Interior Desecrations by James Lileks: B+

From the back cover:
Warning! This book is not to be used in any way, shape, or form as a design manual. Rather, like the documentary about youth crime Scared Straight, it is meant as a caution of sorts, a warning against any lingering nostalgia we may have for the 1970s, a breathtakingly ugly period when even the rats parted their hair down the middle.

What does this have to do with furniture? Nothing. Everything. The kind of interior design you’ll see in these pages is what happens when an entire culture becomes so besotted with the New, the Hip, the With-It Styles that they cannot object to orange wallpaper—because they fear they’ll look square.

Please not that the author and publisher are not responsible for the results of viewing these pictures.

Lileks is the brains behind The Gallery of Regrettable Food and his site, The Institute of Official Cheer, hosts several other regular features that “humiliate the defenseless past.” I don’t always find his stuff funny, but sometimes it does amuse me, so when I found this book for $1.98, I knew it had to be mine.

The contents of the book are organized by type of room and follow the general format of a full-page color photo on one side and a few paragraphs of snark on the opposite page. It’s an easy read, and would probably be ideal bathroom material for those who like that sort of thing. As usual, I didn’t find everything funny. There were lots of drug references and some occasional crude humor that didn’t appeal to me. Every now and then, though, some particular turn of phrase or visual fancy would strike me in the right way and crack me up.

The designs were indeed genuinely horrible—inducing numerous headshakes, “wows,” and “holy craps”—and Lileks has a knack for picking out something one missed on first glance and finding something amusing to say about it. Probably the most insane room in the entire collection is the bathroom straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has silver lamé bolster pillows and two toilets.

There was one, though, that I quite liked. The furnishings were crap, but the architecture of the room was really neat. It was high-ceilinged and had an entertainment unit along a wall (boasting a state-of-the-art reel-to-reel player!) and then a ladder built into the adjoining wall that one could climb to access a library loft above. How cool is that?! I want one! Then again, I actually like the wall o’ walnut paneling in my living room, so perhaps my taste is suspect, too.

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  1. I picked up his “Gallery of Regrettable Foods” off the $5 table where I work a few years ago and haven’t regretted it. It’s still good for flipping open at random and getting a laugh. As much as I like that site, I haven’t bothered to get the other books, though. I usually wind up just reading the content on his site before I dig out my book. Unfortunately, the Dayalets are not in the book I have, which is my favorite food-oriented series on the site for the pictures alone.

  2. I remember surfing through the Gallery of Regrettable Foods when more of it was online, but now it seems that he’s mostly just got things that didn’t make it into the book. I definitely need to get that one and there’s a sequel now, too.

    I enjoy the 1973 Sears catalog part of the site, but the claim that it updates every Thursday seems to be untrue. My husband was particularly fond of the description of the ’70s as “the decade of well-ventilated shins.”

  3. OMG. I have just looked at the Dayalets.

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