The famous British magazine Private Eye used to carry a regular feature called Pseuds Corner in which they pilloried purple poetical prose or, piffle as the Brits call it. I have no idea whether the Corner or the magazine are extant but they would have had a field day with the inanities contained in this book.
"It's easy to get white wrong – it takes talent to get it right"
This is possibly the most risible of the pieces of fustian I could fill this post with but I shall desist. Talent,
my ass my eye – it takes lots of observation and a bit of hard work, more like!
"In so much as I am living and breathing, I am a barometer of change. That's my job. Keeping current and being in fashion means to be in your time."
This second quotation came pretty close to winning the prize but … I shall not dwell on it.
"Rooms should reveal themselves gradually over time."
Oh, riiiight! Oh, tautologous!
It's the hokum of these platitudes that is so absurd to me because, after all, it's only furniture, fabric and a drop of paint. It ain't art or even religion with all its attendant gobbledygook and superstition – it's decorating, not magic! I've said it before and undoubtedly I'll say it again: decorators should stick to decorating and leave philosophy to philosophers (or that bloke down the pub).
If one were to take the book and its contents at face value, one might suspect late-nineteenth-century mitten-Europa, with its middle-class Ringstrasse aesthetic and emphasis on blood-lines and family-trees, is popular in parts of the so-called upper-echelons or, rather, the monied sections, of American society. To some of us, the so-called non-worshipping classes, bullion-fringe tacked to mantlepieces – only one instance of a desperately Victorian-revival tone to the interiors, is a little too redolent of Franz-Josef and the mess he created and left behind.
It isn't often I return a gift but, frankly, Jeffrey Bilhuber, American Master though subtitled notes on style and substance contained so little of either, in my opinion, I promptly had this gasbag of a book sent whence it came.
So, I come to Sunday and a time when Barnaby Warboys allows me some time to write. The Celt is home and carries some of the
burden task of being trained by a whippet pup, eight-months old, who continues to be be both delight and scourge. The wool and silk carpet for the living room came home after being cleaned, restored and guess what? Yup …you got it. As did the carpet in full force.
There Barny sat, Saturday night, as we had guests in for a nightcap, sorry for himself a little because he is ill, excited a little because we had guests and he likes company. After a while, first opening the bedroom door, he took himself off to bed then, curiosity getting the best of him, came back to say goodnight at the end of the evening.
Our continuing search for a suitable country place – two bedroom, two bathrooms, with enough land for Barny to run free – has only brought the realization that what we envisage will have to be built. We began to lean towards a cabin combined with the contemporary. The one cabin we found had, after a long time for sale, been sold only two days before. Charming as it was – and it was – old as it was – and it was (1840) – really wouldn't have been the most felicitous for Barny or me.
We both (The Celt and I, for Barny is silent on the matter) reached the conclusion that at any price-point (as the jargon goes) what is available, for our taste, is too traditional and evocative of a mountain setting. And why not? you may ask. Well, evocation of any place is not quite what we have in mind – The Celt is Scottish by birth and I am from Lancashire but neither of these facts should suggest a leaning towards tartans, antlers, cairngorm or macramed oatmeal or, in fact, anything else considered ethnic to either of our backgrounds. Heritage has no need of touristic flourishes the equivalent of monogrammed shirt cuffs.
Perhaps these two views of a sitting room from a chalet in the French Alps designed by Mlinaric, Henry and Zervudachi visually explains my meaning. There is a lack of obvious references to place or function: no crossed snow-shoes above the fireplace; no antler furniture; no pinecone lampbases; no rawhide lampshades; in fact, none of the decorative cliches one has come to expect of decoration of a certain ilk. It is that lack of reference to locality that is particularly refreshing in comparison to the interiors we saw as we viewed houses in the mountains and online.
If our country sitting room is to reflect anything it is our family – the three of us – not the mountains, not Scotland, not Lancashire and certainly not some spurious idea of what English decoration is or even what American decoration is.
Which brings me to a subject I want to discuss in the coming post. American decorating. We read a lot about it, and how special it is. Is it just American exceptionalism and isolationism or is American decorating special?