Nothing That You Do Not Know To Be Useful & Believe To Be Beautiful

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Bbucko, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. Bbucko

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    I've contemplated and rejected this topic for several months because I worried it would be misunderstood. I am not sitting here as some arbiter for style nor do I have any desire to show off: my gallery's for exhibitionism.

    However, the gods have been especially kind to me over the last year or so and I would like to share just how, and to what degree, I've moved past some previous horrors (and not of the design variety :wink:)

    I'll start by saying that I was in the furniture industry (low/mid/high-end, custom made, design trade only, etc) for about 25 years so my tastes have become fairly rarefied and unusual. I'm not one for buying off-the-rack either with my clothing nor my home fashions, because for various reasons they simply don't fit.

    And for those unfamiliar with my bio, I was involved in a nine-year relationship that not only exhausted me emotionally but which left me financially and spiritually bankrupt. I was convinced that the only "pure" path was a sort of ascetic abstinence: a sort of aesthetic flavorless broth. That doesn't mean that I stopped caring (and aspiring) as much as I was determined to strip materialism from my life.

    Because, if there was one very low common denominator in our nine-year relationship, it was the fact that we were awash in materialism. We had the money and spent lavishly on custom feather-down upholstery, custom-made essentials and carefully selected French antiques, ranging from Francois 1er (early renaissance) to Art Nouveau and Deco (with lingering stops as late 19th century copies of Louis XVI): everything was exquisite in its own fashion.

    I broke off the relationship not for its materialism so much as his uncontrolled compulsions/addictions, but blamed our materialism for much of it. It's only eight years into it now that I can finally begin to separate the wheat from the chaff and take pride in the new acquisitions (no matter where they come from) and re-assert my pride in living with fine things in my midst.

    The first of these is the attachment showing my bookcases. In the aftermath of my break-up, I went to Target and bought a system of black metal squares attached with plastic clips to make a grid. Even though the bookcases are actually nothing special, they're a giant step forward.

    When I moved to my new place on February 1, I chose to live alone, in a one bedroom apartment, for the first time in about 15 years: no roommates and a real-life living room to furnish. The results are the second attachment.

    The sofa, coffee table, bookcases, occasional chair and desk (to be discussed) were all purchased from a staging company: they stage empty properties for sale during open houses. The entire sale rang up at less that $700.

    The sofa, in particular, is worth discussing for a minute, The front (with attached seat and back: the antithesis of feather-down cushioning) is upholstered in a moss green chenille, whereas the sides and back panel are upholstered in a feature fabric of abstract designs arrayed in a grid of smallish squares. This is the type of upholstery more commonly found in hotel lobbies or in waiting rooms at banks: as such, it's what's called "contract" upholstery and made with more stringent standards than "retail" or "residential" types. It's formal, rather stiff, but exceedingly well-made. The apron under the fabric (which continues on each of its four sides) is fluted, which is another sign of superior craftsmanship.

    The dining area, adjacent to the living space, is where I keep my cherry table. It was one of the few things I insisted upon keeping during the break-up, and previously functioned as our kitchen table. I specifically ordered it unfinished so that I could give it a multi-layer oil (rather than lacquer) finish. I bought it specifically to be abused, as I abhor place mats and table pads. I wanted a surface one could use without worrying about the finish.

    I've had several different sets of chairs with it. Originally I had light-wood chairs that were comfortable and attractive but very poorly made: most of them broke under use. I eventually bought a rather expensive pair of ash chairs stained in a "cherry" finish, which I never found appropriate: they were also Windsor chairs which I, personally, have always found more attractive than comfortable. Those went with my ex to parts unknown.

    The chairs I have with it now have an interesting story. In 2004, right after the break-up, I found these four chairs rusting away at a sort of flea-market place, in a black finish and still upholstered in their original Mad Men sorta brilliant black/gray vinyl and felt they were a bargain at ~$35 for the set. At some point in December of last year, shortly before I moved out, my then-roommate's BF saw fit to desecrate them with an aluminum paint, which is what I get for leaving them in the garage. Between the new, "hammered gold" paint, batting and fabric, I've spent upwards of $200 making them look as good as they do; that might sound expensive until you begin to survey one's choices :rolleyes:

    Though not everyone agrees with me, I happen to find the feature fabric in the sofa and the chair upholstery fabric to be a lovely, artful combination.

    I suppose the hidden star in this space is the wool and silk Tibetan carpet in the living area: it's appx 10 X 10. I got it from a wholesale/retail place in Cambridge, MA that specialized in them. After years (and probably $100,000 in wholesale trade for the shop I managed in CT), they sold me that piece of fine art for probably 1/2 wholesale: absurdly cheap considering its quality. It was made on a special loom by Tibetan refugees living in Nepal using 100 knots per inch; it was one of the very few things I insisted on taking in 2004. Unfortunately it needs proper lighting to be appreciated: underneath that banal moss green color leaps hundreds of subtle striations in wool and silk (which positively glows).

    More to follow, but in the meantime: feel free to post pix of your crib and tell us why you love it so much.
     

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  2. D_Fiona_Farvel

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    I dunno, B, other than art, I have yet to really enjoy a piece of furniture. Perhaps I lean more to the "I need ___ and this will do" way of decorating?

    My father built furniture as a hobby and I recall lugging one piece everywhere for a few years, until I realized it was more pretty to look at (it was made from wood that had a cool stripe effect to the grain) than useful (pic (table near wall). I gave it away, so that's the only picture I have left, but anyone from LPSG visited my Brooklyn apartment should recall I used it as a bookcase as it was too slim for any other use - guess I have an unusual fixation with utility. :08:

    In my current home, the furniture follows the same principle of ready to deliver and overall usefulness. What I love, however, is that the building has been renovated (new kitchen, bath, floors, windows, etc.) but retained some design features from the early 20th century that I love as features of my home and living space - like the fireplace (pic the cap-like thing is in, so all sealed now) and ceiling (pic) in the bedroom.

    Will definitely revisit the thread, though, when everything feels complete. :)
     
    #2 D_Fiona_Farvel, Jun 2, 2011
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  3. nudeyorker

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    Bbucko and _exotiKitty I like your apartments.
    My taste in furnishings tends to run a bit incongruent but I like it. The table and chairs now live in Honolulu but what I like about it is that it seats a few or many.
    The low table from Japan is an old table that I had shipped back from Tokyo; it also lives in Hawaii now. I'm looking forward to the day when my things and I are all under the same roof.
     

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    #3 nudeyorker, Jun 2, 2011
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  4. Drifterwood

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    And the difference was?

    I will admit that I have a thing for French walnut. That said, I spend half my life in megacities and the other by a river in relative wilderness. I'll take the river and its natural habitat any day.

    Having and defining your own space is something, as a country boy, I still don't really understand, though I see its importance for you city types.
     
  5. Mem

    Mem
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    The new place looks great. Those chairs look amazing, especially after how jacked up they were when your roommates boyfriend fucked them up.
     
  6. nudeyorker

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    I found the photos of a couple of other things that make me smile....
     

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  7. HiddenLacey

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    Everyone, your places look wonderful, MissKittie... your place looks delicate and NudeYorker your home seems to be very tastefully decorated ;)

    Bbucko, the new place looks great. I'm so glad you're happy compared to the last situation. I really like what you did with the chairs, very pretty. Mine are just plain wood, cloth needs to be cleaned and holds dust mites which I'm allergic to.

    I kind of like mahogany colored furniture. Right now I kind of have a hodge podge of things I've picked up at auction or the occasional estate sale. I got a great solid wood bookcase a few months ago that was painted an awful green. I stripped, sanded and stained it. It looks lovely now. Of course me in my infinite knowledge of staining furniture*rolling eyes*... I used a white cloth to stain it... well the white cloth left little fuzzies all over it when the stain dried. Sigh, I had to sand it all over again. It looks great now though, loaded with books and more books. It has a very basic shape so I've been looking at unfinished pieces to bring into my office area that I can stain the same color. I have books on the floor everywhere in a spare room.

    You would probably be horrified at some of the pieces I have. I'm pretty much about function when it comes to furniture. If something's nails or teeth have the ability to ruin it, it doesn't belong in my house. My living room has a piano and boxes of paint supplies/easel, tv, curio and furniture kind of placed at odd angles. I push the furniture together whenever I'm not down there to try to keep my dog from laying on everything. I keep one spare room nice in case family comes in, but the other room... oh dear it looks like a library exploded. Everytime I give books away I get more. I've had to store some in the barn. I'm kind of eccentric. The only piece of furniture I adore and wouldn't care to part with is a chest my grandfather made for me, but it's still functional. So I don't think I have any pieces like you are describing?
     
    #7 HiddenLacey, Jun 2, 2011
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  8. Mem

    Mem
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    The ramp to the bed is my favorite piece. I love the tall square lamp too
     
  9. nudeyorker

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    Oh the ramp to the bed! That is my yoga matt that I put by the bed so my dog does not hurt her back jumping. I schlepped the lamp back from Italy.
     
  10. Mem

    Mem
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    It looks like a custom made doggie bed ramp. :biggrin1::biggrin1:
     
  11. D_Fiona_Farvel

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    Ooooh, love the apt and mirror! I am definitely missing the decorating gene that you and B seem to have in abundance. I must say, NY, your home has the simple urban style I would expect - thanks for sharing!
     
  12. D_Fiona_Farvel

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    Thank you, SG! The artistic space sounds lovely. :) I am also a book person and love DIY, so we're definitely sisters in those areas. Iirc, you used to have pics of your bedroom up and it looked very sexy, so I know you have a little bit of a delicate side showing through as well.

     
  13. Bbucko

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    It's hard to explain my intense admiration for furniture in rational terms, because, I suppose, there's nothing rational about it. For as long as I can remember, I've responded to furniture in a passionate, gut-level fascination. When I moved out of my mother's house the day after my last day of high school, I brought about ~four rooms of late 19th century American Golden Oak that I'd amassed through the generosity of my grandmother and her two best friends/cousins. I also brought hundreds of books and boxes and boxes of accessories (though little of practical value: imagine that!)

    I can mark off the different relationships I've had by changes we made to my/our collection of home decor. In the early 80s, I went retro-mod with blonde furniture and a three-piece, crescent-shaped sectional for the "lounge", and American Empire mahogany in the parlor (I retained the oak for the bedroom and dining room).

    Later, toward the end of the 80s a new lover meant that all the retro and/or antiques were gone, to be replaced with sleek Euromodern in matte black and chrome.

    The nine years from 1995-2004 were different again, as I've described above; few contrasts in style change are more marked than the slipcovered feather/down sofa (always looking like an unmade bed) and the sleek, tight-all-over sofa I just got for this new place, though.

    Personally I'm a huge fan of contrasting period architectural details with furniture of contrasting style. I hate seeing gut-rehabs of 19th and early 20th century homes, especially in "contemporary" styles that date horribly in 5-10 years. The architecture and whatever you choose to furnish it with need not match, especially when artful co-ordinations are so much more appealing :cool:

    When we first moved to SoFla in 2003, it quickly became obvious that my then-(still)-partner and I were trying to adapt a Northeastern urban aesthetic to a rather standard Florida townhome; one our neighbors said it looked as if we'd tried to mix P-Town, SoBe and Paris, in a tone that suggested we were either crazy or just not comprehending how the heavy upholstery fabrics and oriental carpets were so very impractical down here.

    In the end, it made letting go of all that stuff much easier for me; it wasn't the furniture nor the ex that I missed the most: it was our chocolate lab named Cooper :frown1:

    It takes years of acclimation and, in some cases plain old attrition, before you can be pragmatic enough to find the right balance that is both appropriate to the location and satisfying to the spirit.

    In the end, his materialism verged on hoarding, which was yet another example of how far his problems had progressed beyond my skills to help him through them, so I guess you're right.

    I did take special pride in our master bedroom furniture, which consisted of a three-doored armoire in solid walnut (the center door being an enormous mirror); its side panels were each one wide board cut into raised panels with not a millimeter of sap wood to be seen: all solid walnut heartwood. The shield and trophy details on the thinner side doors in front were hand carved but not ostentatious or over-done. The interior was all in quarter-sawn natural oak, except for the backs of the doors, which were paneled with veneered boards of bird's-eye maple (or some other light-wood burl). It was probably made somewhere between 1885-1910 in the Louis XVI style.

    We teamed that up with a pair of rather tall nightstands, the front doors of which had carving comparable to that on the doors of the armoire. They had white marble slabs on the bottoms of the cabinets and a more ornate, brownish marble for the tops; they also had capriciously tiny drawers directly below the tops, being no more than 1.5" high. There was a simplicity of detailing with just a slight affectation of art deco to the carvings that makes me think they were made in the late 1920s or early 30s.

    A simple burled-veneer chest of drawers and a king-sized bed and a Persian-style carpet made up the rest.

    I think this whole self-expression/identification through materialism (or taste in music, for that matter) is really a generational thing which, though not invented by the Boomers was perfected by them. Certainly there are millions around the world who feel that their vehicles and/or wardrobe are clues as to where they find themselves in the world's pecking order.

    I didn't start this thread to show off, nor to suggest that there are underlying clues as to my status in society or my self-image in the items discussed or pix posted. It's more of a kind of victory lap for yet another milestone in my recovery from that toxic 2004 divorce with very nearly capsized me completely.

    When I left, I took very little: my Tibetan carpet, my cherry table, my books, an armoire and nightstand purchased for the guest room, and some odds-n-ends. Additionally, he "allowed" me to have a set of fine cookware, or stainless flatware and the "good china" which I'd always loathed. Everything put together barely furnished a bedroom, and for most of the time time between November 2004 and February 2011, I lived with roommates who'd be counted upon to fill in essentials like a place to sit down an watch an occasional bit of TV.

    The fact that I have furnished myself with parlor furniture, as banal as it sounds, represents a real victory for me and my tiny little life.

    As you saw them before, you're one of the very few who appreciates not just how good they look, but the work required to get them that way, my friend. I literally had to take them completely apart before I could even start the cleaning, painting and upholstering that brought them to their current state.

    SG83: I only have about five more minutes left before I need to get in the shower and off to work, so I'll respond to your post tomorrow when I have the time.

    Instead, I'll use those few minutes to upload some more pix. As I mentioned bookcases in the OP, a pic of them would make some sense, after all :redface:, and I'm also uploading some pix of terrific thrift-shop finds, none of which cost more than $3.
     

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