A house is not a home without people – but what else gives it personality? What are the furniture or decorative features which reflect the people who live there? Chairs, pictures, ornaments – even fridge magnets or the fridge itself – are just some of the things that tell their own stories about a home and the lives of its people.
What our homes are furnished with is something that reflects changes in the times, although most of the functions are basically the same. Chairs, beds, tables and wardrobes essentially play the same roles now as they always have, although their designs and appearance are hugely varied.
Furniture evolves with wider societal styles and fashions – as well as what could be afforded by its owners. As one of the more permanent features of a home, we ‘inherit’ furniture more than any other household item (with perhaps the exception of kitchenware and cutlery). It can be handed down through a family or from friends, left over from previous tenants, or bought new. It gives us an intimate glimpse into the lives of the people that used it, whether it’s a simple wooden Victorian seat or a colourful modernist armchair of the 1960s.
Ornaments are a little harder to place. What do they do? What exactly is the practical function of a framed picture, or a set of ‘wally dugs’? Do they help us cook, or tidy up, or any other essential task?
Ornamentation is one of the oldest aspects of home life. This perhaps tells us something in itself – even though they might not have an immediate use, ornaments are valued by people. They might be seen as something that improves the atmosphere of a home, or as a reminder of people or things that are important or bring happiness. You might have chosen an ornament because it’s nice to look at and admire or because you feel it’s an expression of some aspect of yourself.
Ornamentation might change a room from four bare walls to something that feels more like a reflection of someone’s life and personality. This shows us that the home is not just for basic survival – but has long been seen as important to our mental well-being, too.