My wife and I frequently comment about how barren those new multimillion-dollar condos in Manhattan look when we see those ads with only sofa, a coffee table, and maybe a sideboard in the living room and nothing else. God forbid that you would walk around in your underwear in that room, put your feet up, and munch on a bagel with lox and cream cheese. How do you live in a room like that? And what do you enjoy visually, other than the view of the skyline? Maybe that’s the point? Just look beyond the void of the room into the wild blue yonder, because there’s certainly nothing to ponder inside!
While most of us seem possessed with decluttering, especially when it comes time to sell our homes, fashion designer Iris Apfel, aged 93, is known for keeping her house filled with all sorts of treasures. When interviewed recently by The New York Times, she said, “I love clutter. I think being totally minimal shows a lack of history and soul, and I find it sort of pitiful. I think it’s wonderful to have stuff and live with memories and things you enjoy.”
My wife and I share the same sentiment and, a few years ago when we unsuccessfully attempted to sell our house at a time when the housing market had ground to a halt, the hardest thing we had to do was pack up a large amount of our collections in boxes when it came time to have professional photography done. Those items are still in boxes waiting to be unpacked for a new home that is 2,000 sq. ft. smaller, where we’ll have more display space for them. It might seem ironic that we will have more display space in less square footage but that’s the way it’s being brilliantly planned for us by cabinetry genius Jan Efraimsen of Woodtronics in Yorktown Heights. That story is for a future column.
Yes, the next chapter of our lives will be spent sharing space with many years of collectables, all items that have personal meaning to us. Among them are those few things, heirlooms, that have come from my parents and their parents – a Lionel train set from 1934, a Rosewood vase, a watercolor painting from my Aunt Helen, dated 1939. And from my wife, some pieces of Meissen china that her mother brought with her from Germany as a displaced person after World War II.
And from our own marriage, all the things that we scoured Greenwich Village and lower Second Avenue antique shops for, before the skyscrapers were built. And later, all the delights we found throughout the Hudson Valley during our four decades of weekend field trips, combined with my scouting trips coast to coast and internationally. Each piece comes with a memory of where we bought it, what we paid for it, and what it represents to us. Then, there is the fun of the connectivity of one thing to another.
For instance, while everything in our new home is basically in disarray as we wait for our new cabinetry to be installed, we have only one surface for displaying a ragtag of collectables that I swept up myself on moving day from our large 19th century round table in front of our sofa in the living room. They include as odd an assortment of things that you could imagine, some of which have given people pause to wonder, and say, “What the heck is THAT?” Mostly made of brass, they include: an 18th century candlestick, a candle snuffer, travelling inkwell, a glass globe with a brass base for the top of a newel post, a tea strainer, a large art décor dish, two elaborate European butter knifes, a large 19th century door key, a perfume vial, a small sun dial, and a device to tap down tobacco with the likeness of George Washington.
These collectables may all seem like a big disconnect from each other, but to me personally, there is a mental exercise, connecting the dots of association, much like playing six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. Granted, to visitors, it offers only the experience of seeing great looking items on a coffee table.
Philosophically, I look at it this way. We have only so many years on earth and our brains can contain only so many thoughts at the same time. Memories are very precious to all of us and having a home loaded with reminders of them enriches our lives. Therefore, wouldn’t it seem that minimalist environments make for minimalist lives? Am I reaching here?
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.