12 July 2010

Well Said: Min Hogg

 Min Hogg in a photograph by Peter Schlesinger, 1978. Image from "A Chequered Past" (Thames & Hudson, 2003).

"Why does everything have to be so perfect? Nothing in real life is, you know."

So said Min Hogg, the founder and former editor in chief of The World of Interiors and a firm believer in stylish rooms filled with endearing mistakes, sleight-of-hand solutions, camouflage decorating, and such.

15 comments:

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I for one love this quote. It's so true and perfection would be grand but in the end is it highly worth it? This message is a valuable one to all of us that waste too much precious time trying to achieve the unachievable. Thank you ~

Mrs. Blandings said...

Sometimes "Well Said" seems to be personally and perfectly timed. This was one.

Quatorze said...

I'm with Ms. Hogg; some of the best decorating solutions are the result of "happy accidents". As a minor example, I was moving into my space-challenged NYC apt. and the movers slid the TV under a large console table. A second mover then propped a water-gilded empty picture frame against the TV and voila, an instant design solution, how to hide a TV in plain sight and with a touch of elegant whimsy, hang a frame around the TV screen and slide the whole under a table so it is not the usual 'elephant in the middle of the room."

Barima said...

Indeed, in some circles, imperfection is considered a hallmark of good taste

Which certainly helps to cover my indiscretions

B

magnaverde said...

The endless quest for some unreachable standard of "perfection" never ends, and I have neither the interest nor the patience for that. Mostly, though, I don't have the money. Even if I did, I wouldn't bother.

One time I went to vist friends who had moved to another state, and while the wife & the son went to Dairy Queen, the husband took me over to see a mid-Nineteenth Century landmark house a few blocks away.

It had been opened as a local museum in the 193Os after the last of the family that built it died out, but the combination of sixty years of wear & tear and the need to bring it up to current museum standards of accessibility & climate control meant that the house was going to be closed to prepare for a year-long process of restoration. My friend, however, knew the site manager, so he let us in, since work was scheduled to begin the nest week.

The 193Os reproduction Victorian carpet was patched, the original wallpaper was faded and the beautiful Edwardian-style curtains looked like they'd fall to shreds the next time they were cleaned. The white marble mantels had embedded soot stains & the gold leaf on the frames of the giant mirrors above them was rubbed clear down to the gesso up as far as a few generations of volunteer housekeepers could reach. It was summer, and the place was hot, but not as hot as the enclosed verandah, which was like a torture chamber, which, in turn, was why they didn't use that area--we saw it because the place was closed, and we weren't the public.

The expansive kitchen had its original Victorian 2-over-2 windows with wavy glass, but it also had worn 192Os linoleum, a 192Os sink on enameled metal legs & a 193Os ceiling fan. Upstairs, the bedrooms had real Victorian furniture accessorized with curtains & quilts made of fabrics whose Baroque scroll-&-flowers patterns may have looked Victorian to people living in 1939, but which looked to me, sixty years later, exactly like 1939.

The whole place was like that, a time warp, although not to the period it was intened to represent, but I loved it anyway, just as it was--shabby carpets, peeling wallpaper & all--because it felt real. In hot weather, it was hot. In winter, the caretaker told me, the fringe on the curtains swayed in the drafts from the ancient windows. School kids on field trips, who lived in brand new houses, could visit the place & get a sense of real history. In certain weather, they could even smell the history, which when we were there, was a blend of beeswax, old books, old rugs, coal dust, and probably, mildew, since it was a damp June. Smell or no smell, I loved the place, and I was just sorry when the caretaker hustled us out at closing time, since we hadn't even been to the attic yet, which was said to be full of old trunks & unused furniture. Just my kind of place.

.....................continued...

magnaverde said...

...continued...

These days, the house has been beautifully restored & brought up to current museum standards, meaning that the attic is now taken up with a state-of-the art climate control system. That eliminated the mildew smell, but it also eliminated the sense--due to the old variation in room temperatures-of the change of seasons. Blizzard or heat wave outside, it's always a perfect 68 degrees inside.

Now, the only way to tell what time of year it is is to look at the silk flowers in the vases. No smell there either. Nor is there a smell of old books in the library, or old wool, anywhere. These days, there isn't any old wool. Lustrous new carpets, woven in bold Victorian colors in historic patterns cover the floors, and the UV glass at the windows means that there's no longer any need to keep the blinds pulled to protect fugitive colors. Instead of the dim half-light that spoke of the enforced indolence of long, hot summer days a hundred years ago, the sun rakes through the rooms the way it does on magazine covers. The Victorian wallpaper, too, looks as fresh as if it had just came from the factory--which, in fact, it did. In short, everything old & worn, everything that made the place so evocative before--the crazed shellac, the tarnished bronze, the scuffed linoleum, every trace of messy, imperfect real life--has been banished & replaced with factory-fresh stand-ins. Before, this was a museum that felt like a home. Now it's a house that feels like a museum.

But it's worse than that. It's beautiful, all right--I'll give it that, at least--but in its new, pristine state, it reminded me of the Holodeck on Star Trek--a minutely detailed, but totally synthetic environment. On a starcraft in the middle of deep space, Virtual Reality is fine. Here, though, in the Re-Animated husk of a once-living house, such a perfectionist approach feels like the sham it is. In its quest for freshness, rather than the patina of age, this may be the opposite approach than the one Marie Antoinette took at the Petit Hameau but the result is just as doomed. Flaunting 'perfection' in the face of the universe feels like an open invitation for the forces of nature to have their way with things. Better not to invite trouble by issuing such a blatant challenge.

Anyway, Min Hogg's got it right. Then again, maybe that's why I have six feet worth of WoI on my shelves.

Torie Jayne said...

Such a great quote! Have a sweet day!

Shannon Fricke said...

Lovely blog.

SallyC said...

A perfect Well Said.

victoria thorne said...

How I adore this post, which I could call perfect but won't. Perhaps it is just beyond perfect (something Min is awfully good at...and you're right up there with her).

Joann said...

I just got the latest issue and it was beyond wonderful and went from castle to chicken coop....I love it...I'm glad the diversity continues.

katiedid said...

YES!!!

Gifts of Serendipity said...

What a great mantra to live by.
I think we could all do with a little less perfect and a little more creative.
x Felicity

Gifts of Serendipity said...

PS As my blog gifts of serendipity attests - it is the happy accidents along the way that bring the most unexpected joy.
x Felicity

TrickyMicky said...

Admirers of Min Hogg should have a look at her web site www.minhoggdesign.com. Here you will see a range of wallpapers and fabrics designed by her and all based on sea weed. Divine, and not a deliberate or accidental flaw in sight