To comply or not comply?


windowtaxI’ve been enjoying the BBC programme The Great Interior Design Challenge, where  amateur interior designers competed for what turned out to be a bijou handmade dollhouse in a bell jar. It was a typical elimination game: where no decision ever quite felt fair, but no one was graceless enough to point this out.

A nice feature of the programme was that every episode starred a form of British architecture and used the down time between transformative decor to explore their origin and evolution. I found it really interesting! For instance, did you know that the term ‘brutalism’ came from the french term ‘béton bru’ meaning ‘raw concrete’?

During the final, set in two stunning Georgian townhouses in Liverpool, we learned that in order to get around window tax – where homeowners were taxed according to the number of windows in their houses – Georgian builders would either brick up certain window spaces or simply put in larger windows. And that to get around brick tax,  manufacturers produced larger bricks and houses were often built using other materials.

Both taxes were repealed in the 1850s, the latter being considered a detriment to industrial development. But this got me thinking: could we respond to the bedroom tax with intelligent interior design?

The fabulous website Ikea Hackers, where inventive and skilled individuals take Ikea staples and make them work harder, has a ‘hack’ by a couple who wanted their studio flat to enjoy a separate bedroom, without the permanency of a stud wall. The result was an ingenious sliding-door bedroom compartment off the main living space.

Perhaps we could rebel against the bedroom tax by knocking down interior walls, partitioning space with flat-pack solutions and re-evaluating what comprises a ‘bedroom’?

During the Roman occupation and the early years of Christianity, Christians would use the excuse of their religion to not take part in communal acts of religion expected of the populace. A Christian author of the time, Tertullian, observed that this non-compliance was considered by many pagans to be the reason for any bad thing that happened; a little like the recent assertions that gay marriage has led to all this flooding.

Whether Christian non-compliance led to the downfall of the Roman empire or not (spoiler: not), the fact remains that many Christians did not comply with the edicts of their political leaders. And fifteen hundred years later, tax-payers rebelled against the institution of a form of income tax without resorting to violence.

I think that sometimes it’s important to not comply. Or at least to challenge the wisdom of political decisions with a non-violent whimsy. There will always be a historical precedence to hide behind if needed.


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