Friends! I am taking a pause from my regular culinary musings to share with you a topic I am passionate about.
It is no news that industrialization has had a profound impact on the human soul. Our bodies have become increasingly commodified through eight hour work days. The increasing capacity for mass production and economies of scale has rendered handmade artistry and craftsmanship a financially difficult pursuit. We have prioritized the accumulation of objects over the appreciation of objects and transfixed ourselves on a steady trajectory toward permanent insatiability. I too have found myself in the thick of this condition – in fact, often when I am feeling disappointed or underwhelmed with myself, it is usually because I have convinced myself that I don’t “have enough” or, even worse – am not “enough.”
It took me the better part of 22 years to understand this concept – that the vague futility and depletedness I have been feeling during my young adult life was in part due to this looming manufactured notion of “not enough.” Hence during the summer of 2013, I decided to shift my focus. Instead of chasing that career “benchmark,” I decided to invest in a company that I believed in. Instead of yearning for that perfect relationship, I decided to cherish authentic moments. Instead of seeking fulfillment from life opportunities, I decided to seek fulfillment from menial tasks like arranging flowers and cooking a savoury meal. And instead of accumulating numerous instantly gratifying goods, I decided to surround myself with quintessential wares that were as authentic as they were utilitarian.
Thus begins my first instalment of the Artisan Chronicles. I am delighted to reserve this small corner of the internet to feature artisans, local shoppes and collectors that have guided me through my personal mission to live a more simple and humbled life. I sincerely hope that the forthcoming coverage of handmade artistry and craftsmanship fills your day with warmth and happiness. I also hope that it inspires people to revel in the beauty of authentic craftsmanship and human touch rather than acting as mere vessels of material consumption.
I came across photographer and vintage collector Marianne Brown’s online shop The Feeling of Home when I was looking for – of all things – a vintage goblet to use for a styling project. As soon as I entered her shop, I quickly became acquainted with her vast chair collection, accumulated over time via flea markets and estate fairs throughout Denver and the surrounding areas. Each piece epitomized a different composure – the 1940s French style tufted chair, for instance, evoked a sense of gilded stoicism while the curvaceous 1950s accent chair evoked a sense of fluid confidence. Quite inevitably, Neil and I decided to purchase a small moss green tufted chair which currently sits daintily in a sunlit corner of our apartment. So much for that goblet.
As a college student who previously stocked up her living space with fold-up futons and $16 IKEA lamps, ‘sitting’ was never more than an unproductive and mildly uncomfortable proposition. But ever since getting that chair, I have made a conscious effort to scour some five to ten odd minutes in the morning to look out the window or read paper-bound books (remember those?), all while sitting in that dearest chair. It has helped me settle into my own skin before the busy work day and – ironically enough – increased my productivity to notable proportions.
Little did I know that a single chair can have a profound impact on my mental state and lifestyle. Marianne was kind enough to share with us how her beloved pieces have evoked similar sentiments and how she came about starting her business.
Q&A with Marianne Brown from The Feeling Of Home
01. Can you share with us your philosophy and how The Feeling of Home was born?
To be honest, there was no real philosophy when I started The Feeling of Home. I had just moved into a new, bigger apartment, and had become somewhat obsessed with home decor, especially furniture. Before moving to Denver, I had never lived in a city, and I was devoted to making my old apartment into a comfortable, urban, vintage style living space. I started buying and trading out new pieces like some furniture crazed maniac. I like for my space to be pretty open and clear, and it suddenly became crowded and cluttered. Chairs being the main culprit. I think the perfect chair can serve as the perfect accent for any room, however it doesn’t quite have he same effect when you have a dozen! On top of that, my sister and I had started a food blog, so I also had the fever for food props and cooking utensils, causing complete pandemonium in my kitchen cabinets. During my search for new items I had frequented Etsy, and I though,’ I have got to minimize, why not open my own shop? ‘ I also love the fact that ‘vintage’ is in style. I think that it is a wonderful practice to reuse and recycle what we can, and many times antiques and vintage items are often better quality than what we can by today. I enjoy that this shop allows me to provide just such items.
02. What evokes “the feeling of home” for you?
I have always, and continue to identify strongly with my Southern upbringing. For the first half of my life, I grew up in an old farm house in rural South Georgia. The women in my family, my mother, grandmother, and aunt, certainly enjoy a good antique shop, and that is putting it mildly. I have always been conscious of, or perhaps made to be conscious of antiques since a child. The women of my family are wonderful Southern women, and have always cared about their homes, but not in a materialist way. In the same way that I am just trying to create a certain feeling for myself, I think that they are doing them same thing, whatever that feeling is for them. There is something about older vintage items that have a story too. The ‘feeling of home’ for me is a little of nostalgia, an antique, or a unique piece that literally reminds me of home, the farm, and where I grew up. Coincidently, at 90, my grandmother still has the biggest chair fetish of anyone I know!
03. Where do you go to find your beautiful pieces?
Estate sales. Garage Sales. Thrift shops. Living in the city has really allowed The Feeling of Home to take place. There are just so many people, and so much stuff! Honestly, a lot of stuff that you probably don’t want. It can be a little overwhelming at times. I definitely have a sense for what I am looking for, and I love the search!
04. Describe the first antique piece you ever bought:
The first real antique piece I ever purchased for myself was actually pretty recently. It is a wood china hutch with claw feet. It’s not huge like some hutches can be, which is why I like it. It is now the home of many pieces and props for the food blog.
More so, the first real antique that was given to me in my adult life, was my dining table and chairs. My grandmother gave it to me and the set was the one thing that I brought from Georgia when I moved to Colorado. It is the same table and chairs that she had in her bay window, where we ate most every Sunday lunch my whole life. It has ‘From Belgium’ stamped on the bottom of the chairs, and she and my grandfather bought the set on the way back from a road trip to California. The end chair has worn spots on arms from my grandfather’s hands, and there is a faded burn spot from a hot cast iron skillet in the middle of the table. It has two leaves, and can seat four to eight people. It is a beautiful piece, a gathering place, and very sentimental to me.
05. Describe your home in one sentence:
An old apartment building with creaky wooden floors, big windows, wide molding, and vintage charm.
06. If you weren’t a vintage collector, what would you be?
If you are asking “What do I want to be when I grow up,” I have wanted to be quite a few things. A marine biologist, and I also want to literally be Anthony Bourdain, but who doesn’t. Maybe a little more realistically, a wine connoisseur or sales person, or just a taster, that would be fun!