[Originally ran in the May 2015 issue of The Village.]
I blame production designers. You know, the people who create movie sets. Specifically the sets that are so fabulously gorgeous you just want to jump into the movie screen and live there. Like Diane Keaton’s Hamptons house in Something’s Gotta Give. The production designer there was Jon Hutman. Or Meryl Streep’s house in It’s Complicated. That would be…umm, Jon Hutman. Or that perfect English cottage in the dreadful The Holiday. Dear Lord, Jon Hutman again.
OK, looks like I’ve narrowed it down. I blame Jon Hutman.
For what exactly? We’ll get to that.
While spring cleaning in our house involves plenty of Windex, Formula 409, Brasso, and Old English (which I suppose it should on a more regular basis, but we needn’t get into that now), it isn’t all about getting the place spic and span. It often involves one of my favorite activities – rearranging.
That’s when I decide that the wicker-seated chair we had refinished 15 years ago isn’t fulfilling its potential in the corner of the sunroom and needs to be moved to the bit of wall space by the piano in the dining room. (Speaking of which, if anyone’s interested in a circa-1920 Mendelssohn upright piano, give me a call.)
Or it’s when I’m tired of facing the wall in my study and decide it’s for the best if I rotate my desk out so it’s facing the door, precipitating the domino effect whereby the new blank space needs to be filled by the gold chair, meaning the spot where the gold chair used to be has to be filled with…and there goes the afternoon.
Or when the arrival of a new chair and ottoman gives rise to a feng shui crisis in the living room. That’s the latest. That’s one we’ve been dealing with while awaiting the advent of spring (which at the time of writing – April 7 – has yet to come).
My friend Taylor died a year ago. I knew his mom Celia most of my life. I’d visit her occasionally at her Kennebunkport condo. When she passed 10 years ago, Taylor and his sister Amy inherited the place. I thought this was supposed to be a humor column. Man.
At any rate, the first time my wife and I visited Celia at her condo, I sat down in this green cloth armchair, and I’m pretty sure the first words out of my mouth were, “I want this chair.” So in love was I with that chair that we bought a leather version of it. Hearing this story recently, Amy said when the time came to sell the condo, I could have the green chair.
And now the condo’s on the market. And we have a new chair. Which throws everything off. Or does it?
Of all the rooms in our house, it’s the living room that has always presented the biggest challenge. We were never able to go out and buy an entire set of matching furniture, so the accumulation of chairs, tables, window dressings, bookcases, and sofa has been a decades-long series of educated guesses. Like an average kid with a Rubik’s Cube, we’ve been waiting for the pieces to fall into place. All we’ve ever wanted is to have our house cease resembling a college dorm room and start looking like a movie set. A movie set designed by…yes, that’s right…Jon Hutman.
The funny thing about the latest reconfiguration, which involved the rotation of most pieces of furniture (save my leather chair, which will forever be nailed to the floor by the hearth), is that I found it revelatory, while Diane – you know, my wife – found it disconcerting. Actually, the word she used was wrong. She’s so cute when she’s being contrary. Love her to pieces.
My recycling of the word wrong to describe her stinging assessment of the new living room set-up led to a spirited debate on our respective interior design skills and judgment. When it comes to household decisions, we usually share a brain; this was a notable exception. Notable in that each of us thought the other had lost his/her portion of the brain and was operating on methane.
The linchpin is Celia’s chair. See, I have its back against a wall, whereas Diane thinks it should be at an angle. I model the set-up on my grandparents’ living room – the placement of the two armchairs and the fireplace is nearly identical. If I remember correctly, Celia had the chair at an angle, which helps Diane’s case; however, it was in the middle of her living room, not against a wall.
For the moment, we’re in a holding pattern. The new arrangement is in place, after I requested it be given a chance. Two things can happen now: either Diane exercises her wife-item-veto power, or absolutely nothing. In the meantime, I’ve got some cleaning to do.
[Note: Diane was right; Celia’s chair, as of November 2016, is at an angle.]