Style and substance

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  – William Morris

 

For a long time, I swore that I was someone who values substance over style and function over form.  I still don’t think this is necessarily untrue.  I’d much rather have something functional but not so nice to look at than something pretty but useless.  But I’ve recently realized fairly acutely that valuing practicality and utility doesn’t mean that I don’t like nice things, or that I don’t want a home that’s somewhat aesthetically pleasing and relaxing to be in.

One of my recent projects has been revamping my apartment.  I suspect that at least part of the reason I told myself that I preferred form to function for so long was because it excused the fact that my apartment was an ill thought out, overstuffed, poorly arranged mess.  The remedy?  Getting rid of some things, replacing others, and spending a bit of time just making the place look and feel nice.  I spend a lot of time here, and the truth is that making it into a nicer place to be does me a world of good.

I was, however, not really willing to spend all that much on style just for the sake of style.  On top of that, I needed to watch my budget.  I put a good bit of money towards a new bed and it was important to not spend a lot on other things.  I didn’t want to wind up buying whatever was available simply because it was there and it was cheap, though.  As I keep shopping the secondhand market, it’s become clear that it’s important to be selective and to not just buy things that are sort of what I want or need.  It’s easy to justify “close enough” when something only costs five dollars, but it’s not worth it in the long run, so I tried to hold out for things that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Most of my shopping was done through August, when I had the loan of a car from a friend.  Since thrift stores have such highly variable stock, I simply showed up a lot in the hopes that some good stuff would show up. Other than some basic bookcases, I didn’t buy anything that didn’t make me think, “yes, that’s lovely and exactly what I need!”

I was fortunate there was quite a lot of “yes!” happening on these trips.  For furniture, my trips yielded two bookcases ($8 and $10), two chairs with solid walnut frames ($5 each), a metal filing unit ($5), two brass floor lamps ($5 and $7), a brass table lamp ($3), a pottery table lamp ($3), and a pine side table ($3).  I also picked up four down throw pillows ($3 each), a couple of baskets ($1 and $5), linen napkins and placemats (8 for $1), crystal glasses ($1.80 each), candles (25 for $4), and a few pieces of pottery (from $1 to $4).  All told, as of the end of August my apartment revamp cost around $100, excluding the bed.

 

I’ve been thinking of this style as some kind of hybrid of modern, industrial, vintage, and rustic.  It’s probably really just eclectic, but I like it and it leaves me feeling comfortable and relaxed.  Do I need an aesthetic or style?  No, not really.  I’d be fine without it and would function just as well.  If I didn’t have the resources I wouldn’t have done it and would have been just fine.  But, given the choice, it’s nice to be able to have a little bit of form along with my function.  It’s a pleasure to turn on lamps that cast softer light, to appreciate the design and materials of a chair, and to light candles and look around at an apartment that feels much more like home than it has in awhile now.

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3 thoughts on “Style and substance

  1. I enjoyed reading this post, very resonate with me. I prefer functional over pretty and not useful too. This sometimes leaves me with some not-so-attractive areas in my apartment. That kind of drags me down when I realize what it looks like! Recently, I did some de-cluttering and shifted some things around. I like the fresh, neat and clean areas/rooms that resulted.
    Thank you for sharing, it’s inspiring!

    • Thanks, Terri! I’m not always so good at the decluttering part of things – I tend to be an “I’ll hold onto this because it will be useful someday” kind of person, and I have far too many interests for my own good – but you’re so right that it makes a huge difference when the effort’s put in. I’m trying to do that a bit at a time right now, and to take a few bags in for donation every few weeks.

  2. Love the idea of doing things a bit at a time, I’m not so good at it though. I have a good friend who is great at small steps and accomplishes great things, large projects by doing small pieces of it at a time. I watch in awe and wonder! The trick is to do what you can for now, then LET IT GO of it and GET BACK TO IT at another time. I seem to worry that I have to do it all now or I won’t get back to it at all (because there is a history of not getting back to it later!) I think I can learn the small step approach. I do see it works for people.
    Came back here to let you know I saw your response to my comment. Thanks! Best to you!

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