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I love a beautiful home – you know this.
Goodness knows I started my business in pursuit of loveliness for me and my young sons. An elegant chest of drawers or a perfectly proportioned staircase can take my blood pressure down in an instant. A fall of light in a freshly decorated room can make me absurdly happy for hours. Being surrounded by harmonizing colours and patterns can send me to nirvana.
The thing is, though, I’m naturally a bit of a scruff.
Much of my joy in life comes when I’m kicking around Bathwick Hill in old jeans and a parka before I’ve put on my face and washed my hair. I love the comfort of old boots on my feet and a muddy dog in the car, both of us howling along with Dolly Parton on the cd player.
It’s not that I love really messy mess – I know people who live in absolute chaos and seem to thrive but it would make me suicidal.
But a bit of relaxed mess can be charming. You know what I mean?
Image Credit: Einstein
I had an aunt once who would ask us what we wanted for next day’s breakfast before we were in the door on arrival.
Who’d have our tea plates in the dishwasher before we’d swallowed our last mouthful of cake, and the sheets off our beds before we’d brushed our teeth in the morning. So it didn’t matter if the tea was served in a Meissen teapot or the sheets were 1,000 thread cotton – it was impossible to feel the pleasure because it was all so…uptight.
She spent her whole life trying to keep everything perfectly tidy and in doing so took all the pleasure out of living.
The Japanese, often feted for their precision and cleverness in everything from digital technology to marital arts to car manufacture, have another philosophy at the heart of their culture.
Wabi-sabi is in direct contradiction to everything sleek and mass-produced and technological. It is the appreciation of the flea market over the supermarket, the hand-sanded, reclaimed floor over the engineered floorboards, the single garden-picked peony over the dozen imported roses.
It sees the beauty in the cracks and crevices that time and the weather have caused in things.
I like that.
I like the authenticity of the naturally aged, whether that’s the marker pen on the kitchen doorframe that shows the progress of your child’s growth, or the lived-in, Oscar winning, surgery-free face of Judi Dench.
Leonard Cohen famously celebrated this imperfection in his song Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Even my personal hero, Dolly Parton, self-proclaimed most preened-to-perfection, artificially augmented celebrity ever takes a week off now and again to strip away the make-up and the costumes and retire to a simple cabin in the woods. Here she says her creativity is released and she writes all her best stuff. And if you’d like a little down-home, tell-it-like-it-is country wisdom (and some joyful kitsch) take a listen at what she has to say.
Dolly Parton: Better get To Livin'