Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Japanese Simplicity

Early on in feathering the home nest, I often used the term 'Japanese Simplicity'.
My aesthetic vision was to someday live in a place that was deliberately styled and furnished minimally with just the essentials: with the right balance of texture, line and positive to negative shapes. Simple furnishings, all in lovely solid colors accented by a few yummy arty printed textiles and one or two pieces of artwork in a room.

Clean lines. No clutter.

Nice vision, eh?
Well - life got complicated.
Hand-me-down furniture and makeshift became the decorating mode. There wasn't much money to live on (is there ever?), and what little HD and I had was squandered on tasty foodstuffs (nevah evah skimp on food!) and Cost Plus chotkes.
For the longest time, I could not stop buying dishes. And chairs.
(We never really had a lot of matching dishes or chairs/sofas when I was growing up in Chinatown).

There was no escaping the 'house plant craze phase' back in the 70's.
It seemed like everyone, particularly urban apartment dwellers like myself - embarked on weekly hunts for cool houseplants. It was essential to add a bit of nature's greenery to the sterile stark interiors of our citified lifestyles, one little potted plant at a time.

Overnight, a generation of young adults learned the names as well as the light and water needs of dozens of houseplants. Armed with that knowledge as well as mist bottles, plant food, grow lights and macramé plant hangers (!), the collective lot of us turned humble abodes into virtual jungles (and ruined a few hardwood floors with water that runneth over from watering those plants).

Babies entered our lives, and with them - baby paraphernalia.
Soon after, we began to collect and compile years and years of kid's toys.
You can't get too minimalist with kid's toys. Hot pink Barbie furniture and a plethora of My Little Ponies and Star Wars action figures do not blend well with the idea of Japanese Simplicity.

Displaying countless bits and pieces of memorabilia from family/friends also factored heavily into the design mix. Souvenirs from a friend's European backpacking trip set on the mantle alongside old family photos and a Sesame Street toy and mini art trophy I received at high school graduation. Let's not forget about the various candles + votives. Why everything had to be out at the same time was probably due to having No Storage Space. In and of themselves, knickknacks can be so overwhelming.

Throughout the 70's and 80's, I became influenced by patchwork quilts, lace doilies, ruffle-edged pillowcases and curtains, rough-hewn as well as hand-carved golden oak wood, dainty teacups and saucers, pretty prints of chintz and soft textures like velvet, rough surfaces like Navajo rugs.
I've decorated with folk toys, English and Asian teapots, Japanese print fabrics, reproduction wood-cut prints, a cookie jar in the shape of a fanciful rhinoceros.

You get the picture.
My home decor = modgepodge.

Japanese Simplicity?
It never did happen for me in the 70's, 80's and 90's. The new millenium has brought little change. It looks to continue to be a pretty mixed bag around here, in spite of my occasional decorating purges.
I still appreciate clean lines, but also love homey cottage things and a touch of moderne as well.

Eclectic seems here to stay.

Even so, this week I'm entertaining a great fantasy.
It involves tossing (almost) all the old stuff out and starting anew.
A clean sweep.

Delusion reigns.

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