Friday, January 4, 2013

Too Good To Use, Too Good To Hide

Photo courtesy Flickr

I am indebted to a North Dakota musician for his rejoinder to my comment about some hand spun and woven linen towels that were in my great-grandmother’s trousseau.

Last week was spent mainly in cars and public hallways. This morning I heaved my creaking bones into action, looked at my feet on the way downstairs, and realized what an elegant and sophisticated design is the toe.

Electing to live the pedestrian life was the first shot in a slow revolution at home. On one of my frequent moves during Viet Nam, I looked over the inventory and began to ask myself whether I’d still like it if I had to carry it on my back for three hundred miles. The question is devastatingly effective, even when applied to large pieces of furniture.

Several years ago, seeking space and time to do other things, I consolidated the kitchen and pantry, keeping the best cutlery, dishes, and pots and sharing the rest with family. The New Year’s visit with my son and his friends meant automatically festive tables. It was either the best or paper plates. What makes the best the best, usually, it that it is durable and does what it’s supposed to better than any other material. If it’s hidden away most of the year, one never learns that.

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Give The Poor Things A Chance

Photo courtesy Flickr

That was actress Katharine Hepburn's response to the notion of discarding cut flowers that had begun to wilt. She lobbied for another day or two on display before they were finally removed from a room. She also carried a plastic wastebasket and a pair of pruners in her car so that she could gather wild flowers when she was out and about.

Both ideas carry over into other areas. Rachel Ashwell, the taste-making author of Shabby Chic, opened many an eye to the charms of furnishings with a history. It's easy to find roving bands of hunters and gatherers even today. Check the parking lot of the nearest shopping mall.

-30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

My favorite aunt used to refer to knick-knacks as trophies. Once I read the dusting chapter in The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, England’s operating manual for the stately home, I began to think of knick-knacks as capital losses just waiting to happen. Not, in my house, capital of any significance, but it’s disheartening to contemplate demolishing a treasure in the process of trying to care for it.

Over the last twenty years, I have slowly been contracting the store of smalls to a core of things I use rather than contemplate. Things that aren’t doing something live in closed storage.

The October/November issue of Mark magazine reinforces my efforts to simplify the interior and make it more fit for production than obvious consumption. A room stripped of excess ornament with a bare floor in decent condition seems to be a contemporary benchmark. In such a case, the trophy is one a New York designer cited around 1982, when he claimed the last status symbol of the twentieth century was space.

-30-  More after the jump.