The humbleness of functional décor

The humbleness of functional décor

I’m prone to buying stuff that is nice to look at but is useless in a practical sense. Like some artisan carved statue of Shiva while holidaying in Bali or a Jurassic era nautilus fossil exhumed from a cliff face in Dorset.

After their initial placement and honeymoon of admiration, it seems like their novelty wears off. It’s somewhat difficult to lasso your attention to something that has sat on the shelf gathering dust.

The counter argument could be that it’s art and natural beauty, and there isn’t much more you can illicit from a stationary object – your living space has an element of a museum.

This got me thinking after Mrs B took me to Mt Warning’s Mavis’s Kitchen and Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre for my birthday earlier this year.

Celebrated Australian artist Margaret, had a knack for bringing studio into the home and decorating it in rampant and functional chaos, and it was this theme forensically examined by the gallery. In other words, parts of her house have been brilliantly copied-and-pasted from the inner suburb of Brisbane (Paddington), and relocated. This occurred posthumously with painstaking effort to photograph, catalogue and move every item. I saw the function in the merged space and perhaps something could be learnt from it.

I have allocated living room bookshelf space to some objects that are testament to a somewhat healthy addiction. Chemex coffee filter, Iwaki cold drip coffee maker and Hario Bunono coffee kettle. One could say this is a shelf of extravagance for extraction, and of course in many regards it is. But it’s also space allocated to aesthetically pleasing functional objects, in a sense minimalism.

It pulls function from the everyday and puts it on display – and this function is enabled because of the design aesthetic. I suppose you COULD have a plastic kettle or less grand coffee makers, but what I’m proposing is an approach to admiring design of the everyday. Other examples that spring to mind are the ambery reflective copper pots hanging from kitchens, and perfectly folded cottony towels on bath stand. These are functional and their repetitive use keeps our attention fixed on them.

An added benefit of functional display is by using the object, you clean it in the process, thus you’ll rarely need to ‘dust’ your items because they’re frequently handed. I love having glassware, cups and other objects out in the open and provincially on display for this reason. There is something utilitarian and humble about a considered display, especially in modern times where there is a push for more of everything.