Sunday, August 31, 2008

Insights from fiction

Just read this in "Homunculus", by James Blaylock:
"He despised the current fashion in gaudy furnishings. It was little wonder society was going to bits, surrounding itself as it did with fakery and ugliness. ...-empirical study would bear him out. Men were products of that with which they surrounded themselves. And men of substance could hardly spring from the cracker-box, factory-made trash they cluttered their homes and inns with." (p. 43, Babbage Press edition)
This was meant to illustrate the world-view of a character in 1880s London, at a time when "factory-made trash" was indeed beginning to clutter and devalue the material world of the average householder. Unfortunately, things haven't changed much since then, and the quote applies equally well to the current day and age. I struggle with this in my own home.

When we moved into this house three years ago it was a study in 1980's tacky "white box" architecture, with a few garishly inappropriate attempts at color and character. This little shoe box of a WW2 tract house had been clad in white vinyl siding (to come off soon, I hope), had its hardwood floor covered in maroon(!) wall-to-wall carpeting, had the bedrooms painted a bilious dark pink (walls and ceiling), and the front room a stultifying industrial mint green (walls and ceiling). The kitchen: carpeted in grey. Carpeted. Think about that for a minute. No, the previous owners didn't cook in there. They barbequed outside and ordered takeout. A lot. The carpet is going soon, too.

Anyway, the green and pink walls have been re-painted, and the other frights are on the list. It's hard to relax in a house that resembles a trailer. Putting up racks of Renaissance, 18th and 19th century weapons and armor has helped, as well as some good antique furniture and many book shelves. Gradually our little tools of everyday life (cream pitchers, butter dishes, plates, cups, tables, chairs, storage devices, etc.) are being changed from "factory-made trash" to handcrafted items or at least older things that give off an old-world or antique vibe. It just makes for a more comfortable home, in my opinion. I can not bear a "glass & chrome" aesthetic, or even a "Danish Modern" one. Cheap overstuffed sofas in synthetic pile give me the willies, and loud, practically flourescent 60s type color schemes make me cringe. Give me earth tones and clear, jewel-tone colors. Turkish carpets and walnut furniture and tiffany(type) lamps.

Of course, I'm typing this on a computer that has not been modded by the Datamancer, which makes me wistful...