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Simple lines

Posted in Home & Decor

Home alone, sick with a head cold and two bored dogs, I tackle my office. Time for some spring cleaning.

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.

Tile on my desk

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

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  1. L’ho subito riconosciuta, Carme Herrera, ho anch’io una riproduzione bene in vista

    April 9, 2017
  2. I love the fact that your desk moved from Italy to America with you. Well done! I have two items I could never bear to part with. One is inherited – a beautiful dining table that was hand carved by my grandfather. My father grew up with it, and so did we. In more recent years it became the table at which I do all my writing, because it’s big enough to hold all the piles of papers and books for research (and other things that writers need around them). The other item was custom made for me by my father – it’s an enormous bookcase he made when I started at University because we couldn’t find one big enough to hold all the books I had to buy. I couldn’t bear to part with either of these, so they both came all the way from Africa to Australia with me.

    April 1, 2017
    • Your furniture travelled even farther than mine (I think)! There are pieces we couldn’t possibly let go of and yours are such pieces, so interwoven with your youth and your family. I don’t have anything my family actually made but I do have a couple pieces that were in my household growing up, antiques acquired by my parents. They cheer me up too and remind me of happy times.

      April 2, 2017
  3. I love the fact that you have carried this table all over the world with you and that it has served many different purposes. Do post a picture of it. I am curious to see if it looks like what I imagined.

    March 31, 2017
    • I tried. Because it is set at a funny angle, wedged in the back of my office, I just couldn’t get a decent shot. I will try again, maybe with the help of my husband, a much better photographer than I am.

      March 31, 2017
  4. winstonmoreton

    ‘Elbows composed’ is such a nice line! Might borrow it some time when the grandkids are around

    March 31, 2017
    • It might have some effect. It did on me. It is loosely translated from my mother’s “Stai composta” which I heard countless times at the dinner table. It literally translates to “compose yourself” but more related to body parts than emotions. She was obsessed with posture, and elbows on the table were a giant no no.

      March 31, 2017

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