Saturday, 7 May 2011

Filling a house full of memories

It may be second-hand but it tells a story

Entertaining some good friends last night, over champagne and takeaway pizza the conversation turned to how homely our little house is, especially the living and dining room where all five of us were crammed in on worn sofas and borrowed wooden chairs, surrounded by two-decade old bookshelves and tables. When we moved in eight months ago we furnished it with donated, borrowed and inherited pieces; an odd assortment of Argos, Ikea and unbranded delights. Gradually we've added fabulous finds like an oak coffee table, a brown leather sofa, throws and cushions.

Our books, photographs and quirky masks collected on our travels now nestle amongst a borrowed futon from the mother of a great friend, coming from a huge family and used for many a planned and impromptu sleep over of friends, families and strays; a donated sofa from a teen companion, which has quietly beheld years of raucous parties, drunken sleep overs and nursed and comforted hungover days of TV and broken romances.

When we sit up for dinner, or, as last night, set up a buffet of canapes and champagne flutes, we are at a table that saw one of us grow from a toddler to a man; a table from a family home of hurried breakfast times, craft projects, inquisitive questions over dinner, and ravenous after school snackers. Our drinks cabinet sits in the bottom shelf of an antique bookcase that has travelled throughout a family home; much loved and used, piled high, over the years, with novels, encyclopedia, ornaments, trinkets and dazzling lamps and candles, before coming to rest in the loft, its wood slowly ageing, broken shelves leaning against it. They wait to be brought back to life, back into action, fixed up and proudly displaying a collection of Dickens, a selection of single malts and a hip flask, engraved to mark a new, happy occasion. New memories.

This odd assortment of furniture is so much more than borrowed, temporary solutions. Now that it all sits together, telling its stories and helping us make new ones, we realise that the homeliness and cosiness is not down to how we've arranged the pieces or who we invite to use them, but the memories and histories they represent. To the lover of all Ikea and those aspiring to replicate a perfect page of a perfect interior designer's catalogue, our home may look like a mismatched collection of "for now" furniture. But its loved, well-worn by people we love, and will forever have a story to tell.


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