Monday, September 14, 2015

Zen: A New/Old Way to Live

18th century Chinese household Buddha in niche above our fireplaceA 19th century bronze incense bowl  holds candles.
A great many books have been written throughout the centuries about living the Zen Way. While it's appeal has been greatest for those who also embrace Zen philosophy and spirituality, most Americans find that living a 'minimalist' life in a 'maximalist' society is difficult. Some would find it impossible!

Iris Apfel, the Style Icon and Advocate of More, in her New York living room.

However, that may be changing. The #1 book on the New York Times Non-Fiction list in 2014 was Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing". 

Having been an antiques dealer for more than 25 years, learning to 'let go' was a struggle. After all, there were all those wonderful old things that needed to be rescued, restored, loved, lived with. The moment of 'enlightenment' came when I retired from the trade last year. Slowly, all those lovely old things found a place in someone else's home. And - wonder of wonders! - I found I didn't miss them.

In fact, quite the opposite. I liked the empty spaces that those furnishings had once filled. There was a certain freedom in letting go of things and just keeping items that held  real meaning for us.

I suppose many people would find our house rather boring and empty. No color. No pattern. Too few accessories. And way too much beige! But, it's how we want to live now...with calmness and serenity.

 Living Room in Summer.
Front of living room with 18th century Chinese persimmon wood tea table used to hold lamp. We've had the table (one of a pair) for over 15 yrs. Found them in a corner of a small shop in Asheville, NC. A small collection of Song porcelain bowls rests on a 19th century Korean offering table.   
Living Room in Fall
The dreadful sofa will be replaced when Sweetie the Cat departs the earth. The end table is 19th century country French from Georgian Antiques in Atlanta. Lamp is a converted 19th century French pot.

My favorite chair in which to read. The large television is an absolute necessity. My husband and I are film freaks. And yes, it looms like the Elephant in the Room, but we no longer care about that.

Dining Room in Summer
A Brazilian fishing basket, one of three, hangs on wall. The long table is 19th century Chinese Elmwood bought almost 20 years ago. The large white vase is new and filled with twigs and branches that fell from a tree out front. White orchids from Trader Joe's are a constant during the summer.
The dining table is new but was custom made from reclaimed 19th century cherry wood from France, bought for our first house years ago. The chandelier is Italian and was a wedding gift.
 Dining Room in Early Fall
The bamboo runner has been replaced with a dark-apricot silk runner from Pottery Barn. The only decoration needed: A big pot of Mums from Home Depot.

Dining Room in Fall

 We've had the slipper chairs for almost 20 years, bought at Storehouse. Curtains are inexpensive silk panels. I fill the round basket with plants or vegetables depending on what's on hand.


  1. I am slowly coming around to the minimalist way. However, I am having a lot of trouble letting go of the lovely items I've collected over the years. I've placed many items in storage. Perhaps if they stay there long enough, I'll be ready to let them go.

    The house looks lovely. I'm happy to see you kept the green and I am still in love with your Buddha.

  2. I know how you feel. But many collectors often consider themselves simply custodians of old care for them for a time and then pass them on to the next 'custodian'. Many old things have been loved by generations before us and are meant to be loved by generations after us. Consider it a gift to the future!


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