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Monday, 9 April 2012

'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'

The definition of simplicity is the ‘property, condition, or quality of being simple or uncombined’; the ‘absence of luxury or showiness… of affectation or pretence’, the ‘lack of sophistication or subtlety… of good sense or intelligence’, ‘the clarity of expression’ and ‘austerity in embellishment’. Suddenly, the abstract notion of simplicity becomes at once complicated and intricate – difficult to understand and perhaps even trickier to recreate. This quote of Leonardo da Vinci seems to make perfect sense if one thinks of those things in life that are so very simple yet so endearingly beautiful, like the dreamy gorgeousness of an idyllic summer: barefooting in pretty summer dresses through the long days and balmy evenings with joyful abandon, the rose-scented air heavy with possibility and the French windows thrown open to the warm sunshine.
However, if simplicity is by definition a ‘lack of sophistication’, it could be argued that this is a complete contradiction. Sophistication could be interpreted as a certain complexity but on the other hand, might also be understood as style and elegance. It is another abstract concept and is also very subjective; the spectacle of Gatsby’s parties in Fitzgerald’s novella, ‘The Great Gatsby’, where ‘men and girls [come] and [go] like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars’ might seem to one as the embodiment of luxury and sophistication, whilst to another, the ‘salads of harlequin designs… and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold’ might be seen as a vulgar show of immense wealth, much like the banquets given by Trimalchio in the ‘Satyricon’ of Petronius.
Sophistication might only be truly sophisticated when it is completely accidental; after all, things do seem more romantic when they’re spontaneous (please take note – I would love to be taken to Paris to drift around the exquisite patisseries and horribly expensive boutiques sometime please). One of the most beautiful and perhaps sophisticated kitchens I’ve ever been in lay inside one of the lovely old farmhouses in the village. Inside, there was a steaming crimson AGA where a copper pan of hot milk gently simmered and beside it, Green & Blacks dark chocolate ready to be tipped into the milk. A faded sofa – the favourite sleeping spot of several golden Labradors – was upholstered in a vintage fabric printed with delicate trailing flowers and tucked away beneath a low wooden beam. The hot chocolate was ladled out into chipped mugs and served with a plateful of homemade dark sticky ginger cake, rich with molasses and warm spice. Nothing in that kitchen was new or perfectly clean but it was so lovely and welcoming.

So to conclude my first post (a bit of a mish-mash really with me not really sure what to write about!) the best, sophisticated things in life are often the simplest. Of course, it has to be said that simplicity takes time, work and where material things are concerned, money – it’s ‘clarity of expression’ and ‘quality’ above ‘showiness’. Sometimes the things that seem simple to us are that way because they’re just right.

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