I have to admit to a little dirty secret. As I walk in the cites I visit, one of my favorite pleasures, especially at dusk, is looking into people’s homes. I’m insatiably curious to see how other people’s houses are furnished and decorated. Always amazed by the endless ways we can live our life. And I do firmly believe that the way we furnish and decorate our homes shapes the way we live. Hence my keen interest in design as a form of art (even though I know some may disagree completely with this sentence). Also as you can imagine I am a very happy bunny in the Netherlands, where curtains generally are not used or are left open.
With that said my own apartment is not very curated. As I live in a rented flat in London there isn’t much I can do to permanently change it and as the rental agreement is renewed every year I try not to own too many furniture in case I have to move. So you’d find a random jumble of landlord’s table, chairs, and couches with two Ikea cupboards and five pine bookshelves. My only conscious effort at decorating my own house being color stacking my shelves into endless rainbows and always having several large candles handy.
The title of this book roughly translated as A Visit. Conversations on Design. Aleksandra Koperda is one of the authors of Hygge Blog, dedicated to interiors and lifestyle. Through her writing, she often visits people’s houses to talk to them about design. This book is a collection of such visits. Many of them in houses of interior designers and architects, but some also at the homes of lawyers, restaurateurs, writers, or activists. You can now understand why I found the premise fascinating! Finally a way of spying into someone else’s homes, and with their permission! Beautifully published with loads of illustrations it could not be better!
Or could it? It is indeed beautifully published, with loads of pictures. We get to visit 23 homes, with their owners sharing their experiences in decorating them. Koperda asks a fairly standard set of questions to all of them. How they go about renovation? How do they pick the furniture? How they select the artworks? Which objects they treasure and how did they buy them? The problem is at some point also the answers become pretty standard. Take time decorating your house. Do not buy all the furniture in one go. Be brave about the art, but also make sure you select what you really like. Cherish the things that remind you of your travels. Have lots of books (this one form the pictures, none of them actually says it), it makes you look good.
On top of that the photos, despite being really good, at some point make all the interiors look the same. I wonder if it’s the photographer’s style shining through or the actual run of the mill Photoshop editing, but something’s off here. If you were shown a few random shots you’d struggle to say if they came from different apartments or one and the same.
Another thing that really got to me, being from northern Poland, is that the selection of apartments really boils down to three cities: Warsaw Cracow and Katowice as if the rest of the country didn’t exist or didn’t have interesting interiors. Which I really doubt is the case, so it’s down to the author going for what she knows rather than trying to explore outside of her comfort zone.
There’s also the prevailing obsession with the Polish design of the communist era. Which I do remember from my grandparent’s house, so it’s not a discovery for me. But it seems everyone is obsessed with it now. And don’t get me wrong there was a lot of really good design back then, especially furniture. But do we really all have to aim to recreate a more stylish version of our grandma’s living room? There have to be other options.
Moving on to some more positive aspects. There are brief intros to the heroes of design like the Bauhaus movement, Thonet, Aalto, so if someone is completely new to the area it gives a decent introduction to basics. There is also some good advice on how to think about the space, but really a lot of it builds down to: make sure you will feel good in it, don’t focus on how it looks to others.
There are also two or three interiors that are significantly different, often to do with adopting an unusual space. This is something I find fascinating taking a space that was not necessarily designed for living and transforming it. It’s a true act of creation. There’s just not enough of it in this book.
All in all it was a bit disappointing experience, despite (or maybe because) my high hopes. So when I finished it I went for a dusk time walk about my neighborhood in London to see who left their curtains open and steal a sneak peek of a different life.
What is your guilty pleasure?