Fifteen years ago I lived with a writer who despite being talented found only momentary success he was unable to capitalize on. A prolific writer he wrote radio plays at first, then stage plays for the Royal Court directed by Max Stafford-Clark and Stephen Daldry. He then wrote films for TV directed by Gub Neal and Danny Boyle, whose next project was Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. Because of his growing association with up and coming directors, for a while we mixed in Channel 4‘s celebrity circle. Actors can be notoriously short and insecure and I often got mistaken for a model (I didn’t say much and wasn’t trying to sell myself my next project). Back then models weren’t the savvy, business women they are today, so I was understandably offended.
We all have to filter who we are. Especially at work. We learn to become more assertive at meetings. More sympathetic/patient with colleagues. Be more aggressive to close a deal. But your home should be unfiltered. A refuge from your work self.
We can’t escape who we are, or pretend what we do for a living doesn’t affect our core judgements and priorities. This is why it’s so important to inject personality into your home (your own not someone else’s) and why you should ignore trends unless they chime with who you are as opposed to some aspirational fancy. It’s also why you shouldn’t covert someone else’s home (be they your neighbour, an interior designer or a celebrity).
Great interior design is about living more successfully with what you have, buying a little of what you can afford and making what you can’t. It isn’t about making more money to buy expensive things that say something about you (usually I’m rich and successful). It’s about solving a problem. How do I make my hall more welcoming? How can I have all my friends over to dinner? How can I create the illusion of space? How can I hide things it doesn’t make sense to change? What can I do to add warmth to a room that feels and looks cold?
I was reminded of this when a friend sent me a Youtube film set to Alan Watts’ lecture “What do I Desire?”.
As anyone who’s yearned for more storage knows we all have too much stuff – devote far too much time doing things we don’t like for money we think we need to buy stuff copywriters tell us we can’t live without. Ironically this is how I ended up a writer for financial services as opposed to advertising. But that stuff catches up with you. Doing something you hate defines who you are and what you want if you do it for long enough. You can’t wish something different for your children (they’ll think you’re lying to them) you have to show them alternate ways of finding fulfillment, happiness and joy and enjoying a sustainable way of life. If all you do is work, your life will be out of balance. If all you have is money and expensive things you’ll never have enough.
Live with things and people you love. If you don’t the things you do to compensate will only ever suffocate. You can’t escape who you are. What you do catches up with you.