It has been very close to one year since the sensible ones amongst us have been mainly cooped up in our homes. Quite a slog! So during that time we do this, that and the other trying to keep as busy and as sane as we possibly can. However, there were times when I just sat there looking at my home and belongings and allowing my wild imagination to take me places.
I have lived in about twenty-five different houses during my lifetime. Some were owned, some rentals, apartments, condos, townhouses, garden apartments, furnished, unfurnished. During my growing up years apartments and villas for the well-to-do were spacious with furniture that was big, heavy, ornate, made from rare woods such as ebony and rosewood that were upholstered with chintz and brocade. Owning a set of silver utensils, a silver tea service and platters were required, as were oil paintings with thick gilded frames, ostentatious mirrors, crystal chandeliers and opaline lamps. Furniture styles were mostly adopted from the French and English royalty: Queen Anne, Louis XIV and such. Some homes had the Ottoman, North African and Arab styles with low-seating, Iranian carpets, water fountains, polygonal end tables, carved doors and room divider screens. Whichever was the chosen style, it all looked very lavish and a reflection of how that well-to-do class of people believed that emulating royalty was a sign that they, too, had arrived to royal standards and to “class!” Not always the case, although my parents and their many friends had similar homes to the ones I describe where we children weren’t allowed in the “salon,” because that was used only when “people” came to visit! That kind of furniture reflected the lifestyle of the elite class: afternoon teas, bridge games, tennis, evening cocktails, must-travel-to vacation destinations and a lot of other such habits. The bourgeoisie, or middle classes, always aspired to have a similar status, and, hence, they too acquired some of the same furniture and lifestyles.
Fast forward to the sixties whence modern furniture styles began entering homes: unusual shapes, vibrant colors such as yellows, oranges and greens, foam upholstery, leather, or leather/suede-like, poly (kinds of plastics such as polyethylene) side-tables, coffee tables and shelving. At the time, I painted my kitchen cabinets in a loud yellow much to the horror of my in-laws and some of my friends! I also had big poly end tables and suede-like seating and there again I caused another stir! These styles reflected the nonconformity of the era (mine as well!), a rebellion that was against lavish styles and living standards, refuting hypocrisy, and a signaling that my generation was demanding structural changes in the way society conducted itself and all its trimmings. Looking back, I realize that we, women especially, managed to change our furniture and clothes, secured jobs other than the standard seamstress/teacher/nurse as well as other minor advancements, but, unfortunately, many other important issues remained the same and are still being debated and contested to this day. Humanity is very obdurate!
In today’s world I notice that furniture and decor are as varied as humanity is. I have friends with the gamut of styles going from my parents’ era to the modern. During these Virus days, with television journalists, specialists, politicians, and the famous and their guests zooming their opinions and analysis from their homes, I see some of them with furniture and decor in the same style of my parents’ home, others have the Roche Bobois-like comfortable furniture, others yet a mix of the two. It is quite interesting to notice that the younger people’s styles are more Ikea-ian than baroque; more reflective of a no-nonsense don’t-mess-with-me mood; less unlived-in “neatness,” and a more casual and realistic approach; they are as assertive as my parents’ styles were conformist. Perhaps this shift is indicating that as a generation this young set is saying that we are past the point of “requesting” structural change, we are now vociferously “demanding” it! I cheer them on! I am proud of them! I hope and pray that they will really and truly upend so many of the traditional palliatives, hypocrisy, artificiality and facades of my parents’ generation, and to a large extent my own. And I do hope that their demands for change will go deeper than simply furniture styles; that the changes won’t be only in fashions whether those are clothes, furniture or the fake norms, but that they will go into those pressing issues of peace, equality and justice to where, from all appearances, they seem to be heading. More power to them, although the forces of wickedness will be doing their best to squash them! The downside is that Covid came along recently and seems to be wiping out what little and big achievements women have managed to procure, especially the indigent and colored amongst us. This is already having an enormous toll on our issues, on education, on livelihoods and a host of other matters.
Moreover, it is interesting to note that the different styles of furniture, clothing and living portray to me that my parents’ generation, being traditional in every sense, also seemed to be more serious, grownup and had more common sense garnered from centuries of experience that was passed along, while my generation, as well as going from the Baby Boomers and downwards, began shedding some of that with each generation as we were busy “finding ourselves,” not that many of us ever did! And, as we changed our furniture and styles we seemed to be losing more and more of our grownup maturity and demeanor. Odd! Very odd!
Having shared my thoughts on this subject, and were I to be my younger self and married to my same husband and have my two daughters and two sons, I would design My Perfect Nest incorporating the following ideas:
A smallish home, no McMansion for me! Light furniture – no rococo, no baroque with lots of storage and open spaces.
Separate smallish bedrooms that have no wasted space whatsoever for each member of the family – yes, including my husband. Purr-fect!
No pain-in-the-ass king-sized beds that broke my back every time I had to change the sheets! Full, or twin sizes only.
Small – I do mean small! – bathrooms for each bedroom, as well as a guest bathroom.
Urinals in men’s bathrooms, because guys can’t help dribbling! (I had a sister-in-law who made her husband sit down on the toilet in order to keep it splatter-free! When I suggested that to my husband he had a conniption!)
Bidets in the girls bathrooms. (This reminds me of a naughty 60’s joke: American couple on their honeymoon in Paris are being shown to their suite by the bellhop. Wife sees a bidet in the bathroom: Oh! Is this for washing the baby in? Non Madame, says the bellhop, zis eez for washing baby out! LOL!!!)
Shower stalls in all bathrooms, and one stand-alone tub in its own tiny room for baby bath time, or any family member who needs a relaxing soak.
Mud room with a separate entrance.
No central heating – separate wall heaters for each room, same for air-conditioning. All running on solar energy.
One big open-plan kitchen, dining area, and sitting/den area.
That’s it! No fuss, no muss! Simple, easy to clean and care for, eco-friendly and as maintenance-free as possible! This, after all my different homes and styles, plus hours on end spent cleaning, would be My Perfect Nest! Hopefully, it would also reflect a more relaxed and realistic lifestyle than the one I have lived. Incidentally, it is a recent trend that is slowly taking root, especially in Europe.
Now, you wouldn’t want me to end without mentioning my favorite subject: Politics. Would you? Let me just say that Sleepy Joe (as Trump called him) and his Team are the Energizer Bunnies on Steroids! They are emanating a refreshing atmosphere of calmness and sobriety and going about their jobs with diligence, perseverance, and action. Do I like all that they are saying and doing? Of course not! However, I will hold my tongue and zip my lips for a bit more time and give them a fair chance. Stay tuned!