Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

The Unbearable Banality of Romance Novel Décor

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

“Sweetheart, we could strip out everything and start fresh, maintain the look outside. Go modern minimalist on the inside. White walls. Black and gray furniture. It would be so open and airy.”

Modern minimalist? Something died inside Kincaid. “You can’t be serious,” she blurted out.

Something died inside me, too, as I read these lines in Roni Loren’s romance novel The One for You. The first speaker, an Austin architect, wants to turn a gorgeous, needs-work farmhouse in Texas wine country into an urban loft. Clearly the only reasonable thing for the book’s heroine to do is buy it out from under him, protecting the house’s good bones from going the way of every fixer-upper in Waco. And thank goodness for that. I wish more characters in romance novels had Kincaid’s backbone, interiors-wise.

Romance has a serious décor problem. Contemporary romance novels, my pandemic escape of choice, provide a wide variety of settings, pairings, relationship dynamics, and even kinks. But the world of romance has settled, it seems, on a default style of interior design for its heroes. Every time I read about yet another “modern minimalist” living room—let’s just say it kills the mood.