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Creative People

On the last Friday of each month we invite a different writer / awesomely entertaining person to share their anecdotal or autobiographical ‘Monthly Musing’ based loosely on themes around home, design and interiors. The time is here again!

This month we’re PUMPED to welcome legendary local writer and editor Penny Modra to TDF! Penny is editorial director at The Good Copy, and in a former life was long serving editor of The Thousands.

Penny is known for her grammatical prowess, her quick wit, and for having four coffees before 9.00am every morning. Only Penny could draw a parallel between everyday life in ancient Pompeii and the modern day fear of having your messy kitchen tagged in an unapproved Instagram photo.  The anxiety is real, people.




27th March, 2015
Penny Modra of The Good Copy
Friday 27th March 2015

I love that show where the lady professor wobbles around Campania on a bicycle, poking about in the Pompeii ruins and revealing everyday details of life in 79AD. ‘They didn’t have any electricity,’ she’ll proclaim, ‘so the citizens got up at 5am and went straight to the hairdresser!’ Or, ‘You’ll find that many household objects were shaped like penises.’

Fascinating stuff. But, to me, the most interesting thing about the Pompeiian home was its fortress-like design. Walls all the way around. No windows. Everything facing inwards. Not very welcoming. In fact visitors hardly ever made it beyond ‘the good room’, where Pompeiians displayed all their fanciest penis lamps, fruit bowls and spindles.

Despite the eruption of Vesuvius, this tradition trickled right down the ages to my Nana, who would rather have gone to David Jones nude than let a guest in her kitchen. Nana’s neighbours got no further than the sitting room (and, even then, pretty much only on Sundays between 5pm and 6pm).

But when future archaeologists break through the last layer of green supermarket bags to unearth the ruins of our new century they’ll discover an important shift. ‘The citizens enjoyed casual entertaining,’ they’ll remark to their Zuckerberg implants. Flipping through a shrink-wrapped copy of The Selby is in Your Place, they’ll discover that, here in the 2010s, ‘our friends are always dropping around unexpectedly for a simple Sunday brunch,’ and ‘we love displaying quirky artworks in the bathroom.’

Now I’m no archaeologist from the future. I’m not even an archaeologist. But I sometimes wonder what’s going on with this access-all-areas attitude. I hate it when people drop around to my house for brunch. Because, you know, I never have any, so we end up having to go out and queue for $18 eggs. Anyway maybe I just hate brunch. The point is, later that same day I’ll be flipping through Instagram on the toilet and I’ll suddenly realise what it’s all about: cameras. The ever-present possibility of being tagged.

Guys, we are now all nude in David Jones. All the time.

What is there to do but flaunt our readiness by literally putting the kitchen in the sitting room? Walls maketh no difference to the all-seeing eye. How else can we respond but to pre-empt the inevitable by Instagramming our own toilet brushes? We are white-washed, we are splash-backed, we are casually book-strewn, we are island-benched, we are weird-outdoor-daybedded, we are ready for our close-up.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve strewn a few art books in my time. I’ve refilled a few expensive-looking soap dispensers with Imperial Leather. I’ve stolen a few hydrangeas in the dead of night and placed them casually in a few $2 IKEA carafes. I’ve bought a few blue and white butchers aprons from Cuisine World and hung them on a hook so it looks like I use my kitchen to cook. But I’m gonna say it: the problem with some of these photogenic room ideas is actually, you know, living in the rooms. The truth about a guest bed covered with cushions is, in fact, a guest floor strewn with cushions, followed closely by a guest wardrobe stuffed with cushions. The truth about a mantelpiece book stack is trying to get the bottom one out and knocking over your other mantelpiece book stack. The truth about rolled-up towels on a bathroom shelf is a bit of a moldy towel smell two weeks later.

And so, at long last, I arrive at my point.

Life is too damn short to be styled in case of tagging.”

I mean, sure, I want to have a nice-looking house—but I need a new style icon. Someone who is very selfish. Now. Who lives without worrying that their kitchen will be Instagrammed? The carefree rambling man who rides the rails. Correct. Who else? Joan Didion. Correct: Joan never has guests. Hates ’em. And who else? PEOPLE IN MOVIES.

The whole point of a movie is to make you feel like you’re not watching a movie. If we, the viewers, sensed that a character’s house was styled for our benefit, the illusion would be shattered. A hard-bitten detective wouldn’t have a pair of couches with throw rugs. His long hours and depressing work anecdotes would long ago have alienated any loved ones. He’d have a single, beat-up recliner in front of a TV. Do you see what I mean? Thus, people in movies are my new home style icon.

So, I leave you with my top-five self-centred interior design ideas stolen from Hollywood movies:

1. Put a tiny TV in your kitchen so you can watch the news while you’re eating cereal.

2. Get a drip-filter coffee machine so you can just pour that stuff endlessly out of a jug instead of fiddling with a stovetop every 20 minutes.

3. Place a small padded stool in front of your bedroom mirror so you can sit down while putting lotion on your arms before bed.

4. Arrange a whisky decanter and an array of glasses on a side table so you can motion to it distractedly when your lawyer visits for a late-night argument.

5. Keep your knives handy in a benchtop block so you can gingerly whip one out as you tiptoe towards the noise you just heard. Probably someone dropping round unexpectedly for a simple Sunday brunch.

Penny Modra is a writer and Editorial Director of The Good Copy.

Oslo Davis is a Melbourne-based cartoonist and illustrator.

Illustration by Melbourne-based cartoonist / illustrator Oslo Davis.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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