What is home? There is no generic definition for the concept of ‘home’, right? Or is there?
Jan McCullough (1991, Northern Ireland) stumbled on ‘How To Make The Home You Want’, a 1950s publication with tips – if not strong advice – on house decoration. An instruction manual for something that is, supposedly, super subjective. Home is immediately linked to things intimate and personal, the word ‘idiosyncratic’ seems to be designed for it. Yet, apparently, how it should be interiorized is also something open for debate. As McCullough soon figured out after purchasing the (rather outdated) second hand book, there are still plenty of people today who feel the urge to motivate into the absurd detail what should be done to arrive at the ideal living space. A peculiar matter worthy to be further investigated.
Googling ‘how to make a home’ resulted in finding an online platform in which self-acclaimed crackerjack consultants are more than happy to share their knowledge in the field of metamorphosing the domestic into a comfy zone. This sparked a brilliant idea in McCullough: she decided to rent a vacant apartment, completely unmarked by anything that could hint at it being homey. She would copy all the texts from the chat forum in order to carry out all the instructions meticulously and, eventually, she documented the results of that photographically.
The forum includes recommendations on rugs and cushions, obviously. On furniture. On lightning. On pets and plants, too. But there is also advice that goes way beyond anything that most of us would consider an issue when it comes to interior design: “[…] a messy Tupperware cupboard means you have a happier home than if you had a tidy one. It means YOU HAVE A LIFE!” (GadaboutTheGreat, Thu 14-Aug-14, 00:10:19). And: “drying the washing on the radiators. Smells nice but doesn’t look so good!” (schneebly, Fri 15-Aug-14, 22:59:06). Once familiarized with such comments, others on how to organize the bookshelves, where to put the bin, and problems related to ‘that one room that holds all of the items that have no real locations’ will no longer feel exotic.
Besides a plan of the house offered as an insert, the advice throughout the book is numbered and indexed in order to see which comments relate to which specific photographs of McCullough’s conscientious follow-up of the instructions – both helpful additions if not key elements of the concept. The thumbnails of the index are in black and white and rather small though, making it a bit of a challenge to recognize the images and, hence, to make the interconnection. Considering it being an essential supplement, this segment could perhaps have been presented with more prominence but the overall design of Home Instruction Manual (supported by Erik Kessels), in line with McCullough's luminous intervention, is definitely a smart visual translation of a rather off-the-wall ‘niche’ in everyday guidance.