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A commentary on glass furniture.

In his Philosophy of Furniture , Edgar Allan Poe begins by stating “In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme.” He compares American’s decoration style with the English taste and explains how differences are founded in the fact that since North America lacks nobility, the display of money is the sole means of aristocratic distinction. Glare and glitter, as he says, are the leading errors in the philosophy of American household decoration, and Poe notices how Americans are enamoured of glass (among other things such as gas illumination).

Poe’s essay left me pondering: With a brilliant theory of the short story , which’s modernity cannot be questioned; could he have been mistaken with his decoration taste? Impossible, for in taste matters, “mistake” is not a category upon which we shall make judgments, but only express mere opinions. We must not forget that Poe’s ideal room cannot be separated from his writing. His own room decoration is meant to cause the same “effect” that he so brilliantly creates in his short stories, and let this be the sole reason of his hatred towards glass.

In the first place, we must clarify how Poe’s “Philosophy of Furniture” must be read as a philosophy of his writing: glass and mirror are seen as mere reflectors, which allude to realism in literature, or mimesis. The lamp, on the contrary is associated with other type of literature, Romantic literature, to be accurate. The lamp; throws a light which is covered in shades, and never illuminates completely, ambiguity is one its consequences. In the second place, Poe’s ideal room is meant to take us to another reality in which fantasy –gothic to be more specific- is possible.

Poe did not fail to predict, how realism finally took over the “lamp effect” in literature, and, following his game, this can translate to decoration as well. Glass has become THE material for interior design (whether in a coffee table or a dining table , a computer desk , a tv stand ; or even a CD rack ). What does this tell us about ourselves? Why do we love glass so much? Why has it become a must-have in any living room that bespeaks of modern style and of status?

Transparence and clarity, light reflection instead of entrapment. The modern man spends most of his life indoors, “from home to work and from work to home”; the chaos of the city and the fragmentation of the being demand some sort of unity that is translated, of course, in its very house.

The man that lives in the city, where space is rationed, needs to create the illusion of space and light. Mirrors serve the purpose not only in image reflection but also of light. It can illuminate and duplicate spaces, making them bigger and brighter. Thronged buildings, cars, persons, objects, advertisements, images bombarding senses; where is the simplicity? At home, our modern private Eden, we shall say.

Glass appears to us now, as a necessity, for it is not only beautiful and elegant but also creates an illusion and gives the modern man the light and the space, as well as some sense of freedom, the he so much craves for.

A commentary on glass furniture.
Poe's ideal room (image from wikipedia) vs Modern Interior

Romantic (Poe) vs Modern Interior