The state of the art revelations of the psychology of taste can help us to escape from the two great dogmas of aesthetics:
• the view that there is only one acceptable visual style
• that all styles are equally valid.
A DIVERSITY OF STYLES IS A NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE MANIFOLD NATURE OF OUR INNER NEEDS.
It is only logical that we should be drawn to styles, that speak of excitement as well as calm, of grandeur as well as cosiness, given that these are key polarities around which our own lives revolve. Our sensitivity to our surroundings may be traced back to a troubling feature of human psychology:
to the way we harbour within us many different selves, not all of which feel equally like ‘us’ so much so that in certain moods, we can complain of having come adrift from what we judge to be our true selves.
Unfortunately, the self we miss at such moments, the elusively authentic, creative and spontaneous side of our character, is not ours to summon at will.
Our access to it is, to a humbling extent, determined by the places we happen to be in, by the colour of the bricks, the height of the ceilings and the layout of the streets.
In the wasteland of run-down rooms, our optimism and sense of purpose are liable to drain away, like water from a punctured container. We may start to forget that we ever had ambitions or reasons to feel spirited and hopeful.
We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves.
We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need – but are at constant risk of forgetting we need – within. We turn to wallpaper, benches, paintings and streets to staunch the disappearance of our true selves.
We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability.
We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.
To speak of home in relation to a building is simply to recognise its harmony with our own prized internal song.
The members of the family Tugendhat, who lived in Mies van der Rohes mid-twentieth-century steel and glass pavilion may at times have drunk too much, squabbled, been insincere and overwhelmed by anxiety, but at least their buildings spoke to them of honesty and ease, of a lack of inhibition and a faith in the future – and would have reminded their owners, at the height of their tantrums or professional complications, of what they longed for in their hearts.
Our jobs make relentless calls on a narrow band of our faculties, reducing our chances of achieving rounded personalities and leaving us to suspect, that much of who we are, or could be, has gone unexplored.
Our innate imbalances are further aggravated by practical demands. We respect a style which can move us away from what we fear and towards what we crave:
a style which carries the correct dosage of our missing virtues.
That we need art in the first place is a sign that we stand in almost permanent danger of imbalance, of failing to regulate our extremes, of losing our grip on the golden mean between life’s great opposites:
boredom and excitement, reason and imagination, simplicity and complexity, safety and danger, austerity and luxury.
Viewed in this light, a given stylistic choice will tell us as much about what its advocates lack as about what they like.
We can understand a seventeenth-century elite’s taste for gilded walls by simultaneously remembering the context in which this form of decoration developed its appeal:
one where violence and disease were constant threats, even for the wealthy – fertile soil from which to begin appreciating the corrective promises offered by angels holding aloft garlands of flowers and ribbons.
We shouldn’t believe that the modern age, which often prides itself on rejecting signs of gentility and leaves walls unplastered and bare, is any less deficient.
It is merely lacking different things. An absence of politesse is no longer the prevailing dread. Life in much of the developed world has become rule-bound and materially abundant, punctilious and routine, to the extent that longings now run in another direction:
towards the natural and unfussy, the rough and authentic.
That is why we know:
»There are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.«
FORBELI Home is therefore not limited to the usual contemporary interior design solutions, but focuses on this broader range of different styles.