One of my favorite traditions at the airport is to buy two magazines from the newsstand before my flight. This has proven to be somewhat problematic because traditionally I purchase a fashion publication, which appears more like a book from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the other one being of a home décor variety which is more sensible in page length, but both combined together are tricky to manage with my carry-ons. This recent trip lead to the renewal of my subscription to “Veranda” magazine, because life is too short not to at least feel like you are traveling somewhere beautiful and luxurious on a regular basis.

In the March – April Issue, the Editor-In-Chief Steele Thomas Marcoux poses the question in her letter to her readers, “What is your first memory of a room?” This question she points out is the first question that decorator Carleton Varney asks any new client before any work begins.

An insightful question because the memory of such I am betting plays a major influence of what we surround ourselves with in our homes. It got me thinking about all the rooms I have seen and spent time in over the past 40 years. The homes of my loved ones, friends, and all the people I interviewed for my newspaper stories. The arrangement of furniture, the artwork, the precious things, the pictures, the sleekness, or the chaos. It is a gift to see the individual in their space — the extension of themselves and the setting of their story.

I have since spent some time thinking of rooms in particular that I absolutely adore and those that laid the foundation however subliminally for what I delight in now. My first memory of a room I loved was my own bedroom with its four poster canopy bed. My mother had a wonderful flair for decorating our home with her own collections of favorite things, and family things – something she picked up from her mother’s style. I loved my grandmother’s style – everything had its place and was a deliberate thought – the arrangement of unique miniature boxes on the chest, the old Chinese screen in the dining room, and the chronolithograph of a dreamy, French country family scene hanging over a rather large, clunky-shaped cabinet designed to hide the TV dinosaur inside. In my head I can travel there and see every last detail and her sitting in her plaid, wingback chair talking to me about her day.

Maybe this desire to create the same feeling in my own rooms is why I am always tinkering in my home, my attempt to get it right … to feel what I felt in these wonderful spaces.

Recently my family and I have become completely absorbed in streaming the “Sherlock Holmes” BBC series. Recently a well-placed joke exposed that each one of us likes to spend time in our own version of a “Mind Palace.” Sherlock’s version has him revisiting the places and people in his head in order to discover important details he missed before and ultimately solve the crime based on his memories. For my family of course, it is more about the escape from each other, and spending time on those hobbies and thoughts we like best without the interruption of the outside world.

The idea of a Memory Palace finds its root in ancient Greece as a memorization technique used to recount stories orally. Fast forward to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is quoted about the importance of a well-organized “brain-attic.” He describes each of us with an empty attic in which we stock with well-appointed furniture. Some of us are fools taking in every sort of thing one comes across.

The truth can indeed hurt.

He said, “Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes in this brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

Oh, if I could retain each and every detail that served a business purpose, but alas my brain attic is where my very best memories live, and maybe a few well-placed accessories.


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