Christmas is upon us again, and I was thinking about the way that dressing up a house influences our experience of the yuletide season. Personally, I don't decorate my apartment. It is all I can do to keep a tidy apartment, and I know that if I decorated it there would be tinsel and bunting up until April. There is also something vaguely maudlin about a single-person household that is decorated - particularly when you don't entertain very often. I don't know why, but this seems to be the case. After all, the various animals I cohabit with would not really appreciate the effort, although my dog Lucy was seen last Saturday enthusiastically drinking water out of a friend's Christmas tree stand.
Part of me wants to decorate, or to get a tree, as I think a house becomes more of a home when you mark the seasons and cycles of the year, such as they are in our streamlined 24/7 society. Contemplating this put me in mind of the 'good' room - the idea of a room in the house, or in the case of many friend's houses when I was growing up, entirely half of their living spaces, dedicated to infrequent and selective use. Real estate costs significantly more now than it used to, as a percentage of our incomes, and certainly in apartment living the idea of having enough space to dedicate some to formal use only is something one can only dream of.
Nevertheless, I would like to raise a banner in defence of 'useless' or 'unnecessary' space, and I think that the matter has some bearing on the location of the Christmas tree. A house with a formal room or suite of rooms is to my mind enriched. Such a space is not only an excellent receptacle for seasonal and occasional decoration; it also brings a hierarchy to a house, a layering of personal territory whether used exclusively by infrequent visitors or not. I suspect that it makes the casual living spaces even more casual to have them contrasted with a suite of formal rooms. Nevertheless, in my rooms on Collins Street here in Melbourne, there will be only one class of space for the foreseeable future: the eclectic, quasi-casual, pleasantly-rumpled, vaguely untidy semi-catastrophe that is my personal habitat.
You may visit wearing shorts or a tuxedo: at Casa Marcus, one size fits all. And I thank the great Diane Arbus for the image above, reproduced without permission in celebration of the yuletide season.