The West Indian Front Room: Reflections on a Diasporic Phenomenon

Michael McMillan

“The floors are carpeted, often with the high pile carpet locally termed ‘plush’. The furniture consists of thick foam-based seats covered in a fake velvet, arranged in sets of one or often two couches, plus armchairs often providing upholstered seating. . . . The maroon of the upholstery may be picked up in curtains, carpets, coverings for tables, artificial flowers such as roses and countless other decorations, amounting to a general ‘any colour as long as it’s maroon’ principle, or its equivalent in gold/brown arrays. Artificial flowers are extremely common, often set into elaborate arrangements with perhaps half a dozen examples within the living room. There is a buffet which is a glass-fronted cabinet filled with china and glassware. It may also have internal lining of white or maroon plush. Wall decorations will be dominated by a machine-made tapestry with a religious theme, such as the Last Supper . . . prints of oil paintings with gilt surrounds. . . . Prints with a West Indian theme would very rarely be found in the normative living room.”1

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