If you responded to coronavirus by fleeing to your family home and into the arms of your ageing loved ones, its likely you’ve confronted the differences in millennial and boomer décor. We like minimalism, mid-century furniture, and mismatched plants. Your mum likes patterns, actual colour on the walls, and isn’t shy of the occasional motivational slogan. The most famous of these is undoubtedly “Live, Laugh, Love” – she of 6,000 Etsy results; she of endless walls, cushions, and mugs across the land; and now, she of many memes.
“Live, Laugh, Love” has become shorthand for basicness. Online, we mock the slogan we have come to associate with speaking-to-the-manager shallowness. The meme is now so cheap and easy that even the Daily Mail has scoffed at Live Laugh Lovers, but it’s worth noting that the slogan doesn’t even reflect current trends (from extensive research in the depths of Facebook, I can safely say the new mural fad involves putting framed pictures of your family around a stick-on wall clock). Is it time for Live, Laugh, Love to enter the counterculture? Probably not. But when a phenomenon is this universal, isn’t it worth asking: why do people like Live, Laugh, Love décor? How do the mocking memes make mums feel? And can they defend living, laughing, and loving in a way that might actually change your mind?
KIM, 51, STAFFORDSHIRE
Above a cosy brown armchair in author Kim’s living room, opposite a wall papered with a large floral print, there is a distressed wooden sign. The sign – made up of four panels and three words – means a lot to Kim, as it was something she purchased six years ago, after she split up from her partner. “I reclaimed my house for myself,” she says, “I don’t think it would’ve been his style… Us parting company made me rethink things.”
Kim can’t remember exactly where she bought the sign, she imagines it came from somewhere like B&M. “For me it was a reminder of those things that were important in life,” she explains of the appeal. Although she has a 12-year-old son, she wasn’t aware that young people now mock Live, Laugh, Love décor.
“It’s something that I just like to look at,” she says, “It doesn’t annoy me [that people mock it]. I just think with the benefit of age, perhaps you look at things differently.” Kim says the sign acts as a reminder, a “subliminal message”, to keep the mantra in her mind. “It’s like a positive affirmation every day,” she says. “It’s a reminder that we’ve got one life and we have to live it as best as we can. A friend of mine lost a daughter recently and it just reminds you that life is precious.”
CAROLINE, 56, SOMERSET
Dotted throughout breathing specialist Caroline’s home are a number of signs and statuettes emblazoned with the word “LOVE”. The word is framed above her bed, she has a heart-shaped doorstopper, and a small brass figurine is shaped like the letters. She has two matching sets of wooden hearts each featuring the words “Live, Laugh, Love” – one is used as a curtain tie, the other is hung on a bedpost.
“From a psychological point of view, what we all crave, what we all want is love,” Caroline says. When she married her second husband, 17 years after her first passed away from cancer, “Live, Laugh, Love” was written on the back of the reading cards used during the ceremony. “It was very much the message I felt, having been through trauma, drama, love lost, how precious moments are,” the mother of three says. “This was probably the turning point where I was actually quite happy to put it out there in public that this is how I want to live my life.”
Asked what she thinks of people that meme the saying, she says: “To me, it’s their issue not mine.” Like Kim, Caroline believes her décor acts as a subliminal message – “I feel that I absorb it more, feel it more, and live it more”. As her husband is a pilot and is currently stuck in Hong Kong due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caroline says the message is relevant than ever. “The fact I have these things around my home and they relate to our wedding and our togetherness helps me deal with the fact that he’s 6,000 miles away,” she says. “I think at a soul level, we are love more than anything else.”
LIANNE, 36, SURREY
“Live long, laugh loud, love life,” reads the wooden heart currently hanging from a doorknob in magazine editor Lianne’s home. She only recently hung the heart after discovering the decoration in old boxes when she was cleaning up – originally, it had been an engagement gift from a friend in 2015.
“I thought it was a nice sentiment, and I hadn’t really heard it before,” Lianne says of her reaction at the time, “They got fashionable very quickly and suddenly they were cheesy.” She originally hung the hearts on the wall in her kitchen/living room area. After a few years, she realised the slogan was mocked. “A younger colleague who’s probably in her twenties mentioned something about people having them in their houses, it was an off-the-cuff comment,” she says, “I wasn’t bothered but I did think, ‘Oh, I didn’t realise they were something to make fun of,’ I just thought they were nice, cute things.”
When Lianne moved house in 2018 she simply didn’t hang the heart again. “I was a bit embarrassed, I suppose,” she says, explaining that she didn’t like feeling as if she was part of a “fad”. Yet after being furloughed earlier this year, Lianne rediscovered the heart and hung it again. “I like them, I think they’re sweet, and I don’t think people really care – people make fun of lots of things all the time,” she says. She explains she and her husband, who have a toddler, have Disney and Marvel posters in their home. “I’m not ashamed or embarrassed because that’s who we are,” she says.