Thursday 1 January 2004

It’s the day to imagine a new year — instead of glumly auditing compliance with my old resolutions to sharpen saws, work safely, or improve myself. It’s the day for a fresh cliché.

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris’s dictum will do​—​not as an absolute rule, more as an ideal to move towards. And while I’m quoting Morris, here’s another one:

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and white­washed walls and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the same with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings?

Simplicity of life is a relative thing. I can imagine Morris longing for whitewash as a counterpoint to wallpaper, as Marie An­toi­nette might long for the life of a dairy-maid.

We can be thankful that we are not troubled by housemaids​—​two small girls can manage all the dirt-smearing that needs to be done around here.

Damask pattern horsehair cloth [Emil Rotter] Horse tail hair [Anping]

I am pleased that an old material​—​one that signifies usefulness and beauty​—​is still available. I’m referring to horsehair cloth, still offered by manufacturers in Germany and China. Is this the year of horsehair-covered dining chairs? I doubt it, but some of the bent­wood chairs might get new cane bottoms.

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