UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families Working Paper No. 64 2007
Aesthetics are an important and understudied element of household modern material culture, especially in regard to today’s urban residential interiors. This paper examines the aesthetics demonstrated in 13 contemporary middle-class Los Angeles County houses headed by dual-earner parents with at least two children. Data were gleaned from self-narrated, videotaped home tours that each of the family members provided, as well as from other video footage and still photographs. Thematic aesthetic preferences emerged from the data. These themes include a proclivity toward sentimental or “powerful” art, premeditated modification and personalization of objects and spaces, a preference toward brightly lit and large areas, and a tendency toward carpeting only private spaces within the house. Household aesthetics can be conceived as an ever-evolving series of processes with no specifically defined goal of culmination; like specific artifacts, aesthetics have a life history of their own. Furthermore this paper shows how children tend to mimic their parents’ aesthetic preferences, as indicated by self-reportage in the home tours.