Our Interiors, Ourselves – Afternoon Light

OUR INTERIORS, OURSELVES

Reflections on the Ultrafragola mirror and furniture as identity.

Designed in 1970 by Ettore Sottsass, the $12,000 Ultrafragola mirror remains one of the most buzzworthy home decor items for luxury living. Blame selfie culture.

You’ve seen the wavy pink mirror in your feed – the Ultrafragola (“ultimate strawberry”), glowing from the inside with LED lights, vaguely labia-like, and almost always the frame of a selfie with a few thousand likes. Lena Dunham has one of the mirrors. So do Frank Ocean, Bella Hadid, and Sophia Amoruso. A selfie in the $12,000 mirror has become as “Instagram” as latte art.

History of the Ultrafragola Mirror
The Ultrafragola was designed in 1970, before Instagram was even a twinkle in Kevin Systrom’s eye. It was the creation of Ettore Sotsass, the Italian architect who went on to establish the Memphis Group -- the design and architecture collective that inspired a movement away from what was traditionally considered “in good taste” and toward dramatic color, shape, and patterns like stripes and squiggles. Memphis design, simply characterized and amplified by aesthetic archetypes of the '80s and early '90s (think Saved By The Bell), was groundbreaking, polarizing, and undeniably cool in its beginning.

Ultrafragola, what gives?

The Sotsass mirror is also cool. It’s feminine, weird, and six-feet tall. It glows. It is simultaneously everywhere and hard to get your hands on. It’s both vintage and futuristic. But why the mirror’s popularity now, a good five decades after its conception? And why, specifically, its Instagram popularity?

The pace of “moments” in home decor is picking up (matching step with its restless cousins, Fashion and Beauty), and Instagram coupled with the stay-at-home mandates of the global COVID-19 pandemic have played a big role in its new cadence. On Instagram, we present our private lives – however we furnish them – as the backdrop for our own personal brands. We’re influenced by a constant stream of images, like a tiny hall of mirrors in the palm of our hands, wherein even the most mundane details of our lives become aesthetic data points.

These days, the way we decorate our homes is how we present ourselves, perhaps even more than fashion and a logical next step beyond the accumulation of rare sneakers and It bags. When it comes to personal identity, especially in this age of constant visibility, it is alluring to strike a note between “strange and off-kilter,” and “established and out-of-reach.” In other words, to be authentic but never vulnerable. To be interesting but never controversial. To be cool but never first. To have your cake and eat it, too.

Just as postmodern design pushed playfully against the minimalism of modernism, we seek to bring the flavor of human messiness to our two-dimensional online worlds, but not so much messiness that we are actually perceived in any real way. Enter: a beautiful, strange, tongue-in-cheek, $12,000 mirror with a storied design history that somehow makes perfect sense, with a perfect aesthetic right now. A way to say, “this is my home” and “this is me,” with one perfectly framed selfie. A way to see ourselves, show ourselves, and protect ourselves, in one fell swoop. And maybe, that’s what home decor is all about.

Words by Mary Click
Image courtesy of "Mobili grigi", Ettore Sottsass, Jr., 1970