Bedroom: The piece that made my heart stop

I never thought it possible that I could get excited about a piece of furniture. I would have laughed in your face if you’d told me that I’d be spending more time in flea markets and antique shops than in boutiques and salons. But it’s true. This renovation has created a monster.

1850s French empire complete with remants of the original manufacturer's sticker

1850s French empire complete with remnants of the original manufacturer’s sticker

Recent visitors to Budapast EK and JG talked about their purchases ‘speaking to them’. And I can relate to this. Except that when this wardrobe was sitting in a shed at Esceri among lots of other furniture, half-hidden by a table and tucked away in the corner, it didn’t so much speak as whisper. And it was a very soft whisper. But it registered.  I went back again to see it and then, after many phone conversations that seemed to involve the nation (really me saying and having others say for me  ‘I don’t have the cash’ ) I gave in. I admit I occasionally allow myself to feel pressurised into buying things and can, on a bad day, buy something purely because whoever I’m shopping with likes it. On these bad days, I can’t make a decision to save my life and am happy to do whatever. Thankfully, they’re few and far between and are causing less trouble the older I get! (That stool with legs made from jeans tucked into workman’s boots, and a seat made from a check shirt and braces still haunts me!)

It wasn’t until it was delivered to the flat and took up residence in my bedroom that it really started speaking to me – and it speaks volumes.

I remember years ago in Myrtle Beach visiting a Ridley museum and spending ages in front of the funny mirror that made you look really thin. I couldn’t decide if I liked what I saw. Having spent years dieting to get that ‘perfect figure’, when I saw how I’d look, I couldn’t decide if I liked the look of me. Mind you, it hasn’t stopped the sporadic dieting but at least it did kill any aspirations I had to squeeze into a size 10.

If you stand in front of these mirrors, where the doors overlap, you cannot see your reflection. And yet, move a millimetre to either side and there you are. Magic.

And magical it is. I can’t explain it really. There is just something incredibly beautiful about its fine lines. Something timelessly classic about its bearing. Something ageless in its beauty. And yet it’s solid. And very ‘there’. It has a presence. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like my mother! mmmm…

And my heart missed a beat…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to own my own place.  Over the years, the ‘place’ in question has moved from a stone cottage in the West of Ireland, to a crofter’s cottage by a loch in the highlands of Scotland. I’ve had visions of a log cabin in Alaska and a house with a large lan’ai overlooking the ocean in Hawaii. I’ve thought about a terraced house in Dublin and a two-story flat in an ex-Council towerblock in London. A flat in Rome or a mountain retreat in Macugnaga have both appealed, depending on whether I was in my city or country mode. I’ve considered vineyards in France (very briefly), sheepfarms in New Zealand, and even an organic farm in Wales. I have, at various stages, fantasised about being  Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton in To the Manor Born; Barbara Good in The Good Life; Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City; Maggie O’Connell in Northern Exposure; Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man; Diane Sugden in Emmerdale; and a host of other leading ladies, each with a lifestyle and a ‘place’ of their own that seemed to fit the me that was me at a particular time.

My ‘bottom drawer’ was born in the early 1990s when I won a green card to the USA in a lottery and took a two-year career break from the Bank of Ireland in Dublin to live the Californian dream. It was a whole new world. A world with lots of ‘stuff’. I remember buying a set of miniature sculptures of golf poses made of nuts and bolts. I had visions of them sitting in a display cabinet in ‘my place’ once I’d bought it. Thankfully, my taste has improved dramatically in the intervening years and while I kept one of them as a reminder that tat is simply tat,  no matter how exotic the location in which you find it, I’m a little more selective now.

I’ve added to this drawer over the last 18 years – pictures, cutlery, linens, wall-hangings, sculptures – and have finally bought a flat, in Budapest, Hungary. I’m in the process of unpacking my treasures and buying new bits to furnish it. I was strangely detached from the process, as if I was doing it for someone else – although I knew that someone else was me. I have waited so long to own ‘my place’ and have searched so hard to find it and yet somehow, I wasn’t sure if it was the panacea I had expected it to be. And then today, this morning, Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 9.17 a.m. in Budapest, Hungary, I took delivery of a piece of furniture that made my heart stop, just for second. And I just had to share the journey.