Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Adolf Loos' Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays

8. The Interiors in the Rotunda (1898)

In my last report I made some truly heretical demands. Neither the archaeologist, nor the interior designer, nor the architect, nor the painter, nor the sculptor should furnish our apartments. Who should do it, then? The answer is quite simple: Every man his own interior designer.

That means, of course, that we will not be able to live in such ‘style’ any more. But that ‘style’, style in inverted commas, is no longer necessary. What is that ‘style’ anyway. It is hard to define. In my opinion the best answer was given by the worthy lady who said that if you have a lion's head on the bedside cabinet, and the same lion's head is on the sofa, on the wardrobe, on the beds, on the chairs, on the washstand, in a word, on every object in the room, then that is style. Word of honor, craftsmen of Vienna, have you not done your best to encourage the spread of such ridiculous opinions among the public? It didn't have to be a lion's head, but there always had to be something molded onto the furniture, be it a column, a boss, a balustrade, sometimes elongated, sometimes shortened, sometimes thickened, sometimes slenderized.

These rooms tyrannized their poor owners. Woe betide those unfortunates who dared to buy some additional item! Their furniture refused to accept anything else near them. If one was given a present, one had nowhere to put it. And if one moved, and one's new home did not have the same room sizes, then farewell to ‘style’ for good. One might even, horror of horrors!, have to put the German renaissance settle-cum-dresser in the blue rococo drawing room, and the baroque cupboard in the Empire sitting room. How terrible!

How fortunate, by comparison, was the stupid peasant, or the poor laborer, or the old spinster. No such problems for them! No ‘style’ in their homes. One thing came from here, another from there, all mixed up together. But just a minute! The painters, whom we had thought of as such paragons of taste, when they did paintings of interiors, ignored our magnificent apartments and painted the homes of the stupid peasant, or the poor laborer, or the old spinster. How can anyone find such things beautiful? For, as we have been taught, the beauty of an apartment lies in its ‘style.’

But the painters were right. They who, thanks to their trained and practiced vision, have a much sharper eye for all outward appearances, have always recognized the superficial, pretentious, alien, unharmonious nature of our ‘stylish’ apartments. The people do not fit in with the rooms, nor the rooms with the people. And how could they? The architect or the interior designer hardly even know the person for whom they are working by name. Even if the occupant has paid for the rooms a hundred times over, they are still not his rooms. In spirit they will always remain the property the one who created them. That is why they do not, cannot appeal to the painter. They lack any inner connection with the people who occupy them, they lack that certain something which he finds in the room of the stupid peasant, the poor laborer, the old spinster: a feeling of intimacy.