; ; 20 Apr 2017

The Disappearance of the Wardrobe?

A postmodern study of contemporary domestic storage by Sophie Châtellier.

This article is part of  the publication ‘Sooner, or Later’. [1]

Design by Sophie Châtellier, Hanna Schrage and Thomas Dodds

This historiographical essay attempts to trace the history written on and around domestic storage practices in recent years (roughly from the 1980s until 2015). Through the research conducted for this essay it appears that the design historical practice has largely remained disinterested in storage objects such as wardrobes or inbuilt closets. In contrast, literature in popular press about ‘organising’ one’s life and ‘tidying up’ has multiplied in the past twenty years, and large corporations capitalise on our increased need to keep a sense of control over our often overwhelming amount of material possessions.

Visual Communication student Hanna Schrage has collaborated with me to produce a textual reflection on the contemporary concern about storage and organisation – both in a literal as well as a metaphorical way. Taking apart advertisements of major furniture and household wares sellers, the poet Thomas Dodds created a lyrical patchwork of fragments of contemporary language about storage and organising lifestyles for us. The graphic layout of the text itself, reflects on the organising aspect of graphic design – as a skill which in itself, is essentially that of organising texts and images. Just like the poem, the graphic form of the text gets confused, it’s meaning harder to access by the line, and at the end becomes sparse and fragmented.

 Sooner, or later is a collection of visual essays by History of Design MA students at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal College of Art. The submissions reflect and refract the research undertaken for an historiographical essay in spring 2016. This project was developed in order to push the boundaries of the essay format through collaboration with other schools at the RCA. The essay brief invited students to write a critical historio­graphy of design change in a category of objects or a design process. The brief tested the ability to: identify patterns of historical change; evaluate different explanations for change; and analyse the social, cultural, gendered, ideological and technological reasons for design change. Sooner, or later is an unbound, risograph-printed publication in burgundy and fluorescent pink. Contributors were given 0.25 square metres, or two sides of A3, with which to cultivate and interrogate their historio­graphical research. Most of the visual essays are the result of collabo­rations with other students at the Royal College of Art.

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