I bought Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” years ago and even though I knew that I would love it, the book has just been sitting on my shelf, waiting for its moment.
Last week I finally cracked it open, & even though I’m only getting going, I’m already captivated. Because study for its own sake has no deadlines, I have been letting this idea sink into my brain:
The house shelters daydreaming.
“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths. Daydreaming even has a privilege of autovalorization. It derives direct pleasure from its own being. Therefore, the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.”
This morning I woke up early to roll another layer of paint on the wall behind my desk. The colour is called “Carotene” & it’s a bit like what you see when you slice open a sweet potato, crossed with bright orange highlighter. Painting in the morning light is just the right thing & it feels like I am pulling that early glow into the room & letting it stay there.
I find myself thinking more and more about the theory of interiors
because of this article that Alexandra Lange wrote about Pinterest. It’s called Fear of the Female Ghetto” & it talks about the concern trolling that goes on surrounding Pinterest’s ultra female user base & fashiony, domestic focus. Lange writes:
And yet, the women’s world that has developed on Pinterest seems to make commentators  uncomfortable…. Look at the headlines: “SO PINTEREST IS A WOMAN’S WORLD. DOES IT MATTER?” (NPR), “MEN ARE FROM GOOGLE+, WOMEN ARE FROM PINTEREST” (Time), “DIGITAL CRACK FOR WOMEN” (Washington Post), “PINTEREST’S GENDER TROUBLE” (Salon). Each week, a male developer seems to feel the need to come up with a Pinterest alternative “for dudes.”
Now every time I read a story that discusses Pinterest as a “female ghetto,” I think of Mrs. Blakeley. I want to hear Pinterest’s founders say they are perfectly happy with millions of [women] as their users.
Lange refers to a short story by Esther McCoy called “The Important House.” In it, a male team of architects, designers, and a photographer rearrange a house for a magazine shoot, ignoring the design decisions made by the woman who has decorated it. “You’re making it look like no one lives here,” she says.
Since I read the article, I’m far less likely to view Pinterest’s culture (& that of other online social bookmarking sites) merely as a blatantly capitalist, escapist time-waster, as some have implied. I know that Virginia Woolf didn’t imply that women should have rooms of their own so that they can fill them up with dream shoes & unaffordable dresses. Still, I think that the creation of these social spaces has a positive value. I’m willing to go some distance in support of the idea that gathering a personal treasury of aesthetic ideas is beneficial in important ways, even if the benefit is intangible.
I like Bachelard’s tone when he writes that ”the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream.”
I’m pro daydream.
I was talking to a friend about Pinterest & he was saying that what he liked about it is that you can find the things that you are looking for without needing to know what they are in advance. Find people who like some of the things you like & eventually they will post something unexpected and yet also perfect. & that’s what daydreams are for, right?
The house allows one to daydream in peace. & Pinterest allows one to daydream peacefully… about houses. Does a virtual space work the same way in this regard? I’m not sure – but I am feeling much more confident about brushing off concerns about those little ladies looking at pictures of “perfect” things online. Because it isn’t the things themselves that are important, it’s the new ideas they generate.
If you want to join me in looking puroposelessly at beautiful things, come visit my Pinterest page, or comment with yours.
PS: Alexandra Lange has also written about Edith Wharton’s interior design expertise – check that out!