Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Tinged with familiarity







A ‘second home’ makes one think of a villa abroad or a tumbledown cottage on the coast. It suggests something additional – a surplus property or space. But although I’ve always thought of my grandma’s flat as a second home, it does not fit those criteria. Instead it has been a well known and appreciated ‘home from home’ visited since childhood; tinged with familiarity. I’ve always known on entering exactly how the bubble lamp would peer over the table, how the paintings were arranged on the stairs, which shelves to turn to if I wanted to read a Penguin classic bound up in orange.
My dad and his late brother grew up there, and it has changed little since his younger years. The sixties' Saarinen furniture has seen out decades of growth, love, difficulties; those smooth white chairs sat on by everyone from toddlers to teenagers to grandparents. I probably used them to haul myself up when learning to walk. It is full of such stuff as memories are stored in, whether these are volumes on art from the V&A or photographs hanging in the bedrooms.
Soon the majority of items collected over the years are to be re-located. This is the last summer during which I'll be staying in the flat as it is, before everything is boxed up and my grandma moves elsewhere.
Sorting and sifting and changing and recycling are part of the human process. The Buddhist concept Anicca, roughly translated, suggests that all things are impermanent and always in flux. Accordingly, it is taught that suffering stems from desire. Probably true, but I doubt that I’ll ever detach myself from all the things I’ve coveted and acquired. My magpie instinct, inherited from my family, is too strong. However, that state of continual change described above can be true on a material level for many of us. We accumulate things then let them loose again. The contents of our houses change as we do, sometimes incrementally, sometimes drastically. I’ve been used to the interior of my grandma’s flat being a constant. But although the change will take some getting used to, it feels right.
Exploring how we deck out our personal spaces is a book-length topic, taking in history, geography, family, circumstance, culture, society, experience, class, taste and other facets. What we put in our cupboards (and indeed, how those cupboards are designed) is informed by all these factors, and consequently informs the casual observer of something about the person who owns them.
For example, my own room indicates that I read a lot and keep hold of far too many hats. But if  viewed when I was thirteen it would have been easier to glean that I loved Audrey Hepburn and was attempting to forge my identity by way of collaged canvases, fairy lights, inflatable chairs and a ridiculous quantity of gel pens. Our interests and focuses shift, clear-outs happen and the updates are ushered in. 

Photos taken by the lovely Fred Wilkinson whose other shoots and photography can be seen on his flickr. Big thanks to him. It was great to hear his reactions to my grandma's flat as I showed him around. I chose my clothes to match that late sixties/ early seventies colour scheme. Both dresses are vintage and both were very well chosen presents from my mum.

Finally, I'll be flagging this up again in my next post, but as most people already know, Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st, so I'd encourage anyone who hasn't done so already to follow me on Bloglovin'. There's a great article on IFB about how to transfer your RSS feeds over. 

14 comments:

Fashion art and other fancies said...

My own flat indicates that I paint alot, read alot, have a fondness for antique furniture, and a love of hats.

Katherine Stevens said...

A very interesting post to read on the cusp of moving on to a new stage in life! What comes to uni, what doesn't...

Jess said...

I love the atmosphere of these photos. I used to love looking round my grandparents house it always felt like stepping back into the 1970s.

http://freedombooksflowers.blogspot.co.uk/

Sacramento Amate said...

I never get attached to things, that includes houses.
When my mother died, the houses was dead to me, and I felt no pain letting it go. It is people´s souls I collect.
Much love, my beautiful friend.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Closet Fashionista said...

Loving these photos! Especially the first!
And yes, it's funny how I'm the same way, my room has changed since I was younger but my Grandmother's house always seems to look the same... I hope she never moves out, too many memories! Ha ha :)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com

Helen Le Caplain said...

What stunning photos - and that dress is gorgeous!

www.mancunianvintage.com

Natalie Suarez said...

soo gorgeous! you've gotten more awesome through the years pretty lady! x

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

FASHION TALES said...

I've moved most all of my life, but have managed to keep specific items with me in every place that I am located. It's funny so much about our home spaces tells a great deal about us, my current flat is encompassed by a family art pieces, a mini library, dress forms, art studio and paintings mostly. :)

What a beautiful dress, it's a spectacular colour on you! x/Madison

Pippa said...

Love that orange dress :)
www.clashingtime.blogspot.com <3

Marla Robinson said...

Very interesting post. You are so beautiful.

Emalina said...

Savour this last summer at your Granny's flat before it all changes. Like you I'm a magpie and find it difficult to let anything imbued with nostalgic memory go. Being the only girl amongst my siblings I got to keep all the dresses from both sets of grandmothers, so I have always had to have a ridiculously large and impractical wardrobe. My house says that I love baking, reading, sitting by an open fire, entertaining and dressing up in ballgowns when I'm by myself!
Your mum knows just what suits you - you look gorgeous in both lovely dresses dear Roz.
Thanks for your comment on the Bluebell fairy post - sadly I don't have any photos of Kiki on her wedding day wearing that dress, which is such a shame, but I do have a sweet one of her and my grandfather canoodling in a park: see my old post My Wardrobe Of Wonderful Women to view the picture!

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

I've just returned from seeing my parents as my father celebrated his 90th birthday. We are facing a major resettling once again, probably in the near future. It's a hard time, and I try to let the sadness move through me without resisting it. I strive for non-attachment, but like you I'm not really wired that way genetically, although I've made great strides.

I love the dresses you chose for this shoot, and I think they honor the wonderful aesthetic sensibility of her home. XXOO

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I am hearing so much now of grandparents' leaving their dream homes (or what, to the children and grandchildren, seem like absolute dreams). It must be our human way of dulling the distress of the unfamiliar by carrying our items around with us. Perhaps turtles feel the same as they move with their "houses"! Salvador Dali's most iconic work and title, "The Persistence of Memory" seems to follow our instinct to stretch out time, to linger in happy moments. And so we carry bits and bobs of these moments around with us. Or, in Dali's case, we might try to stay in that languid dream space where everything is possible!

I can sense your family's history just by looking at your grandmother's home. It seems full of much-loved items that represent generations of experiences. I love those baskets of stones and shells(?) which seem to have been collected from faraway places, and books in every room. It is very similar to the way I grew up (and my Mom loved 20th C modern too). In a way, though we try to create a more spare environment, it is still similar to the way we live now (books on every possible surface!).

Interestingly, just this morning, I was looking over at one of our bookshelves where I had placed a lot of poetry and Shakespeare, an interest I associate with my Mom. Alongside the books was a carved ivory tusk, fashioned into some tribal totem pole. My dad had given it to me during his most recent visit. It was my mom's, a precious souvenir from an exotic trip long ago. I didn't get the chance to extract the complete story behind this interesting object, but I hope to interview my dad about it next month.

Your mother has such wonderful taste in presents, and your flair for Mod suits them perfectly. - J xxx

Willow said...

Enjoy your last summer in your grandmother's flat, you'll always have those memories and there's new memories to made.

I am in absolute awe of your grandmother's flat, you, the photographs and those dresses. I can imagine your grandmother's flat was a very cool (but very warm) place to spend your childhood.