Design Musings

Minimalist Retail Therapy

Every now and then, I get the urge to buy something. Part of it is stemmed from the systematically implanted desire to purchase and consume. Partly due to an imaginary sense of scarcity, also planted by the same system. Sometimes I fight and win. Sometimes I indulge. Until I conquer this consumer malaise, how do I bind the urge of retail therapy with the penchant for simple living? I upgrade the mundane and the utilitarian. A brass soap case from a small antique shop in Dhaka. A walnut rice spoon handmade by a local artisan. The *perfect* tea strainer.

lotionStuff that are well made, age beautifully, and of quality that will last a lifetime. Stuff that make life easier not only because they are well designed but also so pretty that they make up a curated mess even when strewn about.

Look at this water pitcher for the bathroom, colloquially known as ‘baudna’, that I lugged back home:
baudnaThis item is considered so unglamorous that a baudna joke is equivalent to a fart joke. This is in every bathroom in Bangladesh (save the modern apartments that are now outfitted with hand-showers), usually a plastic one, and often in a horrendous color. In North America, every Muslim/Asian household has one. Even though we use it every day, and we see it every day, it has a relegated position in a household.

A certain someone has a penchant for all sort of back scratching, scalp massaging, ear scratching mechanism. So I got him this:

kaan chulkani 2Behold the beautiful ear scratcher! The tip of a traditional kohl applicator or ‘shurmadaan’, re-purposed. These have a tip slim enough to fit the job, but blunt enough to be safe.

Nobody goes shopping for these or definitely does not write about these. Yet one by one, it’s the mundane that craft the visual reality of our life. Set designers know this, as do prop stylists. The look, the feel, and the flavor of “A single man” or “The Darjeeling Limited” are no accidents.  They are the summation of some very carefully tweaked ensembles, vignettes and table-scapes.

Here is the look and feel of my bathroom:

My bathroom moodboard

Small space residents, as they do not have any space to shove the un-pretty away, also make very picky shoppers. They buy the prettiest pot scrubber or the sleekest ladder, often opt for the handmade, the vintage or the antique that are beautiful enough to be left ‘just so’.

Here is the fun part. I can afford to fret over such details because I have made an effort to eliminate the excess. And it is through loving stuff that I’m abiding by one of the key dicta of minimalism “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”!