Don’t Be a Peacock

It is perfectly natural to want to show off your home after a stylish makeover. However, there are times when discretion is the better part of glamour. Like inheriting money, winning the lottery or closing a shady business deal, the last thing you want to do is brag about it to the neighbors.

Don't be a peacock about your interior design
The worst faux pas in interior design. Image © klimkin.

Put another way, while there is nothing particularly wrong with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds hiring high-priced interior designer Lulu Lytle to refurbish his four-bedroom Downing Street flat, he probably shouldn’t have taken out a secret loan from a political party to finance it. Now there is less talk about what they got for their money and more talk about who else might have gotten something for it.

Lytele, co-founder of the artisan furniture design firm Soane Britain, has charmed high society with a luxurious mix-and-match of varying colors, fabrics and patterns crowded together in the same room. Think of how your great-aunt Hilda’s house in the old part of town looked when you visited it as a child, only the lamp on auntie’s reading table cost just a bit more than the car your parents used to drive you there.

For those of us who can’t afford luxury products, it is a simple enough matter to thrift shop our way into all of the mix-and-match décor that our hearts could desire. We are already pretty good at it, as were our ancestors before us from the dawn of time. Or at least fashion time.

But what about those of us who can afford the best, most expensive custom-designed furnishings? Your unique social circumstances may include peers who aren’t as well off financially, or you entertain a social set that isn’t impressed with flashy doodads, or perhaps you are just a personally modest person who doesn’t care for ostentatious. In other words, what do we do when we can look like a million dollars, but would rather not?

In some traditional cultures, nobody flaunts their wealth because modesty is one of the foundations of social respectability. Even though modern society has a very different view of material wealth, you have probably already learned how to present yourself politely and with humility when speaking with your less prosperous peers.

So, let’s use those skills to create an interior design scheme that reflects both your ability to live amidst quality and your preference for simplicity. Here are some tips:

Emphasize craftsmanship over appearance

Far too many upscale “McMansion” homes consist of fancy-looking facades covering up a structure that barely meets local building codes. You deserve better than this.

For instance, instead of commissioning a set of trendy, custom-designed patio furniture that will win awards this year but look dated long before the upholstery wears out, buy a classic style that everyone will love year in and year out. Then invest your real money in a well-designed patio deck with the sturdiest materials, most durable engineering and greatest functionality. People are far more likely to appreciate your wealth when it’s keeping them safe and bouncy as they dance the night away.

Don’t mistake price for quality

There’s a curious difference between economic “upper” and “lower” class families. The former tend to brag about how how much they paid for their new premium artisan umbrella stand that’s all the rage, while the latter tend to brag about how little they paid for that same umbrella stand a year after it went out of fashion and hit the thrift stores.

So, don’t be the party host who practically leaves the price tags on their showpieces, just so that everyone will know that you have way too much money lying around. Look for that sweet spot in between the two extremes, where you buy quality at fair market value and express to your peers, not the money that you spent, but your luck in finding a unique item of great beauty and functionality.

Buy from who you know

When you shop for art, objects d’art or furniture, network among your friends, family and colleagues. You may be surprised at how many artists, artists and designers exist in or just beyond your social circle.

True, collecting a premium cityscape photo that was professionally shot and framed by a friend of a friend is, in a way, showing off your wealth. But it is also sharing your wealth, letting those around you know that you value them as both artists and friends.