Nobody really likes it yet they do this all the time. We dress to get a smile from others. We write for applause from others. We speak in ways that we don’t make more enemies than really necessary. We buy things to make us all a part of the social matrix that exists. We even have furniture that conforms. We are really bothered about the eye of the other people. I see this all the time, everywhere. Yes, even on Facebook and Twitter. I can see people joining groups as if that makes them more acceptable. The truth is that this is the most ridiculous behaviour of humans.

I was like everyone else. But then one evening Specky, my wife said, ‘We need to give out invites to our friends. You will have to accompany me.’ I’m glad I decided to go along. What I noticed in the nearly dozen homes that we visited devastated me. They all seemed to be the same the moment we stepped inside. The same arrangement pattern in the drawing room… almost as if there were instructions from above to follow a pattern. By the time I entered the third house, I said, ‘They’ll have a sofa with a centre table. A carpet that they’ll say has been hand-woven. The walls will have at least one painting and at least one wall-clock. A television on the furthest side or corner is a surety. Some shelves with decorative inanities bought from some crafts mela somewhere…’

Specky laughed and waved me to shut up, saying, ‘What else can be done? How else?’ I kept quiet.

It was on our way back that I said, ‘The layout and placement of things of every room in every house needs to reflect a bit of the characteristics of the people living there.’ I told her that even the furniture in a house need not be similar to what a neighbour bought or what is popular or what is pushed by some dealer or retailer or furniture shop.

‘Hmmm,’ said Specky, and then added, ‘I think besides what people end up buying, what also matters is how and where they are kept.’ I wasn’t surprised when our discussion went from ‘everything’ that could be in a room to just the furniture and how furniture matters most when redesigning rooms. I can tell you why this happened. For instance, even if all you buy is books, you need to have the right sort of storing for them, the right sort of seating in the right sort of spot to make reading a real pleasure.

These decisions about what furniture to buy and where and how to place it in your rooms is what defines the quality of life that you opt for. I remember staying in a relative’s house for a week and I thought I’d be able to do a lot of writing. But at the end of seven days I discovered that my output had gone down drastically… and this was because half the time I was not able to find the right furniture at the right place to sit and write!

I have read in many articles that the placement of the right type of furniture needs to outline function, command an easy flow of movement, be really bothered about the way visual comprehension works in the room, and needs to reflect a bit of your own lifestyle. I guess I’d prefer to go beyond such purely architectural notions and talk of grace, mystery, and transcendence. Come on, it is the furniture in a room that converts a dull moment into one full of an intriguing thrill, doesn’t it? This is what glamour is all about.

Let me try and define the subliminal role of furniture through four quotes that I have spent a lot of time searching. I think every room needs to be at least one of the literary or non-literary genres. And so I have a preference for rooms that resemble a thriller, a romance, a drama, and a comedy… obviously, I would call houses where furniture doesn’t matter nothing but tragedies!

The thriller

‘I don’t enjoy living in a white box flooded with light. I like shadows, small spaces, old furniture.’ – Kevin McCloud

This is quite true. A room with whatever space it is born with and whatever light manages to reach there needs to play with furniture in ways that lends it an ethereal mystery. Obviously, old furniture brings with it stories that will keep the idea factory inside you mind fully active. Who knows, you get up one night and weave a story where your room is the main protagonist!

So there we are, furniture not just redesigns the character and mood of a room but can also a valuable source for ideation.

The romantic novel

‘I look at every piece of furniture and every object as an individual sculpture.’ – Kelly Wearstler

Well, there is life in every room that we cannot really afford to trouble and fill with misery. Rooms not just have a heart but they also yearn to live forever as works of art… in our memory. I still remember my Study in my parent’s house where I had a sofa placed in a particular corner because I thought it would be lovely to curl on it and read P G Wodehouse even as I look out and watch the clouds go by. This I did quite regularly.

Let me add here that even four stones laid out on a trail in the wilderness on some mountain have the power to tell a similar story. I saw this recently as we went on a trail in search of Tunnel 103 in Shimla.

Every piece of furniture is like an individual sculpture with a purpose…

Every piece of furniture is like an individual sculpture with a purpose…

So yes, every piece of furniture is like an individual sculpture with a purpose… but these artworks are all full of pragmatic fervour and are there to serve the owner at any time of the day or night.

A drama

‘No violence, gentlemen — no violence, I beg of you! Consider the furniture!’ – Arthur Conan Doyle

Try entering a room where the furniture has been chosen carefully and then placed correctly and you’ll possibly hear them all spouting their own dialogues at their own given time. Furniture, I think, has the soul of an actor and it tends to get into an act fast enough to regale you when you’re low or to add to the tempo when you’re thrilled and having a mood that needs all this drama. So yes, drama is really an inherent part of the furniture in a room. I felt this element as I was going from one room to another in the massive Louvre Museum in Paris and felt the furniture wasn’t just passively lying there but telling me a story in a rather dramatic way.

Even furniture arranged in a way that allows you to interact with a city has a dramatic edge to it. Picture clicked by me as we approached Le Select, a famous cafe in Paris

Even furniture arranged in a way that allows you to interact with a city has a dramatic edge to it. Picture clicked by me as we approached Le Select, a famous cafe in Paris

The dramatic element can be achieved by having the right set of furniture and placed in ways that add to this characteristic.

The comedy

‘Wooden furniture with no cushions discourages guests from staying too long. It’s especially great when the in-laws come over.’ – Jarod Kintz

Now if you think furniture can reflect just romance or thrills or drama, you’re mistaken. There is, as I wrote earlier, a rather tragic twist in a room where the furniture is inappropriate or not there. There can be rooms reflecting satire, realism, fantasy, and even horror… but here in this post, let me just talk about the fourth most impressive element, that is, comedy.

As Jarod Kintz has rightly pointed out, an essential element missing at a crucial moment can transform the complexion of a room… remove cushions, for instance, or just place a few tuffets or footstools or hassocks in the company of regal ottomans in a large room and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This effect can be achieved if you deliberately select furniture to give contrast a new witty meaning. If done well, the room can exude wit or simply make you smile or in extreme cases, you may be forced to say, ‘This is a slapstick arrangement.’

What else?

Well, furniture not just gives a room its own specific meaning but also gives you a reason to be there and do just what you want to do. As I said earlier, a room with book but no rocking chairs or recliners or sofas where you can curl up with your favourite author, is a room that looks at you dispassionately and sniggers. You are never really comfortable there.

Homes, rooms, and furniture need to interact meaningfully to give life that extra dimension when you start loving the life you live. And all this can be #JustAClickAway in this age of the internet!

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Durian is obviously, a classic, contemporary, and blends in with the space-age in every sense…

Durian_coffee table

Durian_coffee table

Jacob_modern couch_sofa cum bed

Jacob_modern couch_sofa cum bed

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Furniture commands an easy flow of movement as is evedent in this picture that I clicked inside The Louvre, Paris

Furniture commands an easy flow of movement as is evedent in this picture that I clicked inside The Louvre, Paris

Homes, rooms, and furniture need to interact meaningfully to give life that extra dimension when you start loving the life you live.

Homes, rooms, and furniture need to interact meaningfully to give life that extra dimension when you start loving the life you live.

Well, furniture not just gives a room its own specific meaning but also gives you a reason to be there and do just what you want to do.  Picture clicked by me in the cafe of Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam where the sombre mood needs to be lifted deliberately

Well, furniture not just gives a room its own specific meaning but also gives you a reason to be there and do just what you want to do. Picture clicked by me in the cafe of Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam where the sombre mood needs to be lifted deliberately

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Arvind Passey
18 May 2015