23 March 2009

Do you care about houses?

Illustrious biographer of interior decoration Mario Praz divided people into two camps: those who care about the appearance of their homes and those who don't.
Praz elaborates:
"I am suspicious of the taste of a professor of Italian literature who can dwell under the same roof with a living room 'suite' in the most rickety Liberty style. I imagine that he must feel towards Petrarch the same indifference that allows him to tolerate such a desecration."

and explains:
"...'tell me how your house looks and I'll tell you who you are'...For a man may realize the impossibility of giving any grace or elegance to his external appearance, even with the aid of the most expert tailor, and he may therefore give up dressing with care; but he can always, even if he is deformed, project about himself his ideal of harmony and beauty so that his spirit may be constantly reflected in it."

What say you? If you are reading this, then chances are you are in the camp that cares about houses, but is this a fair classification? For my part, I find Praz' passion for interiors reassuring in knowing that I'm not alone in giving a lot of mental space to a subject many find frivolous.

Excerpts from An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration; all images of the Museo Mario Praz, Rome, Italy by Massimo Listri


pve design said...

Now that is what I call one who cares!

Toby Worthington said...

All that Mario Praz has said is perfectly true; and nothing is more dismaying than seeing how dismally
flat and uninspired are the rooms of persons who otherwise possess intelligence or have a reputation for scholarship. Indifference to personal surroundings seems to me a kind of aberration, yet it is astonishing
how often that sort of thing is encountered. In fact the number of people who don't care about houses is disproportionately higher than those who do.

Rose C'est La Vie said...

Following on from Toby Worthington's comments, I confess I've noticed much the same. Recently I went through the Guardian (UK)'s archive of writers' rooms. They are invariably disappointing when you think what's coming out of them. However, why should they be expected to be visually adept? Shouldn't the aura of scholarship/imagination be enough? The Italian prof. studying Petrarch amongst his rickety Liberty furnishings deserves more respect!

Mrs. Blandings said...

It's something so organic. My best friend lived with the most hideous PEACOCK wall paper in her dining room for years because she didn't know what she wanted to replace it with. On several occasions I offered to remove the paper (with my teeth if necessary) and paint it white as an act of mercy. "It doesn't bother me," said she. And I looked on in wonder and could not imagine how this could possibly be so.

I worked with a woman who drove a stripped down Honda one time who told me, "I don't believe what car you drive is a reflection on who you are." Completely proving the point that it is. It's not bad, it's just different. I'm sure that there are lots of people who would be horrified at my financial irresponsibility, but it doesn't make me enjoy fabric any less.