Joyce Walter reflects on living in the living room.
Several years ago, I learned that one’s living-room, according to fashion designers, is not necessarily a room in which to do much living.
By looking around our living-room, designers would definitely figure out why there’s not much living taking place in the room, simply because it has once again become a catch-all for stuff that normally would be located elsewhere in the house. Convenience is the mandate by which our living-room is lived in.
Seven years ago, I wrote the following column about this very topic. It is reprised this week to show there’s consistency in our lifestyle.
“Newspapers and magazines are still excellent teaching tools and I for one am always learning something I didn’t know I needed to know, or wasn’t aware I didn’t know.
“Thanks to a national newspaper subscription, I am able to look at our furniture with an educated eye while comparing what quoted experts say on the topic of casual and formal living.
“Certainly, the definition of our lifestyle would come close to “casual” as opposed to “formal or nose-in-the-air.” The furniture gracing our rooms was bought with the idea that it would be used, not just admired as a museum piece, and now, many years later, some museums would have trouble accommodating or finding a theme for our cherished pieces.
“A Toronto fashion designer recently opened his home to a photographer/writer to whom he explained his process of setting up living-room furniture and decor.
“This designer views his living-room as a showcase for art and special pieces of handiwork and is used only for special occasions. So far, I thought, we’re not that far apart in our assessment of our living-rooms.
“He has favourite art pieces on the walls. So do we. He has something described as painted wood relief. We have a large mirror given to us as a wedding present. There is a painting of an old barn on another wall and a set of stairs leading to a star made for us as a gift. Another wall holds some important plaques and awards. A final wall displays a latch-hooked wreath I made with my very own hands many years ago. It is up year-round despite a definite Christmas theme and covers some unsightly nail holes.
“He has two sofas for symmetry. We have one because we don’t use it that much and by flipping the cushions, it looks in decent shape, complemented as it is by cushions and a collection of plush toys. It is balanced by a swivel armchair of a colour that doesn’t match one darn thing, and a lovely wooden rocking chair that was my Christmas present dozens of years ago. It still rocks beautifully.
“Contrary to the Toronto man, we would allow guests to sit on our chairs for as long as they want. His guests are only given a minute or two to sit down when they are allowed into the room. His reasoning: the leather is thin on his 1950s’ chairs.
“He has coffee tables and side tables just like we do in our room. His are special to him. One of ours came to us via an auction sale, the others bought as a set with our china cabinet and dining room table. All the tables are a bit cluttered with our treasures while his are bare of stuff, and dust-free. He has candlesticks, we have a bowl of fruit, some books, a few lamps that are seldom turned on and a carpet that is now called retro rather than old.
“What we have that he doesn’t is a stash of cooking utensils placed strategically under a table, items that are stored in there to save me the trouble of rushing up and down the stairs when I need a muffin tin. There’s even a roaster in there, along with some plastic containers, two travel hampers from the summer, and the vacuum cleaner, just in case the urge strikes.
“I suspect our living-room would receive a sniff of disapproval but it is well and truly lived in even though it might not meet the standards for a photo layout for artistic education.”
Back to the present: my muffin tins and cake pans are still accessible in the living-room but the vacuum cleaner has moved downstairs, replaced by a retro trunk now used to accommodate more cooking wares — in case the urge strikes.
Joyce Walter can be reached at [email protected]
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.