How to decorate so people think you’re amazing

A recent survey of the sort that retailers conduct to make us think about the products they sell found that 48% of Australian men have placed items in their bedroom with the explicit intention to impress prospective sexual partners.

This number almost surprised me, because it would suggest that as few as 52% of Australian men are thoughtless boors. Except that this figure is challenged by the additional information that the items left out to try and impress prospective partners included surfboards and medals, both of which are entirely wrong unless your surfboard has been sprayed by Banksy or your medal is displayed for reasons of irony, because you won the medal for Being A Li’l Aussie Trier (Despite No Conspicuous Merit At Anything) in Year Two. It’s probably also okay if you’re a war hero or Olympian.

The same survey found that 28% of Australians have been put off a prospective partner by the state of their bedroom, which is also somewhat intriguing because it implies that the number of people who hook up and head back to some rando’s place while being too smashed even to notice the bedroom is as low as 72%.

In other words, it’s worth getting the details right. Consider yourself the curator of the museum of your own life.

I learned that this stuff matters quite a few years ago, when a woman I was rather attracted to spending a great deal of time perusing my bookshelf at a party, while I pretended not to notice while suppressing an absolutely agonising volume of self-consciousness, but also remaining at a convenient distance unless she wanted to ask me any questions about my excellent taste. I don’t know whether she formed favourable conclusions – but they certainly weren’t favourable enough to get a pash.

If you’ve visited Brett Whiteley’s studio in Surry Hills, it’s full of cool stuff. His own artwork, of course, but also groovy bric-a-brac. Try applying a critical eye to your own space and ask yourself – if I died, could this house be instantly turned into a museum of me that would impress visitors for centuries to come? If not, you need to get to work.

After all, we live in a society of snap judgements, and this applies above all else to our homes. Who hasn’t felt judged when a plumber calls and, while addressing the lake of sewage that has accumulated in our living room, makes some idle comment about the poster on your wall? Yes pal, I know Pulp Fiction’s a classic film, and that’s why I put the poster there. Now make like Mr Wolf, and sort my mess out.

Since we live in a superficial society where people form instant impressions of us based on our material possessions, I’ve put together a definitive guide. Don’t make the mistake of displaying items based on your actual taste, unless your taste is so good that Wallpaper* did a shoot at yours last week. Instead, allow my highly sophisticated, thoroughly neurotic self-consciousness to inform your own.


Highbrow is good, of course, but the classic trap is to display impressive books you haven’t read. Placing something like Infinite Jest or Finnegan’s Wake on display will probably get you an impressed “ooh”, but that’s worth nothing if you have to admit that you haven’t actually read it. So make sure you skim through, or read a few reviews so you can parrot on demand. Your prospective lover almost certainly won’t have read it, and in the unlikely event that they seem not only to have read it, but genuinely understand it, they’re probably out of your league anyway.

Go for acclaimed novels which display your cultural sensitivity and global interests. And I don’t just mean books about people from other countries by white people, like Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. Include some Haruki Murakami or Fatima Bhutto or Khalid Hosseini or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on your shelf  – and make sure you at least know how to pronounce their names.

But it’s not all about Booker winners. It’s equally important to show a sense of humour. PG Wodehouse works for this, and does Stephen Fry or Colbert. Make sure you make your humour selection gender-balanced, too – the recent memoirs by Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Sarah Silverman might be a good start.


For the music you actually listen to, use a streaming service. That way nobody can judge you based on your Katy Perry consumption – unless you make the mistake of having all of your selections posted to Facebook, in which case you are going to need to start this whole process from the beginning with a different partner.

Get a few CDs, or if you’re really trying hard, some vinyl. The key here is to span genres – make sure you have a bit of jazz, classical, hip hop and world music, even if your choices are fairly obvious. And spice it up with one or two records that nobody’s ever heard of that you can rave about to make it seem like you’ve got excellent taste. That’s why for a few years, I went to great effort to feign love for the Japanese girl-punk band Shonen Knife, before ultimately conceding that they weren’t worth the effort and I definitely shouldn’t have bought the t-shirt.


There’s no shame in having cheap posters if you can’t afford actual artworks – just make at least some of them are about things other than sport and/or fantasy movies. Yes, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was excellent, and so was the Tahs’ victory; but no, that doesn’t mean you need a series of posters.

And have some proper art. If you have no idea, just go to the MoMA or Tate Modern Store online and find something you don’t hate – maybe something comic-inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, for starters. And if your collection includes one of those pictures of dogs playing pool or poker, make sure it’s balanced by something amazingly avant garde so that it’s clear you were kidding.

But really – even a montage of free postcards can make it look like you have some kind of aesthetic sensibility. Just something more than, I dunno; a surfboard and medals.


Let’s make this easy. Just try and have some, some, furniture that isn’t from Ikea, Freedom or Fantastic Furniture. Even if it’s terrible and you found it by the side of the road, just pick something that distinguishes you from Edward Norton in Fight Club.

Oh, and beanbags are are an absolute no-no unless you’re in a share house and under 23.

Knick knacks

Here’s an important rule of life – whenever you go somewhere exotic, get a souvenir, even if it’s extremely cheap, just so you can talk about your travels and seem experienced. It doesn’t matter whether the thing is lame, like a snow globe or a Thai Coke can or something – you can make fun of it and show you don’t take yourself seriously while secretly taking yourself incredibly and painfully seriously.

Your object just needs to raise the question of where you got it, which will enable you to launch into a travel anecdote and there’s nothing your guest can do because they asked.

In conclusion

Please note that I haven’t included any of the items I currently display in my house to make people think I’m brilliantly erudite and live a fascinating life of gallivanting around the globe like some kind of Santa who delivers laughs and penetrating insights instead of presents. That’s because I don’t want anybody copying them. Instead, copy my technique, and you’ll be impressing people in no time.

Just don’t forget the most important rule, which is to make your carefully cultivated collection of stuff designed to present you in the best possible light look like some old flotsam and jetsam you’ve randomly cobbled together because you’re too busy being awesome to put any thought into how your place looks.

And when your guest is impressed by the article you’ve placed there for that explicit purpose, for goodness’ sake – feign surprise.

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