Monday, 6 July 2015

Explorer style

 Have you ever wanted a particular style of home? I always wanted an art deco home, and this year I've really been enjoying Porcelina's posts about restoring her home to its moderne-era best, Cate's (Vintage Gal) renovations and Marija's (Pinky Purple Honey) notes on decoration. The thing is, I'm never going to have an art deco home because I'm never going to have those uncluttered surfaces. I have too many books and knick-knacks.

I once read a wise quote that said, “When you move house a lot, home isn't a place, it's things,” and I suspect my reluctance to get rid of things may stem from an early childhood moving regularly as my dad went to new Air Force postings. As a child I was often baffled and distressed at the way I lost things, and it was only as an adult that I realised my parents probably threw them out when we moved on to another country thinking I'd never miss them.

As I don't like throwing things out, I'm very picky about what I acquire (who wants to live under a mountain of junk?), and nowadays any new large items tend to be ones we've bought on our travels. The result? The House of Robots seems to be developing a sort of 'Victorian explorer' style. I'm actually quite pleased about that as it's a look I've always loved. For me the key to the look is natural materials in warm and dark colours – unpainted dark wood, leather, brass and so on – plus plenty of handmade items from all round the world. As well as the warm tones of many natural materials giving a cosy feel, there's a story behind every object. And if things are a bit worn, so much the better: while the traveller may have settled down and found a home, their stuff will have taken a few bumps and scrapes along the way.

In the picture at the top of the page, the painting is from Burma (bought unframed for easier transportation, and framed here in the UK), the vase handmade in Wales and bought at Tintern Abbey, the terracotta mug from a 'medieval' bar in Caceres, Spain, and the little volcano from Tenerife. The latter's doubly precious as it was something my mother-in-law bought when we took her there for her 60th birthday, and we brought it home with us after she passed away. Lower down the page is a carved wooden elephant from Burma; we put a candle on him for Thadingyut (a Buddhist holiday that the locals were celebrating while we were in Granddad's home town). Most of the things we acquire are fairly practical, things like vases and serving dishes, though Mr Robot is addicted to pictures too! And I do have odd things like fossils scattered around the house.

Nowadays there are enough shops selling new imported trinkets and old antique bits and bobs to make it easy to buy yourself the Victorian Explorer look in an afternoon. To me, though, that's missing the point. If you just go to a shop and buy something, that's all the story there is. Where are the memories? And, if you buy things made in the places you visit, you're actively discovering a new culture or artistic community, and supporting local artists and artisans and putting money directly into the economy there, you know you're not simply keeping someone, somewhere, in a sweatshop.

I still dream of dwelling amid art deco glamour – if I ever win the lottery, you can bet your boots I'll have a London flat fit for Hercule Poirot – but I actually think an explorer's home suits me and Mr Robot much better.

Does your home have an identifiable look? And if so, did you have to make an effort to achieve it, or has it just evolved naturally?

22 comments :

  1. I like rooms which have evolved with the inhabitants rather than rooms that have been created in a short space of time. All too often you see people buying everything in one go for a room. All our rooms have evolved over time and I like that because it gives more of an indication of us. I like the sound of your home, perhaps a virtual tour by means of pictures one day :)

    I've lost so many things in our many house moves, it's quite depressing so that quote hits home with me.

    I hope you feel better today xxx

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    1. I suppose the only time I've considered buying everything at once was when we got our house - and then we couldn't afford to!

      My house is too messy to be shown in anything other than close-ups :-D

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  2. 'Victorian explorer' sounds wonderful, and I think the style is really lovely and practical, very 'you'! What lovely items you have here, that elephant is splendid.

    Thanks for the shout-out - our own decorating has stalled somewhat, I know that I owe you all some updated posts on the progress but the reality is that our surfaces are rather cluttered and undusted at the moment and we still have piles of boxes everywhere as we don't have enough bookshelves. The DIY has been put on hold with all the wedding planning!

    xx

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    1. We do love our elephant.

      Your house has such lovely details - that floor!

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  3. Fantastic! I love the Victorian antiquarian/curio/explorer look and trying to embrace Art deco and so I am determined to somehow marry the two styles! I collect all manner of things and try whenever possible to show them off. My sister in law once commented that she liked visiting our home and that it reminded of a museum because there was lots to see, a compliment I gladly excepted! Keep up the good work! :)

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    1. I think art deco's influences from Asia and Africa means the right things in the right places can work with an explorer style. I just have too much clutter to pull it off. A house liek a museum is a great compliment indeed.

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  4. I think any home should be full of things that have meaning to the dweller and have their own stories, otherwise it can just look like it's been chosen directly out of a catalogue and feel rather sterile. So many of my bits and pieces were chosen for a reason and have a background to them, like the painting I bought in Barcelona where I sat and watched the artist paint it on one of the side streets. Whenever I look at it it takes me back to that holiday.

    Have you been to the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford? It's an amazing collection of weird and wonderful things collected by Victorian ethnologist and archaeologist Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (fab name!). Your Victorian Explorer idea made me think of him.

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    1. I haven't been there, but I've heard good things about it. I bet he was a fascinating man.

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  5. Victorian Explorer is a great name for a style which I love, trinkets picked up on our travels and inherited weirdness.
    Our house doesn't have a style. The interior is organic, we find it and it goes on display. xxx

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    1. Yeah, ours is, really. I figure if I buy things I really like, sooner or later it'll all come together. 'Victorian Explorer' sounds a bit better than, 'Old tat we picked up on holiday' :-)

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  6. I too yearn for my Art Deco home but in reality our house is an explosion of stuff!
    We are both hoarders for a start and I do keep getting drawn to kitsch stuff, I like things that make me smile and yes they have to be things that mean something.
    My sister in law won't even come in the house because she can't bear all the clutter, she is a total minimalist she feels like it's closing in on her where as I feel uncomfortable in stark empty spaces.

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    1. Weird - I could understand someone not wanting to go into a mucky house, but avoiding a place because it's got things in sounds very strange.

      I like the sense of freedom I get from empty space, but that's usually a sense of freedom to fill it up with cool stuff...

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  7. If I had the luxury of money no object it would be Arts & Crafts/Art Nouveau all the way for me, although I also like the homely 1930s/40s basic house.
    I love the house they did up for the 1940s House series. I hate minimalist and it makes me feel quite lost and agitated to be in somewhere like that.
    I always feel sorry for children who have to endure that kind of thing,
    And a house without books is a huge no no as well.

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    1. A house without books is just plain wrong. We have Kindles, but anything I'm particularly fond of gets bought in hard copy as well - I'm never entirely happy at relying on an electronic format that someone could wipe remotely. (Hence I still also buy CDs.)

      I like visiting minimalist places, and think it probably takes a strong personal vision to live that way, but I'm incapable of living that way myself. I just acquire tat!

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  8. Your home sounds lovely. Victorian Explorer/Collector is actually one of my favorite styles. I hate empty spaces and love rooms that have a lots of interesting things to look at and discover.

    I'm not sure my rooms really have a "style". Everything is a bit of a hodge-podge, but maybe Edwardian-Flapper-Naturalist-Bookworm-Artist is the closest I can get to a decorating "style". I have hundreds of books everywhere, lots of vintage pieces (typewriters, old clocks, photos, teacups, etc), art supplies, and random bits of nature (such as pretty rocks, dried flowers, fossils, pinecones, acorns...) scattered throughout my room. My sewing studio is a bit different in that instead of piles of books, it has piles of fabric everywhere. I seem to be big on random piles. I never think of my things as "clutter" though. Everything I own tends to have a story, which makes it all meaningful rather than just piles of stuff.

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    1. Your decorating style sounds *ace*. Especially the random bits of nature. I have a glass box containing interesting rocks from the beach.

      I know what you mean about craft stuff... there's a whole lot of knitting and photography things scattered through our house.

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  9. Oh, Mim...
    THANKS for the mention! ..and would I kill for owning a Poirot's decorated flat? There's a posibility I might, yes... just because I know my home (like yours) will not live up to many folk's expectations.
    On the outside, I've kept the "etno" style of our heritage.. and everybody is now wondering am I going to decorate the inside to match it. That would imply that all my belongings have to look like a doll's house, finished off with knitting tools finely placed on the feet-resting stool - and no untilities.
    Like this:
    vojvodinaonline.com/sta-videti-i-raditi/etno-kuca-didina-kuca-bac/?lang=en
    So: no.
    The "etno" inside does not match my needs... as for what my style is - will just have to wait and see what it'll turn out to be when I'm done.

    Marija

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    1. Aw, the Etno house is really cute - I'm a sucker for nice needlework, so all the embroideries and crocheted bits are really interesting. But who wants a house without utilities if they can have utilities? You'd spend all your life with a washboard!

      (Plus I bet Sarka would think pulling the fringing on tablecloths would make a great game...)

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    2. I defintely take your point, but I have to say I am also rather in love with it! The needlework and the fabrics are so beautiful too.

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  10. Victorian explorer sounds like a great way to go about decorating. I can't stand those homes where a decorator has hand-selected every item, and where it will reside. My mother REALLY hated clutter (so much so it got mention on her headstone) and she eventually moved to a a minimalist condo where everything was white. White walls, white sofas, white wool carpet. I couldn't stand being there for fear of spilling something.

    My home is more of a library than anything else. I do love a good bit of 70's kitsch, but you'd hardly notice it overwhelmed as it is by book cases. Most of my furniture is Victorian despite the townhouse having been built in 1968. Somehow, it all works. I think. My mother would have freaked out after five minutes in here.

    I like your Tintern Abbey vase. Please tell me there's a gift shop selling shirts in town that read, "Someone visited Tintern Abbey, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

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    1. Books are important. Got to have books! You'll never be bored with books in the house.

      Your mother must have spent all her time cleaning that white carpet. We have Victorian floorboards, they're easy to hoover and easy to wash. When I can be bothered.

      I'm afraid I didn't see any tacky gift shops in Tintern - it's a tiny little place and all rather tasteful. The vase was from the Abbey shop; I think it's either Cadw or the National Trust that looks after the Abbey but no British heritage body will let you escape a place without leaving via the gift shop and tempting you with handicrafts or posh jam (or brightly coloured pencils/ rulers listing the Kings and Queens to prise pocket money from children).

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  11. "Victorian Explorer" is such a great look. I like a home that reflects what and who people are. We have moved around a lot too (and will be again soon) and I love to fill the house with things I find in second-hand shops or hand-mde stuff from our travels. How much better than the ubiquitous IKEA look! Someone once described my house a looking like a Victorian brothel. I was chuffed to bits for weeks after. :) Xx

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