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Monday, January 9, 2012

In Defense of Making Do: Diana Phipps

Or should I say "An Apology for Making Do"? That would be an echo of Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesy, which also goes by the title Apology for Poetry. How to defend something that seems frivolous, useless, and even deceitful? If you're really interested, I'll let you know how Sir Philip Sidney did it.

In the meantime, we shall turn to another aristocrat, Diana Phipps. I've written about her before. She is an aristocrat whose family lost everything, so she turned to "making do" to have comfortable spaces. Whenever I need some aesthetic inspiration, I look at her book, as much for her attitude as for anything else. For your reading pleasure, here is an old article about her. A blogger has helpfully photographed the living room DP did in London.

I lived what I think are called my formative years in a castle. Changing political and financial circumstances played havoc with our living habits. Within the first ten years of my life, my parents twice lost and once regained their properties from occupying military forces, losing them first to the Germans, then to the Russians. After that came various stages of poverty. When we finally became emigrants to the United States, at last, once again, I had a room of my own. It was in an ugly and very small house. There I first began "making do." I built my furniture out of cardboard boxes from the grocery store. Over the boxes I glued blue-and-white gingham bought at Woolworth's. I tented my bed with the same material and had masses of ruffled cushions on the floor when floor cushions were not yet the fashion. They were stuffed with clothes waiting to be ironed.

Thirty years later, I'm still doing more or less the same thing, but now the gingham occasionally also covers a grand chair.


And thirty years after that was published, she is back in her castle, courtesy of the great Vaclav Havel. I remember reading that she used masses of pajama flannel to swath some of the beds. This site shows some pictures of the beautiful interiors.

Sir Philip Sidney couldn't say that poetry--by which he means fiction in general--makes people happy. Back in the day (1500s), that wasn't a good enough reason, so he had to come up with others. I must say: making do makes me happy.

4 comments:

Marcela said...

It makes me happy too.
And BTW, my grandmother made her first kitchen cupboards out of boxes covered in gingham fabric as well. And they looked adorable :)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Ah, kindred spirits!

Shelley said...

"I figured it wouldn't get dirty." You have to love the woman! Yes, making do like this is very satisfying.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley---As above!