Place is the Space

Space, the first frontier. This is a voyage of the Designship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore our strange old world, to seek out new lifestyles and civilizations, to boldly go where no room has gone before. Unless, of course, you are a Borg, in which case you will be assimilated into the tedious interiors pandered by the endless glossy design publications that have defined your world since the middle of the 20th century. Not a Borg? Then buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Millions of years ago, tree shrews, adorable four-legged primates, precursors to the first wave of hominids, were, as their name suggests, living in trees. Space was basic. Mother Nature provided the first rooms when Neanderthals survived an ice age by taking to caves. Evolution was now on the fast track. Homo sapiens became the cutting edge of human life, developing tools, material possessions and the concept of personal space.

Happening homos, wanting more out of life than simply painted caves, came screaming out of their rocky holes and discovered architecture. All you needed was a few felled trees, a couple of discarded animal skins or some big leaves to weave, and you too could live down by a stream with fresh running water and plenty of fish to eat. Life got good. Soon humans had not only roofs over their heads, but finally a place to put a few things, like a shard to hunt and cut with, an old tree trunk to sit on or a favorite shell to drink out of.

One thing led to another, and long before the first coming of Christ, the very fiber of life morphed from merely staying alive to attaining a quality of life defined by the accumulation of things. Things take up space. Huts, roundhouses, igloos, wigwams, pueblos and other assorted dwellings were created not only to protect mankind from the elements but to store humanity’s ever-growing collection of possessions.

By the time of ancient Egypt, decorating had been thrown into the mix. The rich were living in 10-room brick houses with muraled walls, while the poor crammed together in single rooms covered with cheap whitewash. Civilization as we know it was taking shape. Shards became forks, knives, spoons and weapons. Tree trunks were carved, gilded and painted into furniture for every conceivable human need, and seashells gave way to endless sets of matching ceramic decorated dinnerware that was usually saved for that new social concept, the guest.

Eventually, just staying alive stopped being the whole meatball. The evolution of human aesthetics has been one of our greatest achievements. With the Renaissance, humanity at large began to appreciate the pleasure offered by the beauty around them. Then came the booming 19th century — in hindsight, a double-edged sword. The industrial revolution created a thriving middle class flush with new technologies and commodities that enriched life. However, that same century birthed the Victorian era, with rules that dictated every manner of how civilized man was supposed to live.

Now, in the 21st century, we still struggle under that tyranny. But instead of suffering the silly idiosyncrasies of a frustrated old queen who covered furniture legs with ruffles as if they were naked ankles, the world is now ruled by mega-style conglomerates that cast shame on the unfortunate who don’t paint their Sheetrock the right color or don’t put granite countertops in their kitchens. We must smash the shackles of aesthetic slavery to overcome the style fanaticism that festers in fashion and shelter magazines. Only then can we explore the pleasure of defining and creating a personal space that truly embraces us as individuals.

One of our inherent desires as human beings is the comfort provided by a sense of home — a shelter, a place to sleep, eat, find solace in privacy, share intimate moments with loved ones, enjoy experiences with people of similar interests, and absorb the particular pleasures of civilization such as art, music, books and entertainment. But just how much space does that really take?

Are you living in a home, or a garnished storage bin? Are you defined by who you are, or what you have and how much of it? Is the most important thing in your life the 500 pairs of shoes you don’t wear? What about that living room you never use? Do you entertain? When is the last time you used anything buried in the breakfront you thought you needed? Can you walk into your walk-in closets? Do you not paint your apartment because it’s a rental? Is everything you need within reach? Do you spend too much time endlessly cleaning things? Do you spend too much of your income so you can pay others to endlessly clean things? Is your furniture comfortable, or just fabulous? Have you read all those books? Will you? Is your garage too crowded to park in? Are your kitchen cabinets filled with old dishes and jars of unused spices? Do you know what’s on the top shelf in the hall closet? Did you hide your TV in a 17th-century armoire that ate up your bedroom? Do guests ever use your guest room? Are you always bumping into things? What is all that stuff? Do you have everything you want? Do you want everything you have? Are people comfortable in your space? Are you?

Put your 10,000-square-foot fantasies on the back shelf for a moment and address your space with fresh eyes. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but if you can answer them honestly, then you can begin to find the humanity in your personal space called home. Personal space is not a privilege, it is a human right. Big or small, it’s your world, so adjust that world to who you are. Forget the floor plans. Perhaps the dining room you never use would be a great computer lounge. Or maybe the bedroom of your dreams is currently disguised as a living room. There are no rules, just a lot of leftover Victorian dogma.

Explore thyself! Forget about fashion and shelter magazines, which encourage us to need more than we need, especially when it comes to space. By overindulging, mankind has been subconsciously yanking the civil out of civilization. More is always more until it starts being never enough.


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