Monday, September 27, 2010

Seeking the Beauty in Imperfection

I had this in my head to write about for days and then I saw an article written up in Whole Living magazine, which used to be called body+soul. I suppose in these times, the aesthetic is a timely one...

Even before I knew there was a name for it, I've preferred my things a little wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is the Japanese term for things a little off-kilter. It's a way of seeing beauty in the simple, the transient, the imperfect and the modest. Not in shabby or dirty things, but perhaps seeing it in a beautiful burnished bowl that is a bit misshapen or has a subtle crack in it. We mix our contemporary pieces with family antiques that show their age and wear. Our silver curios are apt to be dulled. I don't mind a beautiful piece that's slightly dinged. Perfection in life isn't real or possible. To me, things are more interesting when you aren't striving to achieve perfection but allow for life's imperfections. I think Leonard Cohen had a line in a song about not minding a crack, that was how light shone through, but I'm paraphrasing.

One reason I quit writing for design magazines was because I hated writing up McMansions. It was difficult to write with glowing enthusiasm about big obnoxious houses with cheap building materials you knew wouldn't wear well, with rooms obviously staged and seldom used by the inhabitants. You could almost see the velvet rope strung across the threshold to keep the kids off-limits. One white elephant gave pride-of-place to a vast collection of Franklin Mint items -- those pricy reproductions. Why not invest in real artwork, not a reproduction of Merlin's wand?

Once I complimented an interviewee on her vast and charming display of framed ancestors scattered among her library shelves. She shrugged and said she didn't know any of them; her interior designer had gone to a flea market and then framed interesting photos. The leather-bound books were chosen to compliment the colors in the room. Brrrrrrr.

I guess we all have stories about people who chose their artwork like the rock star in Hannah and Her Sisters, who wanted "a picture to go with the couch in his living room." It's hard not to see them as philistines.

It's so much more interesting to write up a house that has been thoughtfully and personally decorated -- rather, a home, not a house -- where every piece is selected personally, and the artwork is chosen for a reason, definitely not just for its color or how it enhances a room.


e said...

We have some McMansions that were built after their owners tore down perfectly adequate smaller homes in a testimony toward consumption...

I like my flat but may have to leave it eventually if it can't be made more wheelchair friendly. It's an early seventies box.

Best to you and Excy.

ReformingGeek said...

So true. There is a big difference between a house and a home.

We also have antiques mixed in with newer pieces.

The art we have chosen reflects a bit of beauty from places we enjoy and a bit of "this painting just jumped out at me"!

cornflakegirl74 said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm always saddened when I see a perfectly beautiful old home torn down in favor of a gaudy McMansion. I grew up in very old homes with mismatched furniture, lots of antiques, framed pictures, some cobwebs, and dustbunnies... but it was home and I loved it all the same. Because it had personality and it was interesting and it was clear that there were people that LIVED there.

It's refreshing to see there's someone else out there who feels the same way :)

Thanks so much for coming by my corner earlier today~I love your blog and am your latest follower.

Chris said...

I think you've always liked people who are a little wabi-sabi as well. Thanks for reminding me that personal choices are always better than popular choices. It's timely.

Annie @ astonesthrowfrominsanity said...

I love this piece.

When hubs and I bought our house built in 1927, we very easily could have purchased a mini mcMansion. We quickly realized that those houses had no character and could never be our home. So, we bought the beat up 1927 home, and we have been painstakingly working on making it our home these last few years. My children's framed artwork is hanging on the walls, and we have a shadowbox filled with old pieces of this home (old wallpaper pieces, envelopes and bills we found from the 40's and 50's and a pic of the house from earlier days) proudly displayed on our shelves. It may not be magazine worthy, but it is beautiful to me. It is home.

Thanks for writing such a lovely piece. It really spoke to me. :)

A Mom on Spin said...

I like the wabi-sabi idea!

running42k said...

You articulated beautifully things that tick me off as well. You watch some shows on HGTV or read in the home section and wonder what goes through their head.

I would rather have a house full of love and the aromas of a good meal cooking.

goddessdivine said...

I don't have problems with mansions but if I were so lucky to live in one I would definitely make it more "homey". Who wants to come home to a museum? I've lived in my little place for nearly five years, and it's taken me about that long to decorate and fill it. I like to find stuff here and there that suits my personality and style.....and that just takes time. I still can't believe the lady who bought books simply because they matched her decor. I love my eclectic book collection! It has so much more meaning.

Thanks for stopping by my neck of the woods. ;-)

carma said...

My house is exactly what you speak of - 99.9% of the art was created by us and all ancestors are our own. Plus we do not have a bowl of balls - which every McMansion in the area seems to have one of those :D

Doris Sturm said...

I love every house, big or small, as long as it reflects the people's persona, be it elegant or simply down to earth - whatever, as long as it's real! I'm not much for "show" or saving something "for good" because I want to live now and not later when company comes.

Nice post. Hope you and your husband are doing well. I think about you often.

Doris and Gizzy :-)

Have you decided to stay or move? What about your horses?

Snuggle Wasteland said...

In college I babysat for a couple that really did have velvet ropes in their home. They roped off the formal living room and dining room and the children were forbidden to enter. Isn't that sad?

wendy said...

I agree 100%. Gosh, why didn't she use photos of her own family/ancestors. I am particular about my has to move me and family photos and relics are the perfect way to do that.

and that saying by Leonard of my favorites, I may try and do a post around it

Ring the Bells that Still can Ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

LOVE THAT....forget your perfect offering!!

Kate said...

Thanks for stopping by the Chicken Wing Blog. I love what you are writing about on this site. You and are are close in age and I recognize your point of view. This post struck a chord because, like you, I hate the new styles of homes being built now. The 'McMansions' with the vast, high-ceiling entry shouting to all how grand the house is. I love my house because I've learned to mix the old and new. Doesn't bother me at all to place a modern piece in the midst of antiques. Love you blog, dear. Thank you!

Linda Medrano said...

MTV had a show called "Cribs" and it took you through the homes of stars. I couldn't believe how these enormous places were turned so generic and lacking in any "soul". Our home is a Victorian from 1880. I have only things I truly love on my walls and in our furnishings. It's not always stylish, but it works for us.