The Seventies and early Eighties were the Golden Age of kitsch. In the Sixties, designers were too concerned with breaking through and making a mark - and in the Nineties, practically everyone wanted to sleek up and look expensive and relevant, so it was a deeply unfashionable look in the dot.com dawn.
Kitsch slides easily into camp (but isn't all gay) and into retro, yet a lot of retro design takes itself terribly seriously and isn't remotely kitsch. What proper kitsch interior design should be is terribly cheap, fantastically cluttered and garishly bright. It's the opposite of the museum-quality, Less is More, subtle tone-on-tone view of life. The real kitsch interior is an agglomeration of old nonsense, picked up for nothing from markets, skips and jumble sales. They'll be things from an earlier age of kitsch production: Fifties and early-Sixties cheap chainstore stuff; tourist ephemera; party favours; things from less design-sophisticated countries (Catholic piety rendered in plastic and plaster is especially compelling). Kitsch interiors are accumulated by people whose crucial experiences were in the Seventies and early Eighties. They're often put together by two gentlemen sharing, who work at the more outre end of design-land, for instance the celebrated French couple Pierre et Gilles.
Through the brutalities of the late Eighties - and on - the original kitsch-loving classes have kept the faith in the redeeming qualities of a more innocent age of popular culture. An age of mawkish or lurid popular art (Bambi or Tretchikoff), Fifties cheesecake and beefcake studio photography (Jayne Mansfield, Tab Hunter), original 1950s splay-legged furniture with excitable laminate furnishes, and old white and brown goods - big curvy fridges, huge stoves with masses of dials, spacey tellies in bright orange casings. This strand of taste, so new in Art School interiors of the early Seventies, is now period, a loveable time-warp.
I've always been rather snobby about kitsch interiors, the fetishising of old rubbish, the heavy-handed irony. But the sight of precious expensive new design tip-toeing towards kitsch with curly-wurly wallpaper or overwrought irony makes you want to welcome the real thing back. Its practitioners - national treasures like Zandra Rhodes or Andrew Logan - may have been clever-dick art-school, but they loved it. And bought the lot for 30 bob.
Jim and Alan's house pictured here (from Lesley Gillilan and Dave Young's book Kitsch Deluxe) has every crucial kitsch motif going. They've collected it obsessively together, re-creating a 1960s working-class East End world of Lost Content. Here's a corner-cabinet shrine centred on Tretchikoff's "Balinese Girl", above a shiny machine-gilt glass cabinet with everything going on around it. And, in 2007, I think those boys done good.
Orange walls, like shocking pink, are a crucial part of the kitsch palette. No taupe here
Original lava lamps. They started reproducing them in the late Eighties, as part of the Mass Assimilation Process (think Seventies video- promo stylings, the Smeg retro fridge)
A doll in gold lame. Lurex and lame are key fabrics. This recalls a time before Kelly Hoppen was designing for BHS and everything had been sleeked up into aspirational 'good taste'
Light-up plastic tulips. Kitsch aims to abolish the natural with the miracle of modern materials wherever possible
Plaster wall plaques with early Hollywood faces and bits of exotica (Oliver Hardy and Errol Flynn and the rest). Old Hollywood is centralReuse content