If you haven’t heard of the brilliant blog Unhappy Hipsters yet, you may be living under a rock — or merely too consumed by your despair in your aesthetically perfect, minimalist living room. Created by former coworkers Molly Jane Quinn and Jenna Talbott, the blog pokes fun at modern architecture and design — and the often morose subjects that seem to always inhabit the stark, uncluttered spaces featured in magazines and advertisements.
I got the chance to talk to Quinn and Talbott about their recently released book, It’s Lonely in the Modern World, which takes the ennui to new heights. Fans of the blog will be happy to find the classic photos and humorous captions from the site throughout, but what really makes this worth taking home is the effort the authors have put into making a complete disaffected-hipster guidebook, with tips on choosing between brushed or galvanized steel (spoiler: they’re the same) and how to accessorize your decor with children and pets.
Read our interview with Talbot and Quinn and find out who won a copy of It’s Lonely in the Modern World after the jump!
How did Unhappy Hipsters start?
Talbott: The magazine that we worked for was a regional home design magazine … we were always looking at other magazines to keep up on stuff, and it happened so organically. It was during a moment when we were looking at the most recent issue of Dwell to come in to the office. In the issue was a little boy all alone sitting on a staircase, just looking as miserable as can be. That was the spark.
Quinn: It was not intended to be what it became. It was a joke between Jenna and I, and it just got tweeted around within the first couple days and it went viral really quickly.
What was the adjustment like, from it being a private joke to everyone talking about it?
Q: We didn’t do any press right away because we only recently revealed ourselves as authors of the website. At the time, we were hesitant because we worked in the industry and didn’t want to jeopardize our jobs.
T: We almost went into hiding.
Q: Once it became clear that we weren’t trying to promote any agenda or promote ourselves, I think the curiosity died down and people just enjoyed the website for what it is.
T: Which is really nice! It was kind of scary when people were trying to figure out who we were.
Did any staffer at Dwell or a similar magazine respond?
Q: Yeah, a bunch of former editors emailed right away … They all really liked it. No one should take themselves too seriously, and they had a great sense of humor about it.
T: Because we were putting together a magazine in the same vein and were looking at this stuff all the time, we hit this point of exhaustion. We just started to see the same thing over again, and there seemed to be a formula for putting together that Dwell-like home. I think that’s what when people started responding to the site: they hit on the same thing, and we just happened to put it in front of them.
Q: These homes are custom homes, usually. They’re very expensive properties — even if they don’t seem so, because they’re often very minimalist — and I think there was a fine line between the self-seriousness of architecture, especially contemporary architecture, and the recession was happening. There was a certain feeling of this is not reality. And that’s what made it easy to parody.
Are there any design clichés that you are secretly fans of?
T: I do like natural textures and colors. I personally poke fun at the whole “bringing the outside in” idea of architecture, but in terms of decorating your home, that’s totally what I try to do! Like I’m living in a little woodland living room.
Q: We both love design. And you can see that in the book. I think that’s why the website succeeded: we weren’t just being mean-spirited. There was clearly an understanding there, and I think that’s what makes the book successful and the website approachable.
Are there any design books that you’d ideally want to see with It’s Lonely in the Modern World on a coffee table?
Q: I think any of the Case Study Houses books would be funny to have. It’s actually really funny because if you go on Amazon, they have that feature that shows you, “people that bought this, bought this.” Right now everyone who has bought our book has also bought Steve Jobs’ biography.
T: People have mentioned that to me, too! They find it hilarious.
Q: A lot of them have also bought the Case Study Houses books. But definitely the Steve Jobs book, there seems to be some kind of parallel thing. Maybe after you read it and you mourn his passing, you need to laugh, I don’t know.
T: You know what my theory was, Molly, was that’s because everybody is buying the Steve Jobs book.
Q: I kind of wondered that. I feel like you could look up Anna Karenina and it would be like … the Steve Jobs biography.
T: I think it would be fabulous if they were a Dwell fan, if they had our book next to their stack of Dwell, stack of other magazines, and had a certain sense of humor about it all.
Congratulations to reader Cathy, who won a copy of It’s Lonely in the Modern World with the following caption, chosen by Molly and Jenna themselves!
“Although he felt the kitchen was complete, it was with mixed emotions that Gilbert discovered this final accessory.”
If you didn’t win this time, turn that stylish frown upside down — check Unhappy Hipsters for more giveaways!
Photo credit: Dave Lauridsen