What's important to you at home?

Today I shared this wonderful new photoshoot from the Selby, of Boaz Mazor’s apartment in New York, with my family. Mazor is an “executive at large” with Oscar de la Renta, and his place is full of warm colors and interesting objects. This interview with Mazor is interesting too–he talks about “maximalism” as an aesthetic and his appreciation of good conversation.

These pieces led us into a discussion of what’s important to us at home. Everyone in my family is an artist of some kind: between them, Mum and Dad are painters, ceramicists, woodworkers, illustrators, printers and sculptors; my brother Daniel is a 3d animator and sculptor who trades in curiosities and antiques as Musaeum and has a flair for interior decoration; and his girlfriend Candice is a fine art student who works in all sorts of media. Me, I’m just a humble editor and publisher, and lately a novelist. I grew up in a house that (even more now than then), is packed from floor to oregon-beamed roof with art and artefacts, carpeted with Persian rugs, and furnished with distinctive armchairs, antique desks, and cabinets of curios. Boaz’s “maximalism” is pretty much what I’m familiar with.

IMG 0189Mum and Dad’s collections on display

Mum furnished us with this list of the things that are important to her at home:

  1. reminders of my family all around me
  2. Persian rugs
  3. visual warmth
  4. a lush and interesting garden
  5. having a hot shower, and an inside loo with sophisticated plumbing, which many people in the world don’t have
  6. comfortable furniture and good books to read while sitting on the comfortable chairs
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Visual warmth: one of Mum’s paintings of home

And Daniel gave us his:

  1. cozy
  2. full of interesting, thought-provoking objects
  3. cave-like and dark
  4. warm as opposed to being cold and lifeless
  5. everything I like is around me.
  6. somewhere I never want to leave

Now, I’m a little different. Perhaps as the black sheep of the family, a literary man rather than a practitioner of the visual arts, this is to be expected, but my list of six things is less about the tangible. I like Mum’s mention of hot showers: we’ve got a stellar hot water system that lets me take 15-minute showers with impunity. It never runs out.

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A typical still life from Daniel’s apartment

But what comes through as I read back over my list it is that my big desire is not to feel burdened, controlled, or blocked, and this comes through in the way I furnish my own room and organize my life. Here’s my six:

  1. proximity to the center of things
  2. visual warmth, and a hint of opulence
  3. minimal possessions: a sense of being unburdened
  4. comfort and ease: knowing I don’t have to be fussy, or that this space is being rigidly controlled
  5. good company
  6. a feeling of quiet and repose: good music, no TV, no drama, and no bullshit

All of these things say something about my personality and my preoccupations. I live in a beautiful apartment in downtown Melbourne, and walk out my door to find people on the street and something open and happening at almost any hour of the night or morning.

1. Proximity to the center of things

My love for proximity comes out of the time I spent living amid the crowds of Osaka, near the shopping district at Shinsaibashi, and is central to my social and intellectual life.

2. Visual warmth, and a hint of opulence

This has a lot to do with the visual sensibility that I learned at home with a creative family. Following Alain de Botton’s comments on architecture in The Architecture of Happiness, which see the built environment giving form to those values that see only weak expression in a society’s everyday life, my interest in “opulence” looks a bit like a reaction against coming from a family that is by no means wealthy in anything but a spiritual sense.

3. Minimal possessions: a sense of being unburdened

Rather than being overblown in the way of those immigrant families whose homes indulge in eccentric roccoco, I furnish my rooms with velvet couches, brocade bedspreads and antique/vintage furniture–but prefer to have a minimum of clutter. I’ve moved six times in the past ten years, and lived in three cities across two countries. While it’s not exactly a vagabond lifestyle, the moves have taught me the value in living light.

4. Comfort and ease

Ease has always been important to me, but was sharpened by the painful experience of living briefly with a woman who I loved but who was obsessive about minor household details. (Don’t leave the knife to dry on the sink! Hang your towel straight, not bunched up!)

On the Myers-Briggs personality test, I score very strongly P (perceptive) on the P—J dimension. P stands for openness, creativity, and to a certain extent, disorganization and rule-breaking. On the other hand, J (judgmental) stands for making lists, following rules, keeping things in their proper place.

Tragically, while P people will let others be, Js feel the need to control not only themselves, but others, and a P-J pairing, while productive in some ways, is often fraught with conflict. I hate being controlled, and if there’s one place where I absolutely will not tolerate it, it’s in my home. That said, where once my domestic spaces were chaotic, now they’re usually quite neat.

5. Good company

My desire for company at home continues to bear on the subject of personality. People who’ve only known me a short time usually don’t believe me, but I’m an introvert. My natural inclination, if I don’t have some reason to seek company for the sake of interests, practicality, or love, is to rest in solitude. I lived on my own for eight years, after a difficult year with some housemates from high school, and in the last two years of that, where I was single, I spent a lot of time on my own at home, which amplified my idiosyncrasies. It’s healthier for me to live with others, and these days I live in a beautiful, architect-designed apartment with one of my closest friends, and another friend that we found as a housemate on the internet. It is the best living situation of my adult life, and I’m very grateful for it.

6. No bullshit

This last item about integrity, authenticity, and peace of mind. Maybe it’s a failing, but I’ve tended to feel like a lot of the people out there in the world are obsessed with things that simply do not matter (the cut and thrust of daily politics, the accumulation of material goods that do nothing to make them happy, silly personal grievances, fashion without aesthetics, and foolish intellectual fads). I don’t want needless arguments (see #4), physical or intellectual clutter (which is why I don’t watch any kind of broadcast TV–I’ll allow pull but never push), or any kind of fakery. There’s enough of that out there.

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So … what’s important to you at home?

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.