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Decorating cannot be separated from the question of use, if for no other reason than because few things are so widely-construed useless. Part and partial of the historic devaluation of women’s work more generally, non-professional home decorating is often characterized as unnecessary, inconsequential, or fundamentally excessive. And yet it is simultaneously invested with a set of often incoherent promises that far exceed the carrying capacity of its constituent practices, such as the facility to express the self through one’s socioeconomically-circumscribed, culturally-specific, and mediatically-shaped taste in consumer goods. Together, this twinned aspersion and overvaluation works to obscure the character and impact of decorating as a labor that is at once productive and reproductive, material and immaterial. In turn, such representations get put to use by a wide range of actors, within contexts seemingly far removed from that of the home, and towards often surprising ends.

The Uses of Decorating comprises a collection of essays and visual material that investigate a set of normative representations of decorating and their instrumentalization within diverse economies. The introductory essay explores the economy of use within which decorating operates and is constituted, as perceptions of use or uselessness are themselves put to use for diverse ends. It is followed by three case studies from the United States: a home staging tutorial video on YouTube, an adult webcam studio in Los Angeles, and a collection of promotional media for police and military training simulators. Bridging these disparate subjects and contextualizing them within broader socioeconomic and political contexts, a primary conceptual framework of the project is that decorating is part and product of processes of primitive accumulation—or that which is not the result of capitalist production but rather precedes it and enables it—both past and present.

Interiors Agency is a research and design practice founded by Nicholas Korody that explores the contemporary interior through graphics. websites. writing. publishing. decorating. videos. home goods. furniture.