Nathaniel Davis

Vulgar Chic: A Dissident’s Guide to Dictator Interior Design

If you happened to be a dictator, how would you design your office? Well, there are some important design basics you should be aware of.


“Have you seen the inside of Trump Tower? It’s late Gaddafi, the decor, or perhaps early Saddam. It’s a riot of vulgar dictator-chic.” —Ian Hislop


The changing of the guard in the white house has brought in a man whose taste in massive gold-plated doors prompted the above comment. In my opinion, we may be entering a golden age of dictator-chic. The operative word being “golden.”

So, dearest friends, I will ask you to come on an adventure with me. If you can, close your eyes and imagine that you have just successfully won an election/abolished parliament/placed the prime minister on indefinite leave. You finally get to build your palace. This is the moment your whole career has been building towards.

The inside of Trump Tower. Ack, my eyes. (Business Insider)

Finally you have an opportunity to mobilize the forces of your entire nation to realize that fantasy house you wanted as a child but never got. Time is of the essence: unless you creatively squander over half your country’s GDP on light fixtures, no one will take you seriously, and your throne is at risk. And if Trump’s cabinet choices hint at anything, it’s that the trend for 2020 is GDP worn on the outside.

So what do you build? Here are a few pointers:


1. Turn to Your Inner Core of Sycophants
One of the main tenets of dictator-chic is that, since no one dares contradict you, you are basically your own interior decorator, architect, and folk muralist.


2. Less Is More, but More Is More-r
Your team will endeavor to find out what you like, then compete to see who can cram the most of it into their designs. That’s presumably how Mobutu ended up with a triple cascading main staircase.
Added bonus: the longer the staircase, the longer they have to applaud you as you descend it. Expect Trump to slow that lobby escalator down to a crawl. The speed of the escalator is inversely proportional to his current level of insecurity.


3. Self-Portraits
The whole nation follows you. Its walls are your personal Instagram feed. So, what do you put up on your own walls? Pictures of you feeding the masses and killing the enemies and definitely not conflating the two.

Hint: avoid depicting yourself as a national folk hero from the past. They dress funny. It’s hard to look the inscrutable face of power whilst wearing a really rather far-out hat. CF: Saddam as Saladin.


4. Art
What kind of art can you hang to impress even the most seasoned art critic? Wait, you had them all hanged instead. And people say you’re not a poet. So, be like Saddam and hang framed Masters of the Universe fan art in your palace. Express that inner yearning to be He-Man, so others can imagine you wondering how well you’d fare against Greyskull and how you totally deserve that enchanted amulet.


5. Gold-Plating, the Fun Never Ends
The word “can’t” isn’t in the goldsmith’s repertoire. You name it, he’ll plate it. Chairs, doorknobs, your first AK-47, dental floss …


6. Statues
Of yourself, obviously. Not to scale. A fun variation is: so many whitewashed clay Grecian nudes, your front lawn will look like the long lost Terracotta Orgy. Also, fun for hide and seek. And anything that is fun for hide and seek will come in handy fighting a coup d’etat.


7. Stuff That Says “I Kill Shit”
Let your inner hunter loose: guns on your walls, hunting trophies in your office. You can go for the Hitler Mahogany Jagermeister aesthetic, or the Mobutu’s Discount Leopard Skin Emporium look. Just remember you are the alpha male, the daddy of all creation, and that involves, as Idi Amin included in his title: “lord of all the beasts of the earth and fishes of the sea.”


8. Take a Crack at Versailles
Everybody knows Versailles, but not everyone knows it as a fundamentally minimalist missed opportunity for real class. That is, everyone but you. Palace to beat: Peterhof.


9. Toilets?
Of course, everybody poops, but they can’t know that you do. Or at least not like everyone else. Gold Plating to the rescue! With his sidekick: Marble. Those two will create a toilet atmosphere of such pervasive truth and authority that it will seem even your kidney stones get passed with laws inscribed on them.


10. Be Introspective
With unchecked power and a desire for safety, you are effectively a petulant baby trying to recreate an idealized womb. That is the essence of many a mansion. So, when in doubt, just imagine you are constructing the Freudian maze of a man-child attempting to intimidate his father, re-enter his mother, and denounce anyone who gets in the way to the CIA.


So, there you have it, a few scattered building blocks to inspire you to build the tacky palazzo of your dreams. Dream away, and may our dreams of opulence legitimize their misrule.


Nathaniel Davis

Nathaniel Davis is a hairy, neurotic writer based in Toronto. He has recently turned 30 and abandoned his dreams of world domination. He now focuses on analyzing the people who won't. He writes weekly on

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