My guilty conscience was playing merry hell with my ever-expanding need to buy beautiful furnishings and accessories! My husband and I have recently moved from our funky New York loft to a villa in Florence which I’ve needed to furnish. The villa is everything you would expect it to be, beautifully simple Italian architecture steeped in history and still carrying the lingering warmth of past occupants, the memory of warm nights and seriously sumptuous parties, creamy coloured olive groves that bring softness and scent to the rollicking landscape.
Some of the world’s most fabulous designers live right on my doorstep and there is such an abundance of creative and talented decorators in Italy so I’m really spoilt for choice on all fronts. There was just one little problem. My daughter has recently enrolled in a sustainable design course in Venice and our weekly phone calls have been plaguing my guilty conscence somewhat. Stories of slave labour, environmental devastation, animal cruelty, all in the name of a beautiful chaise for my dressing room. I’ve had to take stock, listen to my contemporary, intelligent daughter and get serious about fair trade, ethically sourced, sustainable reclaimed materials and non-exploitative workmanship.
But the news is good, to my relief. There is an abundance of beautifully designed furniture, fittings, artwork and linen out there in the market place that, when you purchase it, rather than abetting your guilty conscience, you feel a sense of contribution, you feel like an ethics crusader. Hooray! I found some wonderful soft furnishings including a to-die-for Masai Weave rug, mango wood chests and bed frames now adorn my guest rooms, fantastic turquoise Moroccan leather ottomans are perfect in our raw brick-walled sitting room, divine tribal design coffee tables add a quirky touch, a reclaimed birch wood wine cabinet takes pride of place in the dining room... I could go on and on but you get the idea!
This process has also got me thinking a lot about questions that from the perspective of my busy New York lifestyle seemed further away. If my guilty conscience is affecting me perhaps I should be paying more attention to these issues. Why is there such inequality in the world? How do we find true happiness and a clear conscience? Needless to say Italy has given me a new purpose and direction for our lives, and a fabulous new interest in these amazing young and thoughtful designers. My husband and I are planning to set up a trust to help these young people who are doing such wonderful things for our world. I never thought that my baby girl could teach me so much but I have her to thank for curing me of a guilty conscience and setting me on a righteous path.