AS I CONSIDERED the fashion trend of hanging charms and things from our handbags a couple of weeks ago, I came to understand that accessorizing our accessories has its domestic version. I mean, I “decorate” the lamps in my house–Asian coins swinging from one of them . . .
. . . a small boxwood wreath hanging from another.
Then, I realized, it’s not just lamps. A simple mahogany Georgian writing desk is made somewhat less austere by the Scalamandre tassel hanging from one of the drawer knobs.
A bedroom closet door has a “Diva” pillow dangling from its knob. A gilt tin angel hangs from a whatnot shelf (filled with whatnots) made by my maternal grandfather, an Italian-born restaurant owner-manager and, apparently, cabinetmaker manqué.
I guess if it sticks out, I hang something on it. (Don’t go there.)
I think of it as “layering”; you may well consider it to be my having too many tchotchkes and too few places to put them.
Obviously I’m not alone. After all, tassels were created to hang from somewhere. Agraria even sells TasselAire, lush $40 tassels impregnated with Agraria’s Balsam, Bitter Orange or other room scent and suggests hanging one from an armoire key or drawer knob–or using one with a curtain tie-back (one of the few places where I don’t have anything hanging).
As for Florence-based Santa Maria Novella’s hanging wax tablets impressed with fruit and herbs, there are no closet-police to keep you from using them as something other than wardrobe sachets.
I’ve never gone out and bought something because I thought it would make a a good hanging accessory. My dangles come about in more organic ways; even the occasional Christmas ornament keeps me company year-round.
Actually, I think that may be at the heart and soul of it all: The house and garden look so dreary after the holiday decorations have been taken down that the mind (or maybe it’s the heart) rebels a bit. I know I’m not alone; I swear that all those dried-rose and wildflower wreaths that adorn spring and summer front doors are our way of apologizing to those naked doors for having thrown away the Christmas wreath. The grapevine wreaths and lavender sprays cannot come close to the almost pagan delight of blinking holiday wreaths, not to mention (please don’t) inflated Santas, but they try to fill the empty space.
There’s no way I’m alone in this accessorizing thing, I thought. A quick call to my friend Mary W. confirmed this. (I have five friends named Mary, so I use their last initials, less insulting than assigning them numbers.)
Mary (of Walter and Mary) has two small brass bells hanging from the drawer pulls of a stately antique Polish chest in the living room.
“I think,” she says, “I put them up one Christmas, then just left them there.”
Mary has another dangler: a woven silk Chinese tassel, a memento from a traveling friend, hanging from an armoire key in the bedroom.
“It probably cost two dollars,” she says, “but I like it.”
LittleBird Janet boasts a demented-looking angel that someone gave her. (That message in her hand reads “Naughty or nice”–no question mark, just an exclamation point.)
It made the trip to Janet’s new home minus the ribbon it used to hang from, so now it sits on the vanity in the guest bath. Sad outcome for a dangler.
LittleBird Kathy thinks about it for a few minutes, then offers, “Actually, I do have a few dangles here and there.” At her West Virginia farm there’s only a wood cow’s head, but here in the city . . .
. . . there’s a tin kitty and a stuffed rabbit.
“They’re actually meant to be Christmas ornaments,” Kathy says (see? see?), “but I never put up a tree so they get to hang around (ha ha, ‘hang around’–get it?) all year long. And if I remember correctly, [our former Washington Post colleague] Ronalie Peterson gave them to me.”
So there we are, all sorts of things just hanging around the house, reminding us of friends and holidays and good times in general. It seems a lot to ask of little tchotchkes, and yet that’s exactly what they provide.