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Culture

Never Alone Again?

Singles in Germany can forget moping around at home all by themselves. New wallpapers and music CDs have recently hit the market, designed to make them forget their loneliness.

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"Single Tapete" wallpaper is designed to offer trouble-free company for lonely hearts.

Living alone can be a real drag. Then again, so can having a roommate. They leave dishes in the sink, play earsplitting music and they always seem to want to watch the wrong TV programs.

Two young German interior designers think they've come up with the perfect solution: two-dimensional wallpaper roommates. They're always there with a friendly smile, but minus the unpleasant side-effects of actually having to share an apartment with a real person.

Single-Tapete Priscilla

Single Tapete Priscilla

Imagine a friendly-looking guy or an amiable woman -- someone who could be your best friend -- plastered on your wall for as long as you want. Life-size and life-like, the wallpaper people are printed on large sheets of paper set against jazzy and even sexy backdrops. They pose relaxed and cool, quietly contemplating with a glass of wine in hand, joining you in an armchair as you both stare at the boob tube or noshing on pasta in an act of gastronomic solidarity.

Just unroll two or three sheets of the paper, stick them up on the wall, and presto, you have a good-natured, good-looking flat mate to come home to, said Susanne Schmidt, 34, who came up with the concept.

Imaginary flat mates who slurp loudly

Schmidt, who studied interior design in Darmstadt, first conceived the idea when she was preparing for a wall design competition in Frankfurt together with her working partner, Andrea Baum. She told DW-WORLD she was inspired by the CD "Never Alone Again," which made waves among Germany’s singles scene last year.

The CD features soundbites such as the rustling of paper, the closing of a door, the whirring of a hairdryer and the slurping of coffee. In other words, it simulates the aural environment of having a roomie.

Gabriela Contolli, a spokeswoman for the Delta Music Company told DW-WORLD that although the "Never Alone Again" CD made by a German producer in Hamburg, was a few years old, it "attracts attention every time we get it out on the shelves."

Contolli added that the CD fit in with a growing trend of products aimed at singles at a time when there were so many of them. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office estimates there are close to 14 million singles in Germany.

Indeed, the explosive growth of singles households has spawned an entire industry catering exclusively to them. 2001 saw the first-ever industrial fair "Single World" aimed at the home-aloner in Germany. Offerings ranged from compact furniture, ready-to-swallow tablets packed with high fruit and vegetable content for the busy single, various beauty and fitness courses to funky sunglasses fitted with light-emitting diodes that promised deep relaxation from daily stress.

Even today German singles have a mind-boggling array of products to choose from. Chief among them are kitchen appliances like a 45-centimeter-high mini dish washer from Siemens that can be fitted onto the kitchen counter, a bread baking machine that can also bake just a single bread or a three-in-one multi-functional compact block that combines an oven, dishwasher and microwave for the space-strapped single household.

From the stereo to the wall

But all these gadgets and appliances only add to the feeling of being home alone. Schmidt and Baum aimed to do something to counteract that loneliness. "We thought we could visualize the 'never alone again' CD onto wallpaper," Schmidt explained.

Single-Tapete Christine

Single Tapete Christine

Schmidt and Baum found their models in cafes and among their own friends. "We just went up to likeable normal singles we observed in cafes and on the subway," Schmidt recalled. "It was important that they weren’t perfect or too good looking otherwise the wallpaper would have looked like a glossy billboard," she added.

The feel-good mate

The stick-it-on flat mates come at a price -- €160-€260 for three to five sheets. Still, offers have been pouring in from as far away as South Africa and the United States. If you’ve got the money to pony up and you’re looking for a flat mate who’s "always friendly, doesn’t smoke, watches ‘When Harry Met Sally’ for the 100th time with you, doesn’t leave his socks lying around, doesn’t argue and always remains fresh and attractive" as the single wallpaper Web site proclaims, you know where to find one. And Schmidt says the trend is picking up.

"It's incredible how many people have latched on to this," she says.

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  • Date 13.01.2004
  • Author Sonia Phalnikar
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4Yzr
  • Date 13.01.2004
  • Author Sonia Phalnikar
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4Yzr