Wit and Wallpaper: 10 of our Favourite Bon Mots about Life and Decorating

On 30 November, 1900, Oscar Wilde uttered his last words in Room 16 of the Hôtel d’Alsace in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. The greatest wit of his time is said to have quipped, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us must go.”

True or not, the wallpaper won. In the final analysis however, for a man who spent his entire life defending beauty – to the point of using his last, laboured breath to insult what right then, in extremis, constituted all the ugliness in the world – there can be no defeat. It is not enough merely to set oneself against the cruel, unsightly and monotonous; one must do so with style. No wonder then that, whether in service of advice or invective, clever observation or personal lament, interior design has always had a parking space at the intersection of wit and the human drama. Here are our nine other favourites:


She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her constructions, and never condescended to construct a decoration.

– Anthony Trollope

Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.

– Charles M. Schulz


Surely there must be some way to find a husband or, for that matter, merely an escort, without sacrificing one’s privacy, self-respect, and interior decorating scheme.

– Barbara Ehrenreich


Reginald sat in a corner of the Princess’s salon and tried to forgive the furniture, which started out with an obvious intention of being Louis Quinze, but relapsed at frequent intervals into Wilhelm II.

– H.H. Munro


I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.

– Oscar Wilde


One should never be the oldest thing in one’s house.

– Patsy Stone


Pictures deface walls more often than they decorate them.

– William Wordsworth


Concerning the difficult question of colour, it is safe to say that the fewer the colours used in a room, the more pleasing and restful the result will be. A multiplicity of colours produces the same effect as a number of voices talking at the same time. The voices may not be discordant, but continuous chatter is fatiguing in the long run.

– Edith Wharton


I found that I had become so spinsterish that I was made neurotic not only by my life of domesticity but by the slightest derangement of my room. I would burst into a fit of weeping if the kettle was not facing due east.

– Quintin Crisp

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