I can’t live a lie.
I am a modern man and sometimes I found myself wandering in the enormous IKEA in Croydon.
If you ask me, yes, these forks are all from House of Conran. These mugs are all from John Lewis, where else? I might as well joke a confused chuckle when these basilar facts are even taken into question.
But no, as I said earlier I just cannot live a lie anymore: I am familiar with the (dear Lord please help me with this) popular and populist Swedish furniture retailer. Furthermore, I have also enjoyed their meatballs I admit it.
Overall, what I mostly enjoyed from the IKEA experience as a whole is the “Hello, we live in 22 squared meters” sections, where some squalidly small sparks of shop floor are all embellished and decorated to show ‘how easy’ and ‘how convenient’ it is to live in such petite premises.
There is also something hauntingly anti-capitalist in such displays: “Yes, we don’t need all your fancy space, because we sleep on a compact iron board that also functions as a cupboard between 10am and 6pm”.
It is here that this guide finds its first solid ground: Dear IKEA wanderer, when was the last time you stumbled across a “Hello, we live in 22 squared meters, AND we still manage to find space for eventual guests” sign?
The answer, sadly, is never.
When I decided to move into a Hampstead studio flat with Sergei Sergeyevich, none of our friends mentioned that one day we might have to deal with guests.
But we thought ‘who cares?’, it is a fantastic price for a studio flat that is just THIS close to Hampstead Heath, and even if the vista from our windows is a grey line of council flats, we would rest secure in the thought that on our side of the street, all the houses are prim and proper.
So we went on decorating our very own 22 squared metres with velvet curtains and hand beaded cushions from the middle east, acting surprised at the ease in which we were cohabiting. We were happily decorating our very own “Fuck you” to capitalistic space management.
So we went on, I would pile all of my new and old Diptique candles alongside my Hermes neck scarves while Sergei Sergeyevich would find a place for all the complete collection of Fortnum and Mason’s world’s teas, appropriately compiled in alphabetical order in a cupboard just below the groundling bonsais.
Our studio flat looks now like the set for a Vogue Italia’s beauty story on hoarders.
So happy we were about our innate interior decoration skills that we decided to invite two dear friends of ours, a very successful Japanese fashion designer and her boyfriend, and share the quirks of our immaculately dressed abode.
What follows is what I learned from that first, unforgettable experience.
1) “Hello my beloved guests please sit wherever you want”. Alas, I hope you don’t mind sitting on the floor, because unless they start paying the rent there is no physical space to stuff more chairs. We have two chairs and a golden velvet armchair, but that’s not necessarily practical as it mostly just serve the purpose of backdropping a few metres of draped plum tinted velvet.
So, advice number one, do not let the guest decide where they want to sit, but advice them to a specifically tailored section: ‘My dear, you can sit on the Louis XIV bedside table, just move the Romanian Icon and there will be enough space’.
2) This can obviously lead to issues with the comparable vicinity to the table. As guest number one will probably end up having to sit on the commode, the host need to make sure that it is still relatively easy for dear guest number one to still reach the table and both be part of the engaging conversation and at the same time re-fill his plate with all the delicacies you will be serving, such as fried polenta or chocolate coated halva.
3) Speaking of delicacies, I feel it is my duty to remind you that in the most probable case, the kitchen will not REALLY be detached from the dining room. So make yourself comfortable with the thought that your glamorous guests will be probably watching while you struggle with your Hungarian sour cherry soup starter. All of this, while keeping up and impeccable conversation. So feel free to swear when the consistency of the soufflé is not really about right, but do so in French, to not loose the flair.
4) When everything is set up and the champagne is flowing, there is one odd detail one must not forget: Some people do not smoke; They call themselves non-smokers. And if both you and Sergei Sergeyevich are furious smokers, the studio flat is quick at resembling an opium den in the most depraved areas of Istanbul.
When you live in the Hampstead equivalent of a Margate beach cabin, you also need to make sure there is enough oxygen for all the guests. And you do not want the dearest Mitsuko Watanabe to turn pale grey before the dessert.
My advice is, keep the windows open and let an electric fan push away all the smoke.
How can we forget when chain-smoker and socialite Perla Bourbons had to soak her candid gold mane in Chanel n19 on the cab home, to cover the refined yet sickening smell of cigarettes of our studio flat. Hilarious.
These are the basic advices I can give you, but in the case you do not have the time and frame of mind to follow my suggestions, just feel free to invest in the biggest bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin you can put your claws on, and I promise you, there shall be no complaints from your beloved guests, no matter how minuscule is your very own 22 squared metres patch of Hampstead
by Jamal Stein-Lacroix
Originally published on Lujon Issue 1