26 May 2017

The Study: Envisioning my Dream Reading Space

No sooner had I declared my writing hiatus than I was encouraged by Arhaus to share my idea of a dream reading nook. I would have complete creative freedom, and I was more than welcome to use pictures of their products for inspiration in exchange for some endorsement. Naturally, I got curious. What is this company that has taken interest in my blog?  

After a short Google search, I learnt that Arhaus is a furniture manufacturer that was founded in 1986 in Cleveland, by Jack Reed and his son, John. The name itself – Arhaus - is a cross between Århus, which is a city in Denmark, and the term “our house”. The company claims to adhere to a policy of using recycled material, and abstaining from using wood from the endangered rain forests. 
I got interested in this project for several reasons. One being that it would give me an opportunity to branch out, and try something new. But it would also give me an opportunity to talk about something that I actually care about, namely reading. Also, let me state in advance that I am not getting paid by Arhaus to write this post.

I really wanted to partake in this project, but there was still the issue that made me go on hiatus in the first place: the finals. They're only ten days away now, and it’s getting hard to see anything above the growing pile of books and notepads. However, if there’s anything that I learnt in this past year is that writing is important for my emotional well-being. I was reminded by my brother of the short story, The Door in the Wall by H.G. Welles, about a man who would sometimes encounter a mysterious door that led to a fantastical world, a garden of Eden. The catch was that the door would only appear when the hero was about to reach an important milestone in his life. For the past eight months, writing has been my door in the wall, and I really wanted to go through it this time, finals be damned! For me, writing satisfies a kind of hunger that no other art form or hobby ever could. Finally, all it took was a gentle push from my family, a.k.a. the only people I ever listen to, and here we are.
The dream reading space. What is my dream reading space? Where would I like to be the most when I'm about to immerse myself in a good story? As with many other things in life, there is a discrepancy between our expectations and the real life. Between the fantasy image of the perfect moment with a good book, and the reality of trying to carve out the time to actually sit down and read.
In my preparation for this post, I ransacked my own mind in search for my fantasy reading sweet spot, and what I found were specific images that have been imprinted in my mind by pop culture and advertisement. There’s Belle's library from Beauty and the Beast, in itself an image that has become iconic among book lovers. There's the Batcave from Tim Burton’s Batman (Michael Keaton, FTW!). But if I really am honest with myself, there is one image that stands out the most for me. I call this piece “The Study”. Let me illustrate:
In the season one episode of New Girl titled "Fancyman, part 1", Jess and Nick go to a party at the mansion of Jess' friend, Russel. Nick hates the mansion at first, as it stands for everything that he hates – rich snobs, arrogance, and excess. But then he enters Russel’s study and everything changes. He literally falls in love with this room, and with its décor. Suddenly, he realises that this room represents everything that Nick isn’t, but wishes himself to be – a successful and accomplished man, who is respected by his peers, and owns a lot of cool, expensive stuff. Although Nick’s behaviour is exaggerated for comedic effect, I still find his reaction to seeing Russel’s study totally believable. And not just because he wants to be as rich and successful as Russel.  

The truth is, I didn’t make this connection when I first saw this episode, but now that do think about it, I always wanted to have study like the one that Nick fell in love with. It is an image I have carried with me since early childhood, after having read one too many Sherlock Holmes stories. The study is a room where you can enjoy the faint and yet distinct smells of books, and old furniture. It’s a room that invites you to sit down, take a deep breath and just read. The colours here are dark, but soothing. There are wall to wall bookshelves, filled with absolutely every book you ever wanted to read. There are collectibles and souvenirs. But they're not just things. These objects tell a story; they work as a reflection of the owner's personality (in my case, I imagine a row of Vinyl Pop action figures). 

It isn’t the physical space itself or the symbols of materialism and comfort that I find so attractive in my dream study. Rather it’s what “the study” represents – accomplishment, self-assurance, and the sense of inner peace.  And, of course, it also represents all the free time you have so that you can read all the books on those wall to wall bookshelves. You don’t have to go anywhere. There are no chores to be done, no petty distractions of the real world. Just you and a book in your lap.
So much for the fantasy. Reality is hectic. Reality is filled with surprises and it requires responsibility and attention. In reality, my study would be an unholy mess. Think balls of yarn on the desk. Think dust bunnies hiding in the corners. The truth is, I would be too far away from feeling that inner peace because I would be too distracted by the mess.

In reality, I read whenever I get the time, and that means that the “dream” reading space is wherever I am at the moment. Most of the time, I prefer to read in my living room. But if the book is a good one, it doesn’t really matter where I'm reading it. I read Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn in a single afternoon, while lying on my bed. Trains are also a good place to read, I think that most of us can agree on that. Coincidentally, the only reason I could finish Asimov’s Foundation was because I read it on a train, and had nothing else to do with my time (that was pre-smartphones, mind you). Of course, now I love that book, and the whole series it spun, and all that thanks to that one long train ride

Reading is a cherished pastime for many of us, and whether you read to escape reality or to enjoy a good story, you want to be able to fully immerse yourself in the story. That immersion demands peace and quiet. It demands your full attention. And most importantly, it demands time. In a world where everything happens so fast, where we get frustrated with the slow wi-fi, and get crushed by the weight of our own expectations, being able to take a deep breath and just read for a couple of hours is somewhat of a luxury. But it's an important luxury. One that is sometimes necessary for our emotional well-being.   

So, this was my *somewhat* commercial post. Like I said, I'm not getting paid for this. But if you ask me to collaborate with a company that is environmentally conscious, in a project that allows me to express myself creatively and take a well-deserved break from all the studying, I say, "Why not?". Two of the pictures I used in this post are from Arhaus.com and if you ask me, their products really are beautiful. I also posted some links, so you can check them out. 

As for me, I am thanking you for your time, and diving right back into the ocean of caffeine and despair.  


Arhaus, the Blog

Arhaus Living Room Furniture

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