. 257). It is also a testament to the fact that amidst what remains of ruin or refuse, any keen looker will almost always salvage something of value that will in turn revive identity and evoke memories. It is also a further indication that dirt as we know it is an ideation of mind because whereas it could be rubbish to one person, it might actually be a goldmine for an artist who specialises in salvaged items (Douglas, 1984).

The lack of a degree or formlessness need not be a bother. Even in a minimalist space, a single poster, china pot, or plant is all that is needed to gather presence or evoke fond memories.

Miller (2008) opines that just like they act as spatial and material layers around the human body, dress, and the interior are influential factors in the interiority ideation that allows modern subjects to play around with self-ideation.  However, such influence is both silent and invisible, according to Sparkle (2008).

The interior, just like human life, also has a life of its own, in that they are created, lived in, and as is wont to happen, is destroyed eventually. Interior may also undergo several changes before they are destroyed, again drawing resemblance to human life that undergoes various changes before death (Massey and Sparkle 2013). What this appears to suggest is that the interior design captures the very idea of home. For example, in his book, ‘The Poetics of Space’, Bachelard (1992) explored the similarities between the self-definition of the nineteenth-century bourgeois privileged way of life and the interior design of the time. The interior design thus symbolise a figure and space of a socially definite subjective development. In particular, the bourgeois’s urge to interiorize was evident in not just the types of interior decoration that they showed a preference for, but as well, how they related to the outer world. It is a reflection of the willingness of the Bourgeoisie to retreat from the outer world but still assert control over it in the form of their influence over interior decorations (Lajer-Burcharth and Söntgen, 2016).

Rybczynski (1987) opines that all of us possess a “fundamental human need for a sense of home and domestic well-being that is deeply rooted in us, and must be satisfied” (p. 217).

Accordingly, there has been a growing need over the year for the designing of a domestic interior that meets our privacy, mental, emotional, and sensory needs, amidst the growing human disconnect, largely due to a rising technologically-savvy society.  For this reason, humans endeavour to live in spaces that are a reflection of who they are (Gallagher, 2006).

The development of a sense of connectedness and by extension, promotion, and self-preservation, is thus essential, especially in the face of economic downturns, transitions, and displacements.  While an individual may find it increasingly harder to manipulate the architecture of a built environment, he/she can however change its interior design elements with relative ease (Gallagher, 2006).   For example, the mid-century style is characterised by a stylish, fun,  no-fuss, and outdoor-oriented way of living, as evidenced by the Eameses’s home (Gallagher, 2006).

According to De Botton (2006),” the mid – century case study homes were buildings that spoke of honesty and ease, of a lack of inhibition and faith in the future and reminded the owners what they longed for in their hearts” (p. 144). Accordingly, certain styles of the built environment bear resemblance with the history and the prevailing mindset of the era in question and in this way, are indicative of a “vernacular building tradition” (Gallagher, 2006, p. 24).  As a result, we are treated to pivotal thoughts, feelings, and experiences that define a very definite aspect of architecture.

Over the years, historians and architects have endeavoured to explore the manner in which spatial organisation, design, and the furnishings of specific domestic dwellings inflect and impact ideologies and/or concepts of the home (Gallangher, 2006). Their findings indicate that the spatial organisation and design of domestic dwellings such that it not only influence the social attributes of such a society but also symbolise the forms of sociality that are unique to and/or are linked to a specific historical and cultural context (Mallett, 2004). Simply put, household furnishings, technologies, and designs, enable or hinder historical and cultural modes of relating “between the people who share these spaces” (Mallett, 2004, p. 66).  Rybczynski (1987) offers a glimpse into the informal planning that characterised the Queen Anne house. According to Rybczynski, “The Victorians were faced with technical devices more innovative than our own, and

the ease with which they incorporated new technology into their homes without

sacrificing traditional comforts is instructive” (1987, p. 221). What this appears to suggest is that efficiency and convenience were key characteristic of the American home in the early 1900s.


In sum, Borzello’s ideation that we are intimately associated with the domestic interior in the same way we feel close to our clothes is a clear indication that the house and in particular, the home, personifies the psyche, body, and the self.  The silent and invisible influences of interior design undergo a life cycle as do humans and in many ways, depict the feelings, and ideas of the people occupying these dwellings. For example, the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie the desire to interiorize was manifested in their choice of interior decoration and their relations with the outer world. Similarly, the mid-century style was outdoor-oriented and this evokes memories of a fun mode of living.


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London and Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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Crisp, Q., 1981. How to Become a Virgin. London: Fontana.

De Botton, A., 2006. The Architecture of Happiness. Vintage International.

Douglas, M., 1984. Purity and danger. London: Ark. Evans, C., 2003. Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity, Deathliness. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Gallagher, W., 2006. House Thinking. Harper-Collins Publishers.

Harold, K., Bolton, A., 2008. blog.mode: addressing fashion. [Online].

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Nasar, J., and Augustin, S., 2007. Visual Quality by Design. Conference Paper for NeoCon World      Trade Fair.

Perolini, P.S., 2011. Interior Spaces and the Layers of Meaning. [Online].

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Rybczynski, W., 1987. Home: A Short History of an Idea. Penguin Books.

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