Armagideon Time

You bric it, you brac it

November 14th, 2019

In Victorian times, members of the newly minted bourgeoisie would express their prosperity by decking out their domiciles in the style of a TGI Fridays. Every surface, patch of wall, or cozy corner had to be crammed with a bewildering assortment of knickknacks.

What began as a curated clutter of somewhat valuable objets d’art soon turned into a wider phenomenon, as less fortunate folks sought to emulate the smart set’s affectations with mass produced curios aimed at giving an aura of store-bought sophistication on the cheap.

The trend eventually ebbed, as these things tend to do, only to resurface half-a-century later in another era of material prosperity and conspicuous consumption. This also happened to overlap with a bout of market-driven nostalgia which attempted to triangulate itself between Gilded Age opulence, Roaring Twenties hedonism, and frontier period rustic modes. Being a kid in those times meant the homes of every older relative resembled a folksy fusion of Holly Hobby’s front room and a burlesque bordello.

And when said relative died or downsized their post-retirement digs, there’d be a mad rush among the younger folks to lay claim on the assortment of “antique” globes or swords or dueling pistols collecting dust in the den. Discovering how flimsy and cheapjack the items were became an important life lesson, how the long coveted stuff of dreams was actually cobbled together from flimsy sheets of tin, particle board and paste. (It was a lesson also learned at home, after some constant yet function-free fixture fell victim to misadventure caused by rough play.)

Despite the dubious provenance of its artifacts, it’s an aesthetic I sincerely miss. There’s something cozy and comforting about it which is sorely lacking in spaces kissed by “konmari.” Combine it with the scent of a stew cooking and the stuffiness of steam radiator heat, and it fills me with a comforting sense of “home” as a home should feel.

It’s something I prefer to evoke with my own mix of family heirlooms and significant curios, however. The pre-fab crap does evoke some bit of nostalgia, but the off-the-rack impersonal aspect of it does little for me. Plus the shoddiness of that shit makes it difficult to score outside of estate sales, where more often that not it will be coated in a grimy layer of dust mixed with tobacco tar.

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8 Responses to “You bric it, you brac it”

  1. Sir A1!

    Today if you had some of this junk next to some Ikea pre-fab furniture, you could cosplay Kirk’s apartment from WRATH OF KHAN.

  2. Jason

    Wow! Those drink mixing sets in the second to last image! The golf clubs and mini rifles on a tiny gun rack! The little car! Incredible.
    I didn’t have any relatives or friends with this kind of stuff, but I do get a “Bewitched” vibe from most of these items.

  3. Zeno

    Admittedly, it all looks so much more appealing when it’s removed from the flimsy cardboard packaging that otherwise screams “Straight Outta Shenzhen”.

  4. Sol Bermann

    Oh I miss those glass grapes!!

  5. Jon H

    Nailed it.

  6. EAG46

    If you ever saw the Britcom “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin” he referred to this stuff as “grot,”or hostess gifts for hostesses you didn’t really like.

  7. E.T.Smith

    This stuff always gave off a vague vibe of tragic desperation to me. Props meant to give the impression of a more prosperous and adventurous life, as if a machine-pressed pewter flagon would convince anyone the owner had any sort of history with the “old country,” or distract from the reality of the suburban bungalow it sat in. There will always be a market of people who want to believe they can buy authenticity.

  8. DensityDuck

    Haha, I think I used to have some of that stuff! Those little globe bookends look particularly familiar. I think it was rescued stuff from when we moved into my great-grandmother’s former house in my early childhood, and it had been there for the same reason; that was just how you decorated in those days, bric-a-brac all over everything, none of it with any meaning or relevance to your life beyond “I bought this”.

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