Down in the Jungle Room

2003 - 06 - 24 Graceland , ed

Lately, I’ve been thinking about redecorating my home – and I’ve been thinking about Elvis Presley. I recalled a question someone asked me six years ago:  If you could live at any famous residence or house in the entire world for one month, which one would you pick? Without hesitating, my answer was Graceland, specifically, down in the Jungle Room. Although my answer was sincere at the time, I found it really odd.

I’ve been in love with Elvis ever since I was four years old and watched a re-run of his Comeback Special, but Elvis’ Graceland, and especially the Jungle Room, is one of the tackiest places I have ever seen – right up there with The House on the Rock in Wisconsin. The fact that the decor is the same as when Elvis died in 1977 is enough to make seeing Graceland an offensive experience for someone with “design sensitivities” – which I have. Back when I first toured Graceland in 2003 I preferred a minimalistic decorating style with a neutral palette. I barely had anything hanging on my white walls at home and I liked it that way because I felt like I could really function well in that stark environment. So, when I saw 1970s style combined with Elvis’ bizarre concept of interior decorating it really felt like a visual nightmare to me when I visited The King’s castle.

Elvis’ Graceland kitchen looked a lot like my kitchen did when my husband and I bought our 1970s split-level home in the early 90s. The green bubble glass in the cabinet doors was the first to go when we started remodeling. Then the orange floral carpeting was replaced with off-white ceramic tile, and the brown zebra-striped grained cabinets became white.  The green-orange-brown-bubbly-floral-zebra look was good enough for The King but apparently not good enough for me. Elvis also had a billiard room that was completely covered in a busy fabric that he selected. In one of his bedrooms he had a round bed that reminded me of a giant bu2003 - 06 - 24 Graceland Jungle Room ednny. But, the Jungle Room stood out to me as the most bizarre. It was Elvis’ 1970s idea of a great hangout for a
guy.  It had an African theme with animal prints, tree-like furniture, plants everywhere, a waterfall, and lots of shag carpeting – even on the ceiling. Truly tacky.

Almost every room in Graceland is a shock by today’s design standards, yet collectively, it all works, because it just feels so Elvis. I felt most at home in the completely tacky Jungle Room. I would never decorate my own home like that, so it wasn’t the decor I found so inviting in that “man room.” I also don’t think that I felt welcomed because it’s right off of Elvis’ kitchen – which really did make me feel like I was is my pre-remodeled home (in a bad way). The Jungle Room is a quirky and eccentric environment, yet inviting. I felt at home in the room because the spirit of Elvis’ hospitality lingers there. I was able to imagine Elvis inviting me to “sit a spell” with him on the African furniture while he sang to me. And I imagine that everyone who entered Elvis’ home while he was still alive felt truly welcomed in that crazy room.

I walked away from my first visit to Graceland with the understanding that it isn’t the colors on the wall, the patterns on the furniture, the type of carpeting (and whether or not it’s on the ceiling) that make a home inviting. It’s the spirit of an owner’s hospitality that decorates a home and makes guests want to return.

After my visit to Graceland I began to dabble in using little bits of color in my own home. I realized that I saw color, pattern, and texture used in its scariest form at Graceland and I survived. So I assumed that trying out anything less than what Elvis did in terms of design probably wouldn’t kill me. I still have a very minimalistic look going compared to The King’s standards, but I do wish that someday I would have my house filled with so much of my hospitality that visitors would actually want to return and stay for a month because they feel so at home.

2003 - 06 - 24 Graceland Julie and Elvis, ed
“Thanks for your hospitality, Elvis. I’ll be back.”


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