Saturday, March 22, 2008


I went to an open house at the Corcoran, as I've applied for entrance into their (with the Smithsonian) History of Decorative Arts graduate program. While there, I was in one of those dreaded "mingling" situations. Another prospective students asked what I primarily interested in, and as I listed the many things: the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain and Europe, native art of the Pacific Northwest, carved wooden doors, paned and stained glass windows, it came to me that I could basically sum it all up in one word: homes.

I love looking at houses and homes as a whole. It's not simply the architecture, nor is it the interior, nor the landscaping, the doors and windows, or the objects which fill it: it's all of those things. Granted, there are specific types of homes and styles of the above things to which I am drawn, but on the whole, it is the home. It's likely why I took to the writing and work of William Morris so quickly, he is, after all, the man who said "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Another quote I love is one I came across on, a site cataloging homes built in the "Storybook style," primarily in the 1920s. It comes from Mark Twain.

For us, our house was not unsentient matter—it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome—and we could not enter it unmoved.

And that's the best way I can explain how I reacted when at the open house I was asked whether I'd be interested in curating a house museum. I wouldn't be able to handle the sadness. For me, historical houses always echo with the memories of their former residents. I love the feeling, but it is bittersweet and I don't think I could take it day in, day out. I'm okay in historic houses with current residents, but house museums are too still and silent.

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