In the middle of our tin-ceilinged living room is a tin medallion. It’s pressed into an ornate pattern, an imitation of the fancy plaster medallions you might find crumbling in the parlor floors of un-touched old brownstones. From the center of the medallion hangs a brass and crystal chandelier. The chandelier is tarnished and somewhat more muted than it once was but, but the overall effect of ceiling plus fixture still manages to tilt the room solidly toward fancy.
In lieu of removing and replacing the chandelier (which I’m not convinced is something I’d have permission to do), I’ve been trying to rethink my relationship to it. Does a chandelier need to dictate the orientation of the space below it? Does a table need to be centered beneath it? Can I leave the vintage chandelier hanging but relegate it to the background, generally ignoring it and placing furniture and lamps around the room in whatever kind of position makes the best sense? What kind of position does make the best sense?
I’ve passed enough very long hours in historic house museums to know that the ornate fixtures hanging over formal parlors were centered first and foremost on the ceiling and that what happened to be positioned below them was secondary. There aren’t any rules, I remind myself for the umpteenth time as I lean into the table and shove it bum-first across the room. Follow your gut. Experiment. I’ve spent the past few mornings moving furniture around this space and sitting with it in a state of transition. States of transition are not my most comfortable places to be, but I’ve been trying to approach the task like working on a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a challenge and a mostly happy distraction and even if the puzzling inevitably turns the space topsy turvy for a while, the satisfaction of getting everything sorted into the right place will eventually be sweet indeed. Right?
For now, I’ve stopped puzzling with furniture long enough to type out these thoughts. I don’t always find my center right away, but I’ll get closer eventually.