Photo courtesy Flickr
Casual reading of a history of Japanese architecture revealed that in early days, the culture was divided into people who had floors and people who lived on dirt. Now and here, it takes a visit to a campground to remember the distinction, and the privilege. And also the convenience.
A family homestead cabin still has its original puncheon floor, split logs laid directly onto the soil. They were covered by genuine linoleum in the 1920s, and the puncheons are a telling and expressive history of the family, along with the peeled pole crib set into a corner of the front room. Knowing about puncheon construction makes sense of the occasional incomprehensible period floor that doesn’t feel like anything one’s ever walked on before.
Early days as a military bride took me to many subsistence-level apartments, and the first thing I learned about making a place habitable was to get the floor in prime condition. All too often, I found a thin dirt floor laid on top of a wood one.
Family Jobs seems to make the most of its floors. Steve’s iconic photos are posed on his floor, and Isaacson’s biography includes comments on the history, and absence, of furnishing. Googling superyacht Venus brought me designer Philippe Starck’s comments about the vessel’s interior: the furniture is loose and there is nothing that is not necessary. There are no trophies posted to impress visitors. I did notice that the bridge, if that was the bridge, sports a row of six or so computer screens.
As it happens, the yacht’s appearance coincided with a floor painting project here in the ‘hood, and I am finally able to put into words what I’ve been intuiting for some years: digital culture is so rich and rewarding that it displaces most of the static furnishings that complicate cleaning and administration. While the paint dries at its leisure, I have plenty of time to meditate on what, if anything, to put back into the space that now has a pristine floor.
A side bag carries the daily necessities (phone, computer, water bottle, reading light) each of which used to demand a table and often a duplicate in another room or rooms. Now moderate ambient light suffices in a space, and I simply sling the bag over a convenient support and get to work.
Reading lights powered by solar-charged batteries have displaced several tables and lamps, allowing one featherweight tea table to serve several rooms from its home spot in the hall. More important than the absence of the tables is the absence of electrical cords, the clinging vines of housekeeping. I can now vacuum three rooms in less than two minutes, while a HEPA air filter vacuums the air.