Sunday, May 29, 2011

Interiors and Exteriors

Marius has been sick with a nasty cold and last week was my regular infusion week-from-hell making us a nice pair of misery;  however on Saturday afternoon we both felt well enough to sit in the garden and drink tea together.  It was surprisingly pleasant for this time of year - only 35 - and not humid at all. 

Marius was studying his 'Strad' magazine, drooling over the advertised bows (he told me about a gold-mounted cello bow that was a snip at £55,000) while I was slobbering over householder porn - you know those exquistely photographed glossy magazines filled with fantasy houses and gardens.  I confess I succumb to the pleasure of  looking at them about three times a year.  I look at the pictures but rarely read the rather fatuous text.  I love the pictures for about three-quarters of the magazine before outrage and cynicism grip me - I don't really want a dining table in padded zebra-skin that retails (trade only) for the equivalent of a small country's GDP.  Then I toss the magazine aside and swear off until I forget and pretty pictures get me again.

I am quite intrigued - from the outside - of the bizarre, entirely separate worlds of fashion and interior design because the published stuff seems so far removed from any personal reality, and yet I also know that the published stuff is all done with smoke and mirrors too.  Okay, maybe not the stately home ones, but the 'real people's homes' ones.  I had a friend with connections in Malaysia whose house was the subject of a magazine 'profile'.  I knew the place quite well and was astonished how the photographs had made a run-down bungalow, full of cast-off furniture and peeling paint look quite good - almost unrecognisable.

So, inspired by the greats, I bring you some tantalising shots of the Exile's Villa.  In keeping with magazine style, I will refer to the occupants as 'the owners' because in interior-magazine-land, no one is a renter, a mortgagee, in debt or suffering any other crisis of finances.

Burmese chairs, a rain drum and one of the owner's paintings, complement the 'garden corner' of the sitting room.  The bookcases were made to order in Malaysia.  Books can be found throughout the owners' house.

Of course in a proper shoot, the piles of magazines stashed on the floor would have been tidied away.  Those houses look like nobody actually lives in them - uncomfortable, formal, and pristine.  We have cats so our house is full of cat hair, scratched furniture and also people - so there are discrete piles of junk, mail, old newspapers, shoes ...  and crumpled cushions and footstools.

The owners spent many years living in Asia where they collected antiques.  The screen is early 20th century Chinese, with Japanese influences, highlighted with ivory, ebony and mother-of-pearl.  The rug is also early 20th century, signed wool-on-wool from Eshfahan, while the paintings in the dining area are by the famous Dutch modern painter Huizinga.
Are you annoyed yet?  The thing which is really sad about our furniture, apart from the constant shipping and handling and changes of humidity (lots of pieces are splittling because it is so dry), is that the nice, interestig stuff is all in storage in various places in Australia, including most of our collection of Buddhas, which is probably very disrespectful of us.

The fountain adds much-needed moisture to the living area.  The owner adds over a litre of water a day to it.  Some of it evaporates of course, while some of it is enjoyed by the household cats.  Here Miss Ming helps herself to a drink.  The outer wooden bowl is a Chinese water butt, while the ceramic fountain is from Thailand.  The frogs were hand painted by the owner.

One day I will show you some of the Buddhas who have made it to exile.  When we moved here we were very worried about them being condiscated or damaged as a result of differing religious beliefs - which is why a lot went home.  During our first weeks here we saw some for sale in a furniture shop, and those that came (bronze ones which we hoped were indestructible) made it through customs with no trouble at all.



jabblog said...

Interior design magazines are very seductive, I agree, but also intensely irritating.
Looking forward to seeing your Buddhas - I hope you stroke their tummies each time you pass (for luck)

Dave King said...

They do draw you in, yes. I particularly took a fancy to the painting in the garden corner.

susan t. landry said...

i love those "shelter' mags also; when i travel, that's where i blow my leftover currency in airport shops--on fabulous french, italian, british housing magazines. to my mind, the french, of course, do it best. theyre not afraid of weathered wood, rusted metal...ever-so artlessly tossed together....
of yours, i covet the the kitty & the fountain :)