On day 8 of my hotel quarantine, I began to send family and friends unhinged, online-shopping-related messages.
“Do I need this?” became the daily broadcast.
“It’s a £3000 marble table…”
“Yeah, and? It would look good next to my bed.”
“You would literally have to sell everything you own to afford it...”
“I’ll make a plan...”
Cut-off from the ‘real’ world (and apparently the state of my bank balance), I was shopping for a house I had only seen in pictures, attempting to assert some form of control over a new stage of life beyond isolation.
“I can’t decide if this is hideous or amazing...” was a regular precursor to my bolder decor dalliances – the ones with the potential to shatter a reputation for good taste in a matter of seconds. If my chosen recipient responded with “Amazing”, I felt vindicated in my decision-making. “Hideous”, and I had no choice but to assume my taste levels were light years beyond their own.
There were days when I’d spent so much time saving pictures, it was as if the Instagram bot had clambered into my brain to tell me I must pair textured neutrals with one of those wavy Gustaf Westman mirrors (the ones that look like they’ve taken magic mushrooms), or I would surely lose all sense of self. That I must curate a collection of those candles that are more art installation than candle, to sit beside a vintage Marcel Bruer chair, for what could be a more succinct distillation of my very unique personality than something that half the internet already owns?
My maximalist side, bursting at the seams with oddly-shaped ceramics, sticky-taped illustrations, and, I must admit – a few of those candles, was battling with the aspiring minimalist in me, an existential crisis clearly languishing in the no-man's land between. Was I rattan or leather, 80s eclecticism or mid-century-modern? I wanted it all and I wanted it now, to re-emerge into the world as the next version of myself – the person my Instagram Saves knew me to be.
After countless adding-to-cart sprees, it took a few messages from friends gently inquiring into how I was doing that prompted me to see the overpriced wooden sideboards for the trees.
In the moments where I can’t tell my armchair from my elbow, or when I worry that I’m never quite where I want to be, I like to think about how one of my most stylish and successful friends used a vuvuzela as an ornament until relatively recently, paired with a Cartman-from-South-Park figurine and absolutely no sense of irony. A glorious reminder that life’s greater moments are the amalgamation of our misjudgements. That there’s no typing in “Motherlode” to cheat our way to some perceived resting place of smug clarity, despite what all those years on The Sims taught me.
Would we be the people we are today without the ill-thought-out stages of our youth? The teenage years I spent slicing designer ads out of magazines and slathering them over my bedroom walls as a legitimate form of decoration? My everything-must-be-purple period or my unfortunate obsession with shabby chic? Not so long ago, I bought a joblot of books on eBay to fill an empty wall of shelves in my first London home. Lying unread, they never felt part of me, as if I’d missed out on a few eras of my existence. No satisfaction of a story finished, pages crinkled by tears on the tube or silly inscriptions that held significance for no one but me.
We all know there’s more long-term satisfaction to be found in letting life unfold as it’s meant to – focusing on a solid foundation and building up slowly from there – but it doesn’t stop us from searching for the quick fixes in the vulnerable moments between. The flatpack flops, the collapsing-in-on-itself cupboards and the wall stacks of artworks that haven’t quite found their frames – they’re all there for a reason. If we skipped the work-in-progress phases, we’d run right past the pieces of ourselves we were meant to pick up along the way, and what a great shame that would be.
(illustration by @gracedekroon)