Throughout 2011, I will be quoting passages from contemporary fiction, as I come across them, on kitchens and interior spaces, selected for how they encourage emotional engagement with kitchens and interiors and engender a sense of belonging. They will show how houses and interiors can be more than just shelter, clever design or good investments.
In The End of the Land (2010), author David Grossman describes Avram’s house, near Jerusalem, into which the protagonist has recently moved:
The house itself was finely attuned to Ora’s moods. It carefully, hesitantly shed its age-old gloominess, stretched its limbs, and cracked its stiff joints, and when it realized that Ora was permitting it to retain the occasional pocket of charming abandon and even some healthy neglect, it grew into a comfortable unkemptness, until at times, when a certain light hit, it almost looked happy’. A place on the edge of becoming a real home. Ora felt that Ilan (her husband and mutual friend of Avram) was ‘content in the house, with the collegiate mess she created in it, and that her taste – meaning her assortment of tastes – was to his liking. Even when things suddenly went bad between them, and their togetherness emptied out with alarming speed, she believed his affection for the home she had made for them still pulsed inside him’…. Her voice pauses for a moment, and she quickly turns on the radio, like someone opening a window…. she needs talk, a human voice.
This passage shows how home owners embed their emotional experiences in their surroundings and make a subliminal investment in the fabric of their rooms, which is so hard to achieve via straight design. To some extent it is inevitable that with time and thought, but transference of this kind can be encouraged by avoiding too much built-in furniture, non-ageing surfaces, single style aesthetics and making visible items that tell of the owner’s life story. Above, this personal story is told through Ora’s personal assortment of tastes, a comfortable unkemptness, compatibility with different moods, the penetration of daylight. She also needs opportunity for eye contact that will allow for sociability and conversation.
By creating furniture with character, avoiding uniform design, encouraging cooking counters that face into the room, adding playful details and the qualities of handmade finishes, accepting the quirkiness of old buildings and not trying to correct every defect, there is room for these mental activities to occur. All of these design features assist in showering the fabric of the house with sparks of connectivity, constant mini-electrical shocks that massage your feet, or soft hooks that attach your brain cells to the circuit that says “I belong.” At JGS we hope our kitchen and living spaces encourage these subliminal processes but have yet to record them, particularly in the extraordinary moving way that David Grossman has done in this book.