Recently I went to an open house with a friend; a grand old house out of both our price ranges. It was grand for many reasons – hugely proportioned rooms, wrap around veranda, a butler’s pantry – but it was perhaps the dining room with its table for 12that made the house feel most grown-up. People don’t really dine in ‘dining rooms’ anymore, do they? Formal rooms are rarely a selling point these days and while, for me, the most exciting part of our recent renovation was creating a ‘dining nook’ I never envisaged us dining in a separate room to the kitchen.
I didn’t really think much about these thoughts... until I read House Thinking by Winifred Gallagher today. This book is all about the psychology of home; how home not only ‘reflects but also affects who you are.’
So, I was interested to realise how conflicted I truly am. My dining nook says more about me as a person than I ever realised.
‘Today when we ask ourselves, “What kind of people are we, and what kind of home do we want?” our different answers are often reflected in our dining space. If we think of ourselves and homes along the lines of “practical, friendly and casual”, we may decide that it’s silly to waste space on a dining room when most meals are eaten informally in kitchens. If we see ourselves as the kind of people who do things the right way, we may prefer to eat in a handsome formal dining room gleaming with silver...’
Ok, I get that. I would like to be considered as ‘practical, friendly and casual’ AND my new nook reflects this too. BUT, then Gallagher writes:
‘The idea that we may be judged by our dining room or even our wineglasses, or that we care about such judgments, is discomfiting. Yet at mealtime, most of us take some trouble – setting the table, pouring wine, making conversation, lighting candles – to remind ourselves and others that if we’re not to the manor born, we weren’t born in a barn either.’
Hmmm. On Saturday night we had friends over on the spur of the moment. We cooked pasta to watch in front of the rugby; a practical, friendly and casual meal to reflect our practical, friendly and casual selves.
Except we didn’t sit on the lounge to eat or gather around the island bench in a practical, friendly and casual manner; we sat in our dining nook using the ‘good’ cutlery and the ‘good’ plates, drinking red wine out of – albeit Ikea – wineglasses and looking over and around the vase of flowers in the middle of the table to see the game on the television.
Oh, and the children also came downstairs a couple of times to complain that we were talking and laughing too loudly.
Confusion abounds and perhaps it’s time to stop reading books about house psychology.