Monday, April 25, 2011

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I've stolen this headline from an article I just read about my living room in the premiere issue of the new online home magazine "House of Fifty."
(Click HERE)

(p. 58)

A few months ago, the editor-in-chief Janell Beals emailed me about doing a possible feature.

Hi Lisa,

I just found your blog after wanting to find the person behind the living room I included in my latest ideabook written for Houzz. I selected your room to be included in a piece on how bringing floral patterns into a room can introduce a bit of spring all year long. I particularly liked your room because of its interesting mix. However, for some reason a couple readers decided it was time to bring on the criticism full force.

The comments left on the ideabook started a conversation between my husband and me about subjective design, which led to me deciding to write an article for my upcoming e-zine on this very topic.

I emailed Janell back that I found it kind of amusing that someone would choose to get so worked up about pairing a zebra rug with Peter Dunham's "Samarkand" fabric...and to write whatever she wanted. Absolutely.

Well, the premiere issue launched today and I think Janell's article is fascinating because it addresses something that I notice happening more and more frequently in the blog world.

I'll let her tell it:

"Why is it often difficult to experience disagreement with another's point of view without getting upset? Is it not possible to express that one would not have made the same choice, without tearing down what another has done? Why is it so hard to have a difference of opinion and be comfortable with the fact that not everyone shares our point of view?"

Let me make this clear: I'm SO NOT offended whether people like my house or not. It's small and weird and colorful (like me) and if you're a beige-on-beige addict, I would kind of expect you to run screaming from it. And that's fine. Because one's home is a visual autobiography of the people who live there -- not anybody else.

Here's the bigger issue:

1. Why are the personal choices of total strangers such an affront to some people?

2. Has it become impossible for us to co-exist peacefully if someone has a different point of view?

3. Why is it still so darn hard for us to celebrate each other's differences?

Janell goes on to write:

Perhaps a key to being okay with a conflicting opinion begins with not only being comfortable, but secure, in our own; understanding that there is nothing to be lost by accepting and hearing another's opinion.

Obviously, this is one smart lady.

All this got me thinking and, as usually happens when I start thinking, my thoughts turned to England.
In her book "The Anglo Files", Sarah Lyall writes of the cheerful streak of anarchy that runs through the British personality.

The British may be conformists, but paradoxically, they also demand the right to be left alone to practice their individuality.

In England, you have some of the most upright and proper people in the world living side by side with some of the most peculiar people in the world. All are secure in the knowledge that they are doing what feels true for them.
(Banksy, "Old Women Knitting Punk Slogans")

You have to love a country in which being "a little Brit different" is not only accepted as a legal birthright, it's borderline canonized.

Edith Sitwell

Quentin Crisp

The Marquess of Bath

Vivienne Westwood

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow

Grayson Perry
My friend Amanda Eliasch

Mr. Pickwick

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a speech to write and a royal wedding to prepare for.



Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Precisely why I feel so at home in the UK. Eccentricity is celebrated. Huzzah!

And by the way, our houses are similar. Colourful with a high quirk factor. I adore all kinds of design and, like you, if someone doesn't approve of my style, either in dress or in decoration, it doesn't even begin to ruffle my well-smoothed feathers!!

Good luck on the speech!
I'll be in LA for the Royal Wedding. Boy, am I gonna have to get up early!!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Pamela Terry and Edward:
If you're going to be in LA this Friday, do you have 15 minutes to meet for tea? Email me. xx

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Lisa:
To begin with, if looking at the many design blogs which seem to be out there is anything to go by, most people want to conform with what they perceive to be 'good' taste - in reality, the same as everybody else which, in our opinion, is exceedingly dull, if not tedious. So, as soon as someone exercises a little individuality [a great deal in your case], then he/she becomes open to every form of criticism.

This could, possibly, be tolerated if those who criticise were able to justify their criticisms. Too often though they express themselves without any thought whatsoever. Positive, or negative, let there be reasons for what is expressed, let it be said with civility and then, maybe, there is room for constructive debate.

We can assure you that the grass is not, by any means, always greener on our side of the Atlantic; it is more often than not beige here too!

As for the Royal Wedding - we shall be abroad!

Emily said...

One of your best posts EVAH!!!!

Janell @ House of Fifty said...

Loved this post, and not just because you mentioned me and House of Fifty! I could have a lot of fun talking to you! Thanks and now get that speak ready! Janell

So Lovely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Notes From ABroad said...

I got my HouseOf50 today and boy was I happy! Having extremely limited access to Design magazines in English here, I depend on Online sources. So I am loving my House of 50.
I also think this is why I love the Design blogs so much. I see such a wide wonderful variety of homes and rooms and styles.
From Boho to French and Modern and everything else. I can sit with girlfriends and try to top each other in being Funny/Bitchy but I try not to ever do that online .. the expression and tone is lost and what might be a person being Clever, reads like a person being Nasty.
So I see what you mean and I am glad you have posted about it ... hopefully many people will see this and think, could I have done that ? not even meaning to ? Should I be more careful about what I post ?
I agree with Jane & Lance Hattatt also .. a lot of people want to be "safe" and seen as having "good taste" so anything that breaks some "rule" in decor for them is outrageous and offensive.
Poor them :)
muchas besos .. from me, way down here..

Anonymous said...

Can't imagine why anyone cares what someone else's house looks like. Maybe a little bitchy fun privately dishing, but beyond that...? Isn't it interesting that so many people who think they are tolerant are really conformist to some sub-set and are actually intolerant beyond the end of their noses.

Book recommendations:

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Lisa you'd be a marvelous person to have a chat over a cup of tea with or better yet a dirty martini. I loved this post and Janell's & your opinions are spot on. I've wondered since I was in high school why we all want to look the same and we ridicule those are follow their own hearts? Your home, fabulous. Speaks who you are as a family; just as it should be. Save me a seat @ the wedding!
x Deb

Razmataz said...

Even British television sports real looking people, not just real beauties...which is also why I love the UK.

While blog comments can be all pink and fluffy, a blog can lose it's authenticity if people ooh and aahh and the comments are not genuine, but cattiness is just plain not acceptable. I like a blogger whose rooms are their own, not a blatant copycat of someones elses style and yours is original and unique. My house is also small and quirky.

Jane said...

I think that many people are unable to appreciate or celebrate different styles because they are deep down quite insecure and they find the differences threatening in some way.

Constructive criticism is of course fine, but personal vitriol is not and unfortunately you see that a lot on blogs - Apartment Therapy House Tours being the most striking example.

As for English eccentrics my favourite is George Sitwell who stencilled his cows in a blue and white Chinese willow pattern because it looked better.

George gets the last word: he hung this notice on the gate of his manor in Derbyshire, England: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”

24 Corners said...

Lisa, love that your home is causing a stir out there...a stir is so needed! We've had friends walk into our home, sit or stand wide eyed saying "it's actually quite cozy in here...and nothing matches"! They wander, take it all in, and for the most part, start to appreciate the individuality that they see....and I know it's the same with your home - times ten! Some won't ever get and feel the need to lash out (so silly), but most will and do, or want to. By seeing your special personality ringing throughout your home, they learn that there is another *way* out there, one with character and life, even if it does still befuddles them. The European factor help tremendously though, whether it's in the blood or through osmosis...there's so much more freedom and confidence.
Here's to more of your amazing home mixing it up out there...and best of luck finishing your speech, thank you for posting amidst all the business, and congratulations!
xo J~

Karena said...

Lisa I adore this post and all of the comments. It is such a pleasure to be secure within oneself; to celebrate individuality and style.

That is what humanity and art are all about!!

Art by Karena

helen tilston said...

Lisa, your home is beautiful and it has so much of your personality and is a living beautiful and classic home. Many designers and homeowners opt for the showroom window look, which is "over" once it hits the shop window. Just like your wardrobe you can pull off this look. Please don't ever consider conforming and throw some tartan into the mix too.
Will cerebrate with a Royal breakfast in Toronto on Friday. Scones, devon cream and strawberry preserves served on the Crown Darby dishes and copious cups of Lyons tea

Patricia said...

I don't think it is about your home and the decorating as such.
It may be due in part to the fact that these people have deep agressive personalities. On seeing something which they disagree or don't connect with, is an excuse for their aggressiveness to get an airing, which is always sitting there in the waiting. If it wasn't your home, they would find something else that day to feed their agressive need.

I love love your home, and find it like you ... fascinating. Heaps of personality. You post interesting topics, and your home reflects your conversation with us.

balsamfir said...

For some reason this reminds me of the "tyranny of the majority" I read about this winter. De Tocqueville was talking about elections, but I think it does have an effect on our culture as well. Civilized disagreement is not acceptable and does not lead to discourse in the US.

Reggie Darling said...

Excellent and thought-provoking post. The blog world has a very small cadre of snarky-snarks who come out to sharpen their fangs, usually as "Anonymous," when they see or read something that makes them uncomfortable or, god forbid, gets them outside of their sphere of understanding. Fortunately most commenters and/or bloggers are more above-board and balanced than that. My own house is slated to be published at some point, and I am curious to read the comments that will ensue, including the venomous ones. I have come to rather enjoy the snarkies, though, as they are usually so transparently and amusingly off-the-mark in most cases. To them I say: "Get a life."

Nicola said...

Having been brought up in quirky homes with plenty of eccentrics around I am determined to raise my own children in a quirky home and surround them with people who will open their eyes and teach them new and different ideas and ways of being (although finding eccentrics in Saudi Arabia is proving tricky).
I love this post because it puts into words thoughts I've been confronted with alot lately. Thankyou. Good Luck with your speech

ehstevens said...

It never occurred to me that someone could think your house is anything but amazing. Wow.

Hausfrau said...

I always love seeing photos of your home! Apparently some people feel threatened when others are able to put together homes that look and feel personal, colorful, quirky, and fun. Perhaps they feel incapable of doing the same? Or, maybe they're just stuck in a decorating rut. Either way, it's too silly.

And "beige on beige"? Tasteful, probably; bland, definitely.

Ann Marie said...

Lisa, I am a regular reader and love your blog. Do you know if the "Old Ladies knitting punk slogans" is available as a poster or in some form?
Thank you so much!
Ann Marie

jennifer said...

Love this post Lisa! I say live and let live (and decorate to suit yourself)!

The Devoted Classicist said...

One of the wonderful things about a blog is the opportunity to have a conversation that would be inappropriate for a magazine. I do not usually comment on a post unless there is something that I really love, or if I can add more information. An exception, for example, might be a house presentation that ends with something like "Don't you agree that this is the most delightful renovation you have ever seen?" and the original details were trashed when a three-times too large addition with poor proportions was created with furnishings that look like a left over sale from a second-hand store; that is just asking for it!

Nicole said...

I love looking at photos of your place, and other stylish peeps like you who make bold choices in design because it gives me a shot of courage to try something new myself. I say keep your receipts and there's no consequences! How can anything bad come from personal expression and inspiration? Anytime I encounter diva like behaviour in the blog world I high tail it outa there and dont engage...there are plenty of nicer fish in the sea.
Good Luck with your speech!

Rebecca said...

wow, it's amazing you got featured! thankfully i'm not old enough to have to compromise in terms of interior design (my room is mine, end of), but i can imagine it being a pain

Goose Vintage said...

Loving the gallery of Briteccentrics. But the real question enquiring minds want to know: Lisa, how are you celebrating the Royal Wedding?

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Ann Marie:
Have a sinking feeling 'no', but could very well be wrong. Google it? xx

Goose Vintage:
Either Plan A -- going over to watch it at a friend's house unless she has a long day on set, or Plan B -- celebrating at home with lashings of milky tea in English teacup and talking on the phone to a bunch of luvvies so we can all remain in our pajamas. :)

lula said...

I've reading your blog for some weeks and find it great, but this post was just perfect! I'm also getting ready for the royal weding since is so near from here, Brussels ;-)! Lula

Simple Good Beautiful said...

1. I love your house.
2. I love your quirky viewpoint.
3. I bet this topic is going to be in your speech somehow.
4. I will watch the wedding with my half-English girl friend and my half-Welsh dog (My favorite breed is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi!)

Ann Marie said...

Lisa, thanks for answer about knitting artwork. I did google and, yes, sad, nothing seems to be available. Lots of posts with it, many that are 4 years old. Would have loved it for my knitting group. Very much enjoy your blog. And especially enjoyed your needlepoint art project.

Renée Finberg said...

what an interesting post.
your friend looks as fabulous as the other famous personality.

The Buzz Blog @ Diane James Home said...

I loved your post and totally agree with you. Being in the design business, we often see homes that are so different from what ours are or would like to be and we get requests for floral designs that we just wouldn't do. But we have to remind ourselves that we are working for a client and the client is always right (even if we try to sway her a bit to a more tasteful choice!) Your home is you and I'm so glad I am able to get a glimpse of it!

Acanthus and Acorn said...

My favorite thing about blogging is the range of tastes and styles. I find it very informative and some of my favorite blogs have styles completely different than my own. I don't like everything I see, but can appreciate most.

I was first smitten with your writing style and later obsessed with your house and natural sense of style. Your foyer was the hook as I considered the wallpaper for a room at my own house at one time. I probably sent a dozen firends and fellow bloggers to your blog just to look at it!

I'm fine with a bit of snark as long as it's delivered humorously! I also think it's completely fine to disagree and express one's honest opinion, but don't see why more can't do so in an informed and civilized manner!!!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Renee Finberg: She IS. :)

Diane James Home: Diane, thank you so much for putting Schuyler Samperton in touch with me. We met for breakfast yesterday and she told me you were our "connector." Can't wait to see your flowers in her window!

Acanthus and Acorn: I totally agree.

Stanley Lewis said...

Nice and creative posts

Lumen Drops said...

Enjoy your blog, Lisa, as it is fresh and unique, never cookie cutter. Life is about experiences and we are all making our own history, so we must never give our power to another. " Two laws for self-liberty:

1. Be willing to hear what you don't want to hear.
2. We can understand only that which we have risen above."

home before dark said...

I told the owner of a paint store I wanted high gloss black paint (for my interior doors). She tried not to recoil, but said in her best nonconfrontational voice, "We just don't do that here in this town." I smiled and ordered a gallon.

I think most people want a beige/white/neutral world. Would drive me wacko...more wacko than I am now. When we defy the "social order" chaos creeps in and scares the bejesus out of those whose slavery to conformity makes them feel safe.

katiedid said...

Lisa, Loved your house on sight, and loved you on sight as well. Everything classic started off as too edgy to be acceptable, did it not? The Beatles, the Eiffel Tower, et al.....isn't that what makes life interesting?

Cassandra said...

Most excellent post!

I moved from NZ to London for precisely this reason. I worked in interiors mags there and lord it was stifling - every house under severe scrutiny and discussion... The Ed used to call it 'the flick of the net curtain'......

Renée Finberg said...

i was just talking about quentin crisp,
and here he is.
this this book sound really something i would enjoy.


Debbie said...

I have been watching this phenomenon grow as of late and I just do not understand why people behave this way. It is so sad to think this is how people spend their lives, bitter and negative when there is so much to learn and enjoy out there. I may not always agree but I ALWAYS come away from something with a thought or a perspective I did not have at the onset.........keep the positive energy going :)

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

I think the reaction by some to your décor is the reason why I never became a decorator. What is life without a little eccentricity? Cheers!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

There are a lot of people in this frosty ole world who would, greatly, benefit from physical labor. When the body is spent, the tongue finds it difficult to wag as well.
Love the Kilim on your blog border; it's fabulous! Ummm, it is a Kilim, right?


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