I’m not really much interested in being fashionable, whether in clothes or house decor or furniture. I’m not a constantly updating ‘out with the old and in with the new’ kind of person. When I like something I become attached to it and prefer to hang on to it, and my husband is much the same. So I’m sitting here curled up on the sofa in my usual position with my laptop on a precariously-balanced bean-bag lap-tray, looking around our chaotic whirlwind of a flat and wondering how I might best describe it.
At first glance it’s easier to say what it is not – not minimalist, not of one time or style, not in the least fancy or fashionable as compared to all those home improvement/ lifestyle programmes you always see on TV. Not a student flat, and not a temporary commuter accommodation either (although there are plenty of both available here in East London) – there are too many signs of roots put down, of permanence, of longevity.
It is a mix of all things us – to say it is ‘homely’ sounds too kitsch, but it is definitely our home, always looks ‘lived in’. It has evolved organically rather than having been planned this way, with a cocktail of old stuff, new stuff, bought stuff, hand-made stuff, inherited stuff and the occasional charity shop find all rubbing shoulders together. In one sense nothing really goes with anything, but in another, it all goes with us – we are the common denominator linking our possessions. So perhaps ‘eclectic’ is a good word?
For such a small space I suppose we have quite a lot of bits and pieces, but I like being surrounded by mementos of my past as well as my present – neither of us live close to family, so for us having my grandmother’s old marmalade jar sitting next to my husband’s mother’s porcelain milk jug helps us feel connected. The old heavy cast iron cornbread skillets lugged half way across the world in our hand luggage so as not to incur any excess baggage charges remind me that I’m married to my very own Cajun swamp-boy from Louisiana’s deep south, and the traditional wooden porridge spurtle with carved thistle top taking pride of place in our cooking utensil jar is a small yet significant marker of my own Scottish heritage.
We have loads of very un-trendy but fun magnets stuck all over our fridge-freezer, each one with a specific magical memory – our 10th anniversary trip to Paris, day trips to the beach at Brighton, family-focused visits home to Scotland and the US. Sentimental stuff, but for me that’s the stuff of life, the stuff that matters most.
On the back of our sofa is an unfinished quilted throw in a log cabin design – the fabrics create a memory mix of past sewing projects and bright recycled cotton clothing, with an old cotton sheet as backing – it’s a real blast from the past for me. The quilt itself was made years ago and is in one solid piece, but I crazily decided to hand quilt it all, so to date the actual quilting is still only three quarters done. I also have multiple colourful crocheted blankets everywhere – basically just oversized granny squares, nothing fancy, but they’re practical, functional and created mainly with comfort in mind.
I suppose that having suffered from ongoing depression throughout my life, living with so much fluctuating psychological distress and unhappiness over the years, I truly appreciate the happy moments when they arise and want to be able to surround myself physically and emotionally with their memory, rekindle their spark of joy, remember that when all is said and done, as long as you work hard to ensure the good parts outweigh the bad, life can still be very much worth living…