All good stories start with a couch.
My kitchen has taught me this. It is a lesson that you think I would have learnt much earlier on in life considering that we never had anything less than about 10 people over for lunch every Saturday afternoon while I was growing up in the sweltering heat of southern African summers. But it took moving into a European seaside apartment with a daybed that really did not fit where it was “supposed to” for me to realise this.
You see, my daybed now takes up a prominent position in my kitchen. It stands where the dark stained oak dining room table, which I inherited from my parents, is intended to be. But between the over-sized couches, the kist, the low slung coffee table, the island counter, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, the fireplace and the open-plan design, it just did not quite go according to plan. In an attempt to fit it all in, the daybed was shuffled into the kitchen and it never left.
They say that the kitchen is the heart of the home but in this case, the daybed is. The fact that it stands in the kitchen just makes it really convenient for every guest to kick off their shoes and lie back into the mass of scatter cushions. I boil the kettle and the stories come without fail.
When I moved into shared office space, housed in an eclectic refurbished synagogue in the middle of a Dublin suburb, I came to realise that the neighbourhood around me was an authentic gem. As I walked the streets to reach Nelly’s, the popular lunch time cafe, I grew ever more inquisitive about the doors, painted in bold, bright colours. When I worked late some evenings, I watched as families returned home and my curiosity moved from the doors to the lives behind the doors. That is how you find yourself here, reading this very sentence.
These stories: they had to start with a couch, because that is how all good stories start.
It is a shop in the middle of the homes, No. 60 Lombard Street West, painted a luxurious olive green. The frontage is elegant if not sparse. The window display holds a side table with a few weathered books. The interior is inviting because of its mishmash collection of oddities that all beg for you to take them home. This is no modern interior design firm. This is understated workmanship that only the most discerning will ever really be able to appreciate.
I can see him keenly interested in something on his desk. His neck is tilted downwards, his greying hair tufted and wispy: a scattered genius at work. I approach, raise my hand to ring the bell, but hesitate to observe for a few seconds longer. My heart is beating fast. My feet shift. My fingers reach out to press the bell but he sees me with a slight changing of the light, a shadowing if you will. He looks up and immediately comes towards the door, a slow smile pressing into the corners of the lips. I speak haltingly. He agrees to meet me at 10:00 a.m. two days later.
He trained in a London art school, became an antiques dealer in Dublin and very quickly realised that furniture restoration and interior design were his two passions. He bought No. 2 Lombard Street as his home but soon realised that “the expansiveness of Lombard Street West in relation to the other streets” was ideally suited to a shop. “The generosity afforded to the wider street during its planning is what makes it unique,” he explains to me. And so it is that I find myself enveloped into rooms spilling over with material samples: textures, colours, contrasting and bold, plain and soft to the touch.
Names such as Warwick, Damas, GP & J Baker, Colefax and Fowler look back at me from shelves wanting to edge their content ever more outward. A large frame with a magazine spread takes prominent space above his desk. I ask what he would call his own style. He motions to the picture, inviting me forward. He uses words such as eclectic, mixed, modern and dated all in one sentence. And it is true because who would’ve thought that a lambent red couch would juxtapose so perfectly with a Danish woven chair dating from the 1940s?
His name is Peter. The frontage reads Souter Johnson. He speaks of regency furniture and uses the adjective beautiful.
It just goes to show that all good stories start with a couch after all.
Photo and Post by Claire Burge.
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