A JOY TO BE­HOLD

HOME STYLE With Chris Read It’s the lit­tle mo­ments that can make life seem so won­der­ful

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - FRONT PAGE -

This last year or so I have felt the world is a more dan­ger­ous place, with old cer­tain­ties dis­ap­pear­ing. It’s led to me need­ing to coun­ter­act this where I can.

It has taken some odd forms – like do­ing more ex­er­cise ( not en­tirely sure of the link there but I know it ex­ists – maybe about look­ing af­ter my­self) and more time with friends and fam­ily, but also that old fail­safe of home.

It’s a turn­ing in­wards, a curl­ing up into a pro­tec­tive ball and, sure, I have to be care­ful this doesn’t turn into es­capism, but it is a huge source of so­lace and a recharg­ing of bat­ter­ies to help one face the de­mands of the day. So far, so stan­dard.

We all un­der­stand this and it’s why trou­ble at home can be so un­set­tling. But I’ve come to un­der­stand that there are ways of deal­ing with this and I can find no bet­ter phrase for it than ‘ mo­ments of joy’.

This phrase came to me on a re­cent visit to the rather gor­geous town of Here­ford and a walk round the cathedral.

It’s choc full of lit­tle mo­ments of joy, great ar­chi­tec­ture, amaz­ing light­ing and some won­der­ful craft and art.

They add up to a sum greater than the parts, but when ap­plied to home this ac­tu­ally doesn’t re­ally mat­ter, it’s about creat­ing those lit­tle mo­ments of joy.

Many of th­ese for me are vis­ual and tac­tile, as you would ex­pect from an in­te­rior de­signer. But it’s also sim­ple things such as ap­pre­ci­at­ing the most heav­enly smell in the world, sautéing onions and gar­lic ( you can keep your scented can­dles), or the purr of my cat, or the sound of wine be­ing poured into a glass, or the to­tal sense change you get when first walk­ing out­side in the morn­ing.

A big part of this is about de­lib­er­ately notic­ing our world and spot­ting those ev­ery­day plea­sures. It’s also about creat­ing them, de­lib­er­ately adding a bit of joy to the ev­ery­day.

How to do this? Apart from eat­ing gar­licky onions ev­ery night, that is.

To be fair, it’s of­ten the ephemeral such as food, or flow­ers, that work re­ally well, be­cause you don’t get used to them.

It needn’t be ex­pen­sive either – at this time of year, branches from the gar­den, of­ten with the rem­nants of leaves on them, or seed heads work well. Just make sure they are dis­carded when they get too dusty or battered – no joy there at all.

A big bunch of daf­fodils lifts the spir­its in early spring, and scented flow­ers give the added bonus of an­nounc­ing them­selves when you first walk into the room.

Al­most bet­ter are dis­plays of veg­eta­bles, a nice change from fruit, be­cause you get the dou­ble fun of look­ing at them be­fore eat­ing them.

Think of the old Dutch Master paint­ings and ar­range them like a still life, though prefer­ably with­out the dead rab­bit or grouse.

One of the best ones for me is an open fire or a wood burner. There is some­thing about the flick­er­ing of flames that is atavis­tic, pro­vid­ing safety as well as warmth.

It’s prac­ti­cal too – I can keep the cen­tral heat­ing on low through the house, and still be warm enough when fi­nally sit­ting down, so for me in the win­ter it is lit­er­ally an ev­ery­day plea­sure. But I still ac­tively en­joy it.

Though my ul­ti­mate mo­ment of joy is a deca­dent wood burner in the kitchen. Light­ing that in the win­ter for a Satur­day morn­ing’s cook­ing al­ways gives me a sense of ex­pec­ta­tion.

I think it’s that flicker of light that is also part of the joy of a can­dle, es­pe­cially when there is no other light source in the room.

I’ve talked on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions about the plea­sure I get from hand­made ceram­ics.

Mostly I love the us­able ones, be­cause then I get the fun not just of look­ing at them, but han­dling them too. From lay­ing the ta­ble for a sup­per with friends to a bowl of soup for a quick lunch, us­ing crock­ery that gives me plea­sure adds to the ex­pe­ri­ence.

I’m slightly wor­ried about the food theme that is de­vel­op­ing here – but, hey, food is one of life’s great plea­sures and we should ac­tively en­joy it, rather than get too tied up about its sym­bol­ism ( is it a ‘ dirty’ food, how much gluten, what type and how much fat etc).

It’s also about creat­ing small cor­ners that in­vite you in – for me, this would be a com­fort­able chair, a throw, with an open book lay­ing there. For oth­ers, it may be the art­fully un­made bed, a la Ralph Lau­ren, with crum­pled real linen sheets and half a dozen throws and pil­lows.

Some peo­ple I know have an area, from a sim­ple shelf to a cor­ner of a room, that they turn into a shrine – maybe re­mem­ber­ing a friend or rel­a­tive who has died, or just me­men­toes from their chil­dren’s baby­hood, or to make a place for med­i­ta­tion. This doesn’t work for me, but I to­tally get it.

This is not about those large scale is­sues of in­te­rior de­sign, the ones nor­mally talked about – it’s not good lay­out and stor­age, colour schem­ing, bal­anc­ing the pro­por­tions, get­ting a look, it’s about small ‘ vi­gnettes’ – some­thing on its own or in jux­ta­po­si­tion that pro­vides a no­tice­able ( and won­der­ful) punc­tu­a­tion, snags the eye in a good way. It’s pro­vid­ing at­mos­phere and it’s telling a story.

Above all, it’s task­ing your­self to no­tice what’s around – we live in a truly beau­ti­ful world if you look.

As long as you don’t live in the fir­ing line of a North Korean mis­sile.

Damn, I promised my­self to fin­ish on a pos­i­tive note. Where’s that drat­ted can­dle?

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