I sort through old photographs and dig out photo albums, unopened in years, to find them a permanent home. I dispose of a bunch of travel articles that have lost their appeal, destinations that the passing of time has rendered obsolete. I rearrange the piles of unread books in a likely reading order.
I reorganize my desk, which is not a desk at all: it’s a rectangular outdoor table made of pretty tiles, embedded in a stone slab, mounted on wrought iron legs. I found it at a furniture store in Milan, fell in love with it while I was furnishing my minuscule rooftop apartment and, somehow, I managed to lug it home with the begrudging help of my boyfriend at the time, and his car.
This table has never seen the outdoors. I first used it as a dining room table – it sits six at a push, elbows composed – and it has followed me ever since, its ridiculous heaviness notwithstanding. The tiles never chipped, and I always took it as a good omen.
Not much remains of the furniture from my single days but this table endures. Now that it’s a desk, its narrowness forces me to keep it tightly organized in neat piles: bills, journals, folders, random articles I might want to refer to while writing, a woven basket of pencils, two small handmade wooden bowls for loose necessities. Its uneven surface feels pleasant under my fingers.
There is no objective or practical advantage to having this table as a desk other than it never fails to put me in a good mood whenever I sit at it – unlike pieces that came from my family, with centuries of history on their backs, the history of this table belongs solely to me. Not some IKEA piece lost along the way, nor a cast-off from a friend’s house, this table marks my independence and holds memories of the very first household I furnished myself, of happy dinners with friends, of letters written in longhand.
A few days ago, I read an interview 101-year-old painter Carmen Herrera gave for “Worn Stories”, about a table in her house.
“I acquired this table by chance in the 1960s. There was a factory downstairs from where I lived on East 19th Street where women would sew flowers onto hats. The factory owner was this Irish man who used to frequent the bar next door after work and would have his little boy wait outside while he had a few. I befriended the boy and one day his dad just showed up at my door and said the factory was closing and he had all kinds of furniture, including this table.
My husband of more than 60 years shared this table with me, and it will always remind me of our years together. It’s also an essential part of my daily life and routine. It’s where I eat, read, sit and talk with friends, and often work. I think if the table represents my work in any way, it’s that it’s resilient, sturdy and unassuming. […]
I find inspiration in the simplicity of a straight line and many of the objects in my home, like this table, are just that….simple.”
When I read it, I thought to myself “I wonderful to own something like that”. But I don’t have to wish. Because I do.
Top image: Blanco y verde by Carmen Herrera – Whitney Museum of American Art