SOLITARY REFINEMENT

A Bachelorette Pad of Our Dreams

Mimi Fukuyoshi, the stylish and elegant fashion executive, is a Senior Vice President at Tom Ford overseeing retail and wholesale for the US and global eCommerce for the brand. She built her career in fashion and menswear at retail giants like Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman and has lived alone for the past eight years. “Living alone is the best,” she told us. “For the most part, I’m a neat and clean freak but occasionally if I want to not fold my clothes and toss them in a chair then I can do that with no one to say otherwise. My favorite Friday nights are spent at home with a sheet mask on, ordering in and/or eating ice cream out of the container, watching Netflix. This is also maybe why I’m single.” We were moved by the serenity of her roomy loft apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, wanting very much to take to the chaise by the window with a book, for a very long, uninterrupted reading session. In the afternoon light, naturally.

On finding joy in the solo art of doing just as you please, here is an excerpt from Marjorie Hillis’ “Live Alone and Like It” of 1936. Radical for its time, the snappy (though occasionally outdated) manual for women living happily on their own still provides just the right prescription for solitary refinement of the female variety:

You’ve seen the wavy pink mirror in your feed – the Ultrafragola (“ultimate strawberry”), glowing from the inside with LED lights, vaguely labia-like, and almost always the frame of a selfie with a few thousand likes. Lena Dunham has one of the mirrors. So do Frank Ocean, Bella Hadid, and Sophia Amoruso. A selfie in the $10,000 mirror has become as “Instagram” as latte art.

The Ultrafragola was designed in 1970, before Instagram was even a twinkle in Kevin Systrom’s eye. It was the creation of Ettore Sotsass, the Italian architect who went on to establish the Memphis Group -- the design and architecture collective that inspired a movement away from what was traditionally considered “in good taste” and toward dramatic color, shape, and patterns like stripes and squiggles. Memphis design, which now characterizes the 80’s and early 90’s (think Saved By The Bell) was groundbreaking, polarizing, and undeniably cool in its beginning.

If you are new at the game of living alone, it is not unlikely that you are sometimes afraid of the dark, though, of course, you don’t admit it. This, too, is something to get over quickly; you can have a miserable time prolonging the agony. When you wake in the night convinced that you hear a man moving about in the next room, do not get up and investigate. Still more important, do not telephone the janitor, or a friend's husband across the street, or your brother in New Jersey. Almost certainly, there is no man in the next room, and, if there were, he would be gone by the time anyone got there. The trick is to turn over and think furiously about something else, like your new dress or what you'd say if the good-looking man who took you to the theater last week proposed – until you go to sleep again. This is difficult at first, but after the sixth imaginary burglar has invaded your flat unmolested, it becomes no trouble at all.

The Sotsass mirror is also cool. It’s feminine, weird, and six-feet tall. It glows. It is simultaneously everywhere and hard to get your hands on. It’s both vintage and futuristic. But why the mirror’s popularity now, a good five decades after its conception? And why, specifically, its Instagram popularity?

The pace of “moments” in home decor is picking up (matching step with its restless cousins, Fashion and Beauty), and Instagram coupled with the stay-at-home mandates of the global COVID-19 pandemic have played a big role in its new cadence. On Instagram, we present our private lives – however we furnish them – as the backdrop for our own personal brands. We’re influenced by a constant stream of images, like a tiny hall of mirrors in the palm of our hands, wherein even the most mundane details of our lives become aesthetic data points.

If all this sounds a little dreary, think of the things that you, all alone, don't have to do. You don't have to turn out your light when you want to read, because somebody else wants to sleep. You don't have to have the light on when you want to sleep, because somebody else wants to read. You don't have to get up in the night to fix somebody else's hot water bottle, or lie awake listening to snores, or be vivacious when you're tired, or cheerful when blue, or sympathetic when you're bored. You probably have your bathroom all to yourself too, which is unquestionably one of Life's Great Blessings. You don't have to wait till someone finishes shaving, when you are all set for a coldcream session. You have no one complaining about your pet bottles, no one to drop wet towels on the floor, no one occupying the bathtub when you have just time to take a shower. From dusk until dawn, you can do exactly as you please, which, after all, is a pretty good allotment in this world where a lot of conforming is expected of everyone.

These days, the way we decorate our homes is how we present ourselves, perhaps even more than fashion and a logical next step beyond the accumulation of rare sneakers and It bags. When it comes to personal identity, especially in this age of constant visibility, it is alluring to strike a note between “strange and off-kilter,” and “established and out-of-reach.” In other words, to be authentic but never vulnerable. To be interesting but never controversial. To be cool but never first. To have your cake and eat it, too.

Just as postmodern design pushed playfully against the minimalism of modernism, we seek to bring the flavor of human messiness to our two-dimensional online worlds, but not so much messiness that we are actually perceived in any real way. Enter: a beautiful, strange, tongue-in-cheek, $10,000 mirror with a storied design history that somehow makes perfect sense, with a perfect aesthetic right now. A way to say, “this is my home” and “this is me,” with one perfectly framed selfie. A way to see ourselves, show ourselves, and protect ourselves, in one fell swoop. And maybe, that’s what home decor is all about.

Words by Mary Click
Image courtesy of "Mobili grigi", Ettore Sottsass, Jr., 1970

 

By Minya Quirk
Photography by Shiloh Teny