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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bedrooms I've Loved

A corner of our bedroom before the most recent update.
Despite all the work we've put into our home's decoration, it must be said that the bedroom is my favorite place of all.  It's not my favorite in terms of overall appearance, although I do love it, but in terms of usefulness and comfort, it's a grade A space.

As I think of it, I've always loved bedrooms.  It's great fun to see what the bedrooms of those we admire look like.  They seem to tell so much more about people than the more public spaces of one's home.  Really, they are our most private of spaces.

When I was younger, my bedroom was far from normal for someone of my age and sex (gee, I'll bet you're surprised).  It's final iteration had terracotta colored walls and curtains in a magnificent chintz that looked a lot like a fabric I'd seen in a picture of a bedroom at Chatsworth.  That in itself should tell you how different it was.  Not a lot of kids pick their bedroom curtains based on the family seat of the Dukes of Devonshire.  On the walls were copies of a Monet or two, a great picture of a bronze bust of Mahatma Gandhi and a few Currier and Ives prints.  The furniture was mostly comprised of well-polished vintage castoffs and it was, in short, my favorite place of all.  It came alive especially at Christmas when I somehow fit in a six-foot Christmas tree.  Over the years, starting at probably age 8, I'd collected sparkly ornaments, old and new, and loved to fall asleep to the glow of the tiny colored lights.  I usually listened to the radio - classical music hosted by Peter Van de Graf (he's still on the radio all night!) or Rumpole of the Bailey books on tape.  I still think of that room often, and remember with happiness its coziness and the feeling of complete safety I felt there.  What a nice way to think of your childhood home.  It was also the perfect way to judge my future wife's view of me.  Rather than being surprised by such a room with its absence of posters of cars and sports heroes, she loved it and we've been decorating rooms, including a few bedrooms, for almost twenty years.

A relatively new decoration...  Max being forced
to try on hats...

Our bedroom today is not only our own refuge, but it's really sort of the family gathering place.  I can't tell you how many problems have been discussed around the king-sized bed with the white tufted headboard (made by yours truly).  Or the number of lectures I've given (none of them successful, when will I learn?) to our long-suffering children.  It's the place all the kids end up coming to at least once, or ten times, each evening to share news good and bad, to complain and to rejoice, to ask and to beg - for money, signatures on permission slips and, if we are asleep enough, permission to do something we'd never agree to when fully awake.  It's where we read, write, chat, discuss and watch our favorite movies.  It's a room in which games are played, messes are made and midnight snacks surreptitiously eaten.  There's a sofa, a cozy little club chair, an enormous bed and lots of good lights for reading.  Although it used to be a darkish sort of rose, it's recently changed colors and is a much more mature gray.  There are cheerful striped and sprigged cotton curtains at the old windows and lots of jolly pictures on the walls.  It's a pleasantly cool place in the summer, and a warm refuge in the winter.  The bed is dressed with just enough plump, feathery pillows to be comfortable (and to allow a spare pillow left to cool on the floor to switch out with an all too warm one in the middle of the night), and the thickest, softest, fluffiest blanket ever made (see the Shabby Chic line at Target...).  For some of us, a fan is necessary all through the night, both for the cool breeze and the comforting whir.

I remember reading and entry by the late Lady Diana Cooper in a book called The Englishwoman's House in which she described her very cluttered bedroom in her London flat.  Having spent her life in the heights of society and traveling the world, by her very old age she was basically confined to her bedroom.  Rather than mourn the loss of the wider world, she wrote lovingly of this most personal of chambers.  The photos showed her bed, half of which was covered in book, letters, phones and the life.  Marlene Dietrich so loved her room, and was so unwilling to leave it, that she took to cooking on a hotplate while in bed!  I can't imagine ever loving my bedroom quite that much, but it does prove the point that, regardless of the size of the house or the income of those living in it, we all long for a little space in which we can surround ourselves with the things we love most of all.

As I said early on, we can learn a great deal about those we admire from how they decorate and use their homes.  Imagine my delight upon learning that Cary Grant, the ultimate in terms of men's style, used his bedroom just like the rest of us...  He ate in it!  Rather than enjoying gourmet candlelight dinners in his Beverly Hills mansion, he much preferred dinner on the bed with his wife and daughter...  watching television!  So, next time you feel like a bit of a slob for noshing in front of the tube propped against your fluffy pillows, just think, you are no different from one of the suavest people who ever lived!



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