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‘Life is too short’: How to stop ‘saving for best’ at home

Anya Cooklin-Lofting
·5-min read
 (Hanes Australia)
(Hanes Australia)

Underneath a chest of drawers in my living room, there is a vintage sake set that I picked up at a market over 10 years ago. Today, it remains in its worn cardboard box with its faded, blossom pink Japenese label still attached. The set is dotted with delicate florals that look as if they have been plucked from a Willow Pattern scene and scattered casually across the ware. Inside the box, the mould is lined with blue silk, and each piece luxuriates in the folds and bulges of the fabric. Each choko, or cup, is thoughtfully furnished with a thumb indentation so the pattern warps slightly against the ripple of the ceramic. The matching tokkuri, the elegant, narrow-necked jug, has a spout so miniature in protrusion that the whole set takes on a charming smallness that makes it impossible to use, even to look at for very long, for the very fact that it is too beautiful.

The unused sake set is just one manifestation of the effect of my life-long complex around “saving for best”. There are at least two sets of bed linen that sit in a high cupboard in the bedroom, yet to fulfil their purpose (the first of which is to impress guests, the second is for special occasions which are rather lacking in the current climate). There are candles I’ve yet to burn, turning instead to cheaper alternatives in a pull of self-abnegation that tells me now is not the right time, that I’m not quite deserving of this privilege. When posed to friends, the question of which items they’re saving for their better selves, for better times, yields responses including notebooks, cushion covers, crockery, glasses, towels and placemats. One particularly lamenting response came from a friend who is saving a chair for best in an attempt to preserve the reupholstered cushions and protect the antique frame.

Maza Candles, www.bymaza.co.ukMaza
Maza Candles, www.bymaza.co.ukMaza

The longer we all spend at home amongst these objects that we have so carefully categorised into the quotidian and the occasional, the more this maxim outlining the frugality of pleasure begins to wear thin. Surely, now more than ever, we should be using the very best of what we have to hand, if not in an effort to elevate our homes, then to make ourselves feel better.

“Life is too short to keep material things tucked away on shelves,” says Maisie Penn, the Founder of the candle and tiled goods brand, Maza (www.bymaza.co.uk). Penn’s range of ornamental candles comprises sunset-coloured soy wax in an eclectic mix of abstract shapes. By nature, they really are too pretty to burn, but Penn disagrees: “Candles are for burning, and they look magical when doing so. They are prettiest when they're lit. I love how the colourful wax drips in its own unique pattern, and how the shape of the candle takes on a whole new form as the flame spirals down through the wax.” So what of saving for best? “I think the best way to enjoy an ornamental candle is to burn it,” she says.

COLLECTION ONE by Burleigh, www.burleigh.co.ukBurleigh
COLLECTION ONE by Burleigh, www.burleigh.co.ukBurleigh

Alongside candles, gorgeous bed linen is often saved for best, whether that’s a special occasion or for guests. Of course, guests are few and far between these days, but still, we keep our very finest sheets folded away in favour of our second best, a notion redolent of Carole Anne Duffy’s sentiment in her 1999 poem, Anne Hathaway, and the infamous will upon which it is based. “There is no sense in saving your favourite bed linen for guests or keeping it stowed away for when you feel like you truly ‘deserve’ it,” says Joanna Ross, the general manager of product and innovation at the homeware brand, Sheridan (www.sheridanaustralia.co.uk). Instead, she suggests that “the best time to afford yourself the pleasure of getting into a bed you truly love is now. Making your bed with your favourite linens, whether they’re the softest or most beautifully patterned in your collection, will bring a charm to the everyday ritual of getting ready to wind down. Not only will this give your bedroom a more special, considered feel, but it will elevate your mood and potentially your quality of sleep.”

The very notion of saving for best is most commonly encapsulated in the dusty china cabinet, filled with richly decorated plates, bowls and serveware, often in matching sets, bought as wedding presents. According to Kate Cartwright, the Brand Marketing Manager at Burleigh (www.burleigh.co.uk), the English ceramics brand celebrating its 170th anniversary this year, this is a great shame, especially while we’re eating all our meals at home throughout the lockdown. “There is no question that this kind of behaviour is ingrained into us,” Cartwright says, adding, “but it’s loving and using the item that gives it that very feeling of being special.”

Burleigh specialises in uniquely decorated ceramicware, which Cartwright suggests should be used far more readily than it is displayed to ensure each and every mealtime feels elevated. “Imagine how joyous each and every day could be when you truly learn to make the most of what you have,” she says. “Something as simple as a good cup of tea with friends can be special too, warranting the very best mugs and teacups you have to hand. I hope that everyone learnt that lesson after the last year.”

On that note, can I interest anyone in a choko of sake?

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