Australia, we have a white supremacy problem.
We have witnessed with a keen eye the rise of home coveting (of which we can certainly take part blame) and ‘improvement’ to the point of fetishisation. We’ve seen the ascension of a privileged class of ‘designers’, cum lade graduates from the school of ‘I Saw You Coming’, a veritable flock of stylists over substance whose modus operandi is of very limited scope and can be best expressed in the the following terms: Antique, Vivid, Whisper & Natural. It’s time to put the brush down.
Arh! Our eyes!
As Australians we are quite rightly addicted to light. Those who have spent time in autumnal European climes will have pined for the brilliance of even a mid-winter Hobart sun. It is piercing, it is warmth, it is magnificent. Going full Trump we’ll happily state: we have the best sunlight, the best. In this knowledge and also knowing the role natural light plays as a defining feature of Modernist design, Australian Modernist homes have reaped the rewards. Other homes which have paid no heed to such elemental foundations and which continue to rise today in greenfield estates across the nation have instead embraced white as a way to bring extra light into the build. Refreshing older modest or mediocre homes generally involves a paint over of white. Thousands, perhaps millions, of kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms have been de-dagged with white tiles, paint and surfaces. To this end and within trend, this is maybe not such a bad thing. The bad thing occurs when white takes over. When it becomes the default. When not only average homes are snowed under, but also those with beautifully considered places of shadow and dark. Where cheap and nasty surfaces smother and destroy original raw brick, natural timber and coloured tile because of lazy, mass-market ideas about white supremacy, instead of carefully considered concepts of dark and light and material interplay.
34 Yarraville Rd, Kew (a Robin Boyd Home deformed into unrecognisable white space)
The plain truth is we are starting to have our retinas burned by blanc. Cosy spaces of depth being turned into Wonkavision studios. Elegant rooms ever changing with the sun’s rotation transformed into static labs. White is clean and sleek but it can also be cold, impractical, hard and above all, not the intent of the original architect and/or owner. Sometimes it’s just not the vibe and should it never be forced, and right now we believe it requires en masse restraint.
Fern Tree House by McGlashan Everist (c.1969) illustrates gorgeous dark and light and the irrelevance of white interiors.
Light is essential and the use of white in interiors can be magical but trends come and go, materiality plays a role and darkness is not something to shunned out of hand. We like to see those who call themselves professionals and/or ‘influencers’ in the world of home and interior design check themselves, understand the nuance of white and dark and work to curb the white walkers mindless advance. What say you Modernist Australians?