A few days ago, flipping through an old issue of Elle Decoration UK, I came across the most beautiful phrase. A Phrase that perfectly distills everything I love about architecture and interior design: faded grandeur.
It describes a kind of humble elegance; taste that endures; a classic style that has passed the test of time. It conjures up nostalgia for a kind of skilled craftsmanship that seems to have vanished.
The phrase also suggests a devotion to place – something I feel is vital, even when living in rented spaces. I think everyone should commit themselves wholeheartedly to wherever they’re living. Love your space, and it will love you back, I say!
I’ve lived in my current apartment for over 6 years and I’m completely in love with it. It’s old and rundown, but its virtues still shine through. I think I love it more because I can’t own it. I’m only a caretaker, helping to maintain its grandeur so that it doesn’t fade completely.
Over the years we’ve done our part, making improvements here and there. We’ve renovated our kitchen. We’ve searched for, found and filled every little crevice that a mouse could possibly wriggle through. We’ve painted lovingly – removing the old door knobs, scrapping off layers of paint slopped on by tenants who didn’t care and polishing them until they shined.
But mostly we’ve soaked up the beauty of this house that has aged so gracefully. I’m sure that when it was first built it wasn’t nearly as stunning. Tiny saplings would have looked cartoonish next to its size and without shade, the sun would beat down too harshly. Fresh paint, shining windows – I’m sure it sat atop it’s hill begging for attention and blushing with embarrassment.
But over the years, this house has earned its place on the street. The lot has matured and the trees have grown tall enough to soften the light. With peeling paint and chipped bricks it’s achieved a serene, earned beauty. Instead of shouting at the street, it winks slyly behind tall maples.
When I think of life after this house, it’s with preemptive nostalgia and melancholy: I’ll remember the time I lived in the perfect specimen of faded grandeur.