The Undecorate Movement - The IKEA Effect at its Finest?

The internet is an amazing wealth of entertainment. 


I once heard that if you looked hard enough you could find an “ism” to describe damned near any sort of “condition”.  Considering the Internet’s involvement in everything from music selection to medical diagnosis it is no surprise the number of “isms” that have been created in recent years.

Think of a phobia.  Find it’s Latin nomenclature.  Add “-ism” to the end. 

There you go.  You now have a new mental illness.  Then again, I don't personally need to make up any mental illnesses; my other personalities will tell you I have enough real ones.

If you didn’t already know that, you’re obviously not following me on Twitter.

Anyway, I was recently forwarded a link to an article on NPR (my favorite bunch of non-biased crazies!)(click here for original article) that addressed what I think may become my new favorite “ism”.  Designers, you’ll probably agree that this one is not only interesting but that its diagnosis can be an endless source of frustration during the design process.

The Ikea Effect. 

Granted, it isn’t an “ism” per say but it is pretty close to being a mental illness.  There is a rumor that the American Psychiatric Association is going to include it in their next guide to “Crazy Reasons People need Prozac”.  Don’t fact check me, but I believe that to be a real guide.  Just sayin’.

The whole idea behind The Ikea Effect, at least according to a marketing professor at Tulane University, is that because your self-assembled (albeit probably badly assembled) piece of flat pack mastery is a product of your very hands, the fruit of your …er…loins, you’re more apt to fall deeply, passionately in love with the result.

Crazy right?  But seriously, who HASN’T felt an attachment to a piece of *fill in the blank * that you put together yourself?  Admit it.  You know I’m right.

Needless to say, all of this flatpacked goodness got me thinking – could this be why the Undecorate Movement has become the current decorating fad en vogue?  Let me preface by saying that I’m all for taking the bull by the horns and going balls to the wall if you so choose – putting together your own design concept and making it a reality.  Really, I don’t mind. 

And once you take out the “bad for business” mentality that the Undecorate Movement carries within the design industry, you’re only left with one other problem.  It’s probably the biggest of the biggies, really.  And it revolves around the whole premise that because we have all of our own strengths and weaknesses, it’s probably best to admit when you, as some of my gay brethren have stated, “just weren’t born with that gene”.  What is it that makes people admit to killing plants (ie: don’t have a green thumb) quicker than a cat at the sound of the can opener, but deny to the nth degree that they couldn’t put together a color scheme to save their life as if the the 50's called asking for Commies and denial was equated to treason? 

Was that metaphor too long?  Too bad.


If you don’t already know, the premise behind the Undecorate Movement is that one doesn’t necessarily need to create the next cover of Architectural Digest to create a lovely living space.  That there is, as author Christiane Lemieux puts it, a “no rules-approach” to decorating that does not involve “stuffy, professionally designed décor”.  As much as I love Ms. Lemieux, the whole idea is flawed and lacking because, at least according to Merriam Webster, to decorate is to simply “furnish with something ornamental”.  Basically even the most undecorated of homes is still…you know where I’m going with this… decorated.

And more so, even the most apt of interior designers can put together a scheme that gives the guests of your home the impression that you just don’t care.  Yeah.  I said that too.

So what’s the problem and how does it all tie back into this idea of the Ikea Effect?  The answer is this: putting together a piece of furniture from a big box blue store with nothing more than a weird looking piece of hardware and a bottle of wine is no different than spending a weekend combing flea markets and home décor stores to put together a design aesthetic of your own.  Both are labors of love (most of the time) and are a product of your own hard work, sweat, and drunken tears. 

Both may not necessarily look good.  Both may not necessarily last generations.  And both may garner horrible looks and jarring comments from friends and family.  But both are truly a result of something that you’ve labored to put together.  In every essence of the word.  And in that, quite possibly a sense of accomplishment and self-worth (ever hear of self esteem?). 

Even if your living room now looks like it was decorated by a wild boar, a 3-year old, and the guys at Lowes.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?  

Photos are courtesy iStock.  I paid for their use so don't be a douche
and copy & paste.  K?