Those of you who came on the tour of my Victorian drawing room will not be too surprised when I tell you that I often feel like a not-so-modern version of Queen Victoria. I don’t mean in a creepy, National Enquirer “My Previous Life as an Empress” sort of way; only that I have found that I share certain values and ways of thinking with this estimable lady, her contemporaries, and her zeitgeist.
|(Image from blogs.scientificamerican.com)|
The Complete Set
One of these peculiarities I even remember learning about as time-specific in my earlier days as an art historian. It was during this era that the production of household goods, such as linens, silver and fine china took off in scope and volume in a way never seen before or after. Never previously had a dinner table been set with such elaborate profusion of vessels and utensils, and never before had such a deeply felt need of uniformity and perfection been experienced. Hence, the 248-piece, or the 562-piece dinner service in one single, compulsive, cohesive pattern was born. Yes, of course there had been dinner services before, but never with the same obsessive need to have a “complete set", with endless bone plates, consommé bowls and salt cellars, where everything had to match, from beginning to grand final. The same principle was soon applied to other areas of domestic life and interior decoration as well, with complete sets of everything from furniture to toiletries. This gave rise to the whole concept that we in the decorating business like to refer to as “matching stuff”.
Even as a small child, I used to be incapable of picking just one acorn, say, and take it home and be satisfied – no, no, it had to be a “complete set” of acorns, whatever that may have been, the “completeness” being some arbitrary number that would present itself in my young brain: maybe six or ten acorns would be satisfyingly complete. Slightly weird, but I can see the pattern now… As an adult, I have retained a fondness for matching sets of stuff, seldom capable of buying just one pretty plate or glass – because it just feels so much better, somehow, to buy a minimum of eight. (When it comes to shoes in particular, I’m terrible – I can never be happy with just one single shoe, however pretty; I always, obsessively, buy two!)
It may therefore come as a shock to us all that I have wholeheartedly embraced the current fad for “mismatched” table settings – because it feeds into the collector’s mindset of basically buying a bit of EVERYTHING and enjoying it all AT ONCE – but there are times when I do a mental double-take, and have to gently talk myself down from the peaks of anxiety that sometimes interfere with this relaxed outlook.
But be warned – it isn’t as relaxed as “they”
would have you believe! The whole “mismatched” business is an art in itself:
you still can’t have eleven matching wine glasses with just the twelfth one breaking
the trend – you have to have a balance in this system as well, with six or four
of each kind, or twelve different ones altogether, or some other mathematical formula that will produce a charmingly “spontaneous” look… Am I getting out of
control here? Aaargh! Give me a Complete Set!!!
|Incorrect application of the "mismatched" concept - one that would, rightly, give the Monarch the hiccups!|
Designated Tools & Spaces
|The Bowl Quiz|
So, here is a quiz for you: Which two of these bowls may be used for correctly eating cereal - whether hot or cold? If you answered anything other than the two bowls on the middle level, you are as sadly mistaken as that SO I just mentioned.
On the top shelf we find a serving bowl (left) and a pasta bowl (right); on the counter top, from left to right: a soup bowl, a mixing bowl, and another serving bowl. See - that wasn't so difficult, was it? (And before you call the Husband-Protective Services I want to inform you that, with my usual tact, I do not interfere with my husband's life choices; I merely shudder, imperceptibly.)
No, if I do have an obsession it would be with containers. Round tins, square tins, oblong tins, drawstring pouches, zippered pouches, stationery boxes, pillboxes, hat boxes and just plain boxes, cases, jars, bags, purses, caddies, folders and envelopes. I buy them, I collect them – and I never have the one size or shape I need!
|A small part of my obsession|
|A particular favorite - from Blue Q|
|And a couple of close-ups...|
|... and let's not forget the hat boxes on top of the Pink Cabinet...|
Oh yes, dear Queen Elizabeth II – so modern, so sporty and casual; practically a hoyden by our standards – I am just now reading “Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe” by Ms. Angela Kelly, about the royal wardrobe (blessedly free of any malfunctions), and funnily enough, fascinated though I am by fashion and style (in which area Ms. Kelly, the royal designer and curator, sadly seems to be somewhat lacking), I find myself even more inexorably drawn to the comments dealing with the arcane details of court procedure, all the while deploring the descent into modernity that has become so rampant even in this elevated place.
In fact, I am so agitated by this that I must go and look for my smelling salts now, and I may have to conclude this discourse when I feel stronger...
Regards from your Victorian Rosebud!