In times like these, when the question about how to save our environment is fast spiraling down a big, black hole and the European economy seems to be joining the ride, I’d like to share a thought on the way we consume in our homes. I’m not talking about if we buy organic food or whether we choose to take public transport rather than the car to work. I’m talking about the furniture we buy and the so called decorative items that clutter many a home today. The useless small things we buy to decorate our homes with, all the knick-knack we buy. And then one day time we come across them stored away in a box and ask ourselves “how could I buy this?!?” We simply throw it out after having owned it for a few years. No regret what so ever. No questions asked. All forgotten and actions justified with “it was cheap…”
My question is this: if we’d spent a little more money on each object, chosen it more carefully, stuck to what we really wanted and might need building up and decorating our home, would we consume and throw out equally as much? As opposed to buying a novelty candlestick in the shape of a beer bottle at a cheap high street shop for £2.99 that won’t be with us for long, couldn’t it have been worth spending £20 on a good quality, vintage or antique candlestick at an antiques fair or flee market? I’m not talking about the up-market auction houses or the Bond Street antiques shops where a Georgian silver candlestick easily reaches the £3000 mark. Comparing these kinds of items would be pure foolishness.
For me it is all about the mindset. In this day and age we are prepared to splash out on the most idiotic and useless items, but I want to underline that it is not the items per se I disagree with, it is the “why” and “how” we buy them. Goods from high street retailers and furniture from IKEA all have their place and deserved space in a contemporary home, rest assured, but why do we then throw so much of it away when we move or when we have a need to clean out our closets? This is where I believe we contradict ourselves.
Spending a fortune, however small, on something with no second hand value and that doesn’t last for longer than a few years is a mystery to me. Sitting on a Swedish Gustavian chair from the 1780s writing this, drinking tea from a favourite queensware English regency tea cup from 1810 might sound incredibly puerile and bourgeois, and if so I do apologize, but my point is that the furniture, decorative items, porcelain and what-have-you in a home filled with antiques and vintage doesn’t cost the environment remotely as much as the form-pressed plywood hidden in flat packs that are so popular these days. And it doesn’t have to be particularly expensive either. When we disregard the knowledge and the quality of hand made furniture, antique or from a contemporary designer, we choose to go with the ones who don’t care about in which direction our environment goes. I’m not saying that we all ought to be self-sufficient and never ever consume, that would be foolish. But maybe give that plastic candlestick or that novelty mug a second thought when you grab it in a shop later this week. Do you really need it? Does it really fill a purpose in your life? We all survive loosing £2.99, but as you might remember that’s not the point. The question is why ought I to buy something I will throw away soon and replace as quickly with another worthless item. So go green by buying something you want and will keep. Antiques and vintage is a good start on the right path. Or at least I think it is.