Friday, November 25, 2011

My Taste in Decor and Its Remedy

A previous owner of my townhouse installed this opulent mirror in the downstairs bathroom. The frame is a grand baroque woodcarving, painted gold with accents of crimson. I fancy that it's patterned after some antique French design. Splendid, you surely think. Why, the Comte de Monte-Cristo himself would have been proud to frequent a bathroom with such a fine mirror. When I decided to buy the townhouse, my mind warmed to the idea of furnishing it as a miniature Versailles appartement, the sort of accommodations appropriate for a liveried manservant of the palace.

My younger son was appalled by this idea, as his taste in decor runs toward the simple, functional style of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, which had its heyday in the early 1900s. This style eschewed Victorian adornment and was characterized by furniture with clean geometric lines and an honest wood finish that showed off the grain. To display the structural craftsmanship, the furniture's mortise and tenon joinery was exposed for all to admire.

And so, once I signed the mortgage papers for the townhouse, it was time to furnish it. My son and I hauled all my old raggedy furniture to the Goodwill center and then went shopping for new stuff. We searched through a dozen furniture stores and evaluated countless sofas, loveseats, chairs, and recliners for style, workmanship, and comfort. We examined all manner of lamps and end tables and throw rugs. My son didn't press any of his interior design opinions on me. He merely made offhand comments about quality of materials and workmanship. But somehow I kept drifting farther and farther away from my goal of antique French finery.

When all of my purchases were finally delivered to my new living room, I realized that I had furnished the room according to the style popular in 1918. Two Stickley chairs of the Morris design dominated the floor space. They had oak frames carefully stained to bring out the grain; and their mortise and tenon joinery was nicely done. The chairs had deep cushions of brown leather (a welcome comfort to a tired doughboy home from the Great War). The living room was lit by the warm glow of an Edison bulb overhead and a second Edison bulb in a glass container (an antique vacuum vessel adapted by my son) that was placed on a wooden end table of clean geometric lines.

Evidently, my son has mastered the art of subtle persuasion.

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