Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ugly Furniture Theory

Sometime last year, they renovated the faculty lounge at my college. The lounge is much more pleasant than it used to be, with sturdy and surprisingly comfortable new furniture. There's just one problem: the furniture is all ugly as sin. Burnt oranges and olive greens fused in hideous herringbone patterns. Really, truly awful.

Does the person who made the purchases have really lousy taste? Maybe. But thinking back, I realize that I've hardly ever seen attractive furniture in faculty lounges, dormitories, and other institutional settings. This is a general phenomenon. And I don't think it's just cost-cutting, because as I said, the furniture in question is sturdy and comfortable.

So why is institutional furniture ugly? Here's my hypothesis: Theft deterrence. Furniture in these semi-public areas can be easily stolen. But the offensive color patterns assure that the furniture will match hardly anyone's home decor. This is much cheaper than chaining the furniture to the ground, posting guards, or ordering new furniture any time something gets stolen.

4 comments:

Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

Pics plz.

Gregory Newman said...

Additional hypothesis:
Truly, shockingly ugly furniture may also deter lingering. Ironic, of course, considering this room is designed to be a lounge...

Tom W. Bell said...

Puke-colored patterns help to hide stains, too.

Anonymous said...

I went to IKEA a while back, and I fell for the cheap throw pillows. Out of all the possible choices, I gravitated toward the burnt orange and olive green pillows! I thought they would look good with my dark brown leather sofa (also purchased at IKEA). Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Is theft deterrence an ethical reason to go for the hideous? Isn't that like collective visual punishment for the pilferring tendencies of a few lowlifes?

Where does our sense of taste come from, anyway? My neighbor clothed her five-year-old daughter in a frilly pink dress and gave her a pink barbie-doll bicycle for her birthday. THAT made me want to puke. Isn't doing that to your young kid a form of child abuse? Jon Benet Ramsey was usually dressed up like a doll-like prissy miss and look what happened to her!