Let's tell the truth, growing up in or around the township meant you were surrounded by a fusion of colours in a house. There was always a kitchen unit that was yellow or pink and very plastic-ey; a chair that didn't seem to fit into the colour scheme of the furniture that belonged to your grandfather; and mismatched dining chairs in the room that served as a lounge, dining room, a bedroom for your uncles and male cousins and sometimes a campsite - during weekends when all the family came to visit – surprisingly. And it was never cool not to have uniformity or balance, but it was homely – there was a story behind every piece of furniture.
The first thing your mother did when she started working was to buy your grandparents a matching dining-room suite. Why - because matching furniture meant that you had money and class, something black people were never allowed to consider during slavery and apartheid. Our homes were not untidy; until this day I have never seen homes as neat as those I grew up around. Our homes were minimal homes. It was a luxury having matching bedding and furniture or even having pedestals. And it's not that we didn't want these things, but we had to save, sometimes for a very long time to acquire them.
But lo and behold early last year I discovered that mismatched dining chairs were a design trend; not a place holder as I knew them to be. My mom is a lover of luxury goods and whenever I'd ask her when visiting friends why people didn't have fine matching leather chairs or couches like we did, she would hush me then tell me that buying a dining or lounge suite was expensive and that if people were forced to choose between style and food, they'd rather eat off the floor. Carrying this mentality, I was quite shocked to see people adorning their homes with unmatched pieces.
This is a trend. Accepted by the design world. All of the world. My eyes can actually not sink further back. Now when people hire you to be their interior decorator or designer, that means they trust your opinion (well at least I would hope so seeing that I have clients). And I can't imagine my telling you to mismatch your dining chairs unless you're trying to save money. "Okay Jane well seeing that you have R10,000 for this dining suite, let's buy two really high end chairs then sort of do the basic minimum with the rest? We can look at the Hospice for two of them then go to the Timber Factory for the other two..." Aaaaaah, I think not.
Black women are by definition the lovers and consumers of luxury goods. Ask your vintage or rather Romantic Era furniture stores, a Winston Sahd for example, who their clientele is - the answer remains the same year after year: black women. Black women will buy the most expensive furniture, often on credit, and pay it off for years just to have a beautiful home. You can attribute that to years of being unable to have beautiful homes or own homes at all. But now that we have some sort of hold in the consumption of these goods as blacks, now we are being told that the poverty we grew up around is for the ultra-rich? We romanticise poverty so much with our minimalistic homes and wardrobes. There are millions of videos on YouTube on minimalism. It's perturbing.
Vloggers who have shot to fame based on their curated simple life are annoying AF. Having five basic pieces of furniture in each room does not make you a big saver. Instead what you find is that the same preachers of this lifestyle often spend more money on these five pieces than you and I would across our home because they have the choice and means to do so. What began as the lived experience of the less-thans is now a curated experience for rich white women? Poor people have been living in bare spaces and no, these spaces have not been viewed as chic in any circle. But society is obsessed with recreating poverty: we love our minimalism; we love our CEO Sleep Out with our food trucks, warm blankets and security; we need to downsize our car to a smaller and more fuel-efficient car but ooh how perfect is the convertible Italian Fiat; and we love our mismatched furniture pieces because they are edgy.
Don't let them fool you with their pseudo barely-getting-by approach to life, these people with money will buy anything, even the daily experiences of others just with slightly better packaging.