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On Slow Collections

Posted on February 22 2010

Not long ago, Ted and I were invited to a party in a lovely modern furnishings store. We spent the first hour eying the beautiful Italian sofas and played a little game of What-If. Designers we may be, but our house is far from magazine worthy. Between being cheap, wanting to design it all ourselves, and having a couple of wee people, we have not furnished our abode to match our products.

By the end of the evening, however, I questioned whether we ever will. In spite of my desire to create a cohesive space and find some appropriate art, I don't think I have it in me to start a room from scratch from the floor coverings to the furnishings and the art. Much as I admire the work of great interior designers, I would miss the the eccentric layers that remind me of where we have been and where we are going. Our furniture may not match, and the quality is inconsistent, but an inventory of the items therein reflect Ted and me--and Us.

slow collections


His: a small birch Aalto Artek stool; an orange Eames fiberglass chair found at a yard sale while he was in college (updated with the knockoff rocking chair base upon the arrival of our first daughter); a wind-up robot.

Mine: a four-foot bronze statue of Tara, the Indian goddess, from my grandfather's house; a peculiar old handmade shoe, circa 193os, severely deformed by water damage, in a size that suggests original ownership by an extraordinarily tiny woman; a hand-tinted, autographed photo of a pair of jockeys, found at a thrift store a dozen years ago.

His design icons and my tchotchkes are accompanied by a 1960s no-name Danish sofa and chairs found in Palm Springs; a Scandinavian stereo cabinet found for $25 at a Lutheran church rummage sale; Ikea floor lamp and wool rug. All around are toys, piles of books on food and architecture, and dusty record albums.

A slick living room would require a massive purging or hiding of these markers, a reduction and agreement on what Our Tastes are. The hodgepodge is a compromise and a reflection. We will continue to "improve" our house with better, newer things, but in the end I am glad that we cannot afford to make all of our decisions at once. The process of considered coveting, slow shopping, and accrual of acquisitions will lend our home a patina that is more homey and true to our middling pretentions. We might not ever live in a house that is magazine material, but I suppose that is why we like nice hotels.

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