Monday, November 19, 2012

Elements of Domythicity - Mystery

This morning I was, as I have been often lately, thinking back to a little over a week ago when I was still in the magical world known as Faeriecon.  In several instances when I have been asked by strangers to describe the event, I have explained how the Marriott building itself is such a wonderful element in the celebration.  The Hunt Valley Inn is a fascinatingly labyrinthian hotel building, with half levels, twisting corridors, and random doors leading out to courtyards and small outdoor spaces.  In front of the building is a beautiful oak tree the Green Men at the event hold dear and make a part of their ceremonies.  But it is this maze-like quality of the hotel that gives it a large part of its is so easy to lose one's way, to go down the wrong path, and yet somehow it's also so easy to find one's way back to where you meant to go.

Thinking about this aspect of the hotel and how it enhances the whole experience of enchantment at Faeriecon, I realized that if put into a single word describing a necessary (or at least quite helpful) aspect of Domythicity, the word would be Mystery.

Like the words "Romance" or "Beauty," the word "Mystery" has lost much of its dimensionality and multi-faceted quality in modern society.  We think of Romance as love between two individuals rather than a whole concept of living with the intention of beauty.  We think of Beauty as a pleasing physical appearance of an individual rather than an energy inherent in something that makes one's soul sing.  And we think of Mystery as a genre of fiction starring Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot instead of the enticement of living in a state of the unknown. 

I thought about a few of the decorating styles and common features I appreciate in a home and consider Domythic.  And I realized that my love for curated spaces full of antiques and family heirlooms, slightly cluttered but in an intentional and thought-out way, in part stems from the fact that those spaces contain Mystery.  When you walk into a room, are there elements in the room that make you want to look closer?  Are there objects that you want to ask the home owner about?  (What is this?  What is the story behind it?)  Are there objects half hidden under others, tucked behind, peeking out at you and inviting you to ask about their tales? 

Of course some homes have blatant mystery involved in their very features: old houses with tiny doors or back stairs that are hardly ever used anymore.  New build homes in which the owners requested secret passages be built into the specifications.  But, like the best aspects of Domythic decorating, this is an open and broad concept that just about anyone can interpret in a way that can fit their living situation and space. 

One wonderful way to incorporate mystery into decorating is through a Cabinet of Curiosities.

I actually plan to do an entire blog post on Cabinets of Curiosities.  They intrigue and fascinate me, and I love how they pack so much imaginative eye-candy into a small space.  So I'm including only a couple of examples here, but they're good ones:

This last example is an especially special one.  That's Ignatz Froud on the second shelf up, far left.  This is a Toby and Sarah Froud-ian Cabinet of Curiosities, and therefore a perfect example of Domythic specimens.

The delightful Marita Tathariel recently posted in the Domythic Bliss Facebook group (come join us!) a mysterious addition to her bedroom: battery operated candles attached to fishing line hovering from the ceiling.  It works quite well, I think!

This dining room space in a Carmel cottage I featured before is another great example of Mystery in spaces.  Every time I look at this picture I want to zoom in on all the details, and I wonder "what is that little miniature house on the table?  What are all the plates and cups stacked in the corner in preparation for?

Much of the Mystery in a home comes from its imperfections: the haphazard tossing of one object behind another, the chip on the rim of a teacup displayed prominently. 

One of my personal Domythic heroes is jewelry artist Jen Parrish.  Her home is an incredible living and breathing space full of fascinating objects and enchanting displays.  The sorceress Circe would have a field day looking around at all the magical items in her home.  This photo below is a perfect example to me of creating Mystery in a space.  Where did she get the mirror with the Green Man on the bottom, and what could it be used for if the sorceress lived here?  What stories could all of those books tell?  What is in the bottle?  What artworks are hidden behind the lamp and the box? 

Here's another example of a spot in her home.  (And her adorable cat Galatea not entirely enjoying her music)  Jen isn't afraid to tuck art into unexpected places, or to half hide objects or use fabrics in ways that are unexpected.  The result is full of Mystery, and definitely full of wonder.

Mystery can mean hiding a secret area behind drapes or curtains, creating a little hidden getaway in a larger room.

Or sometimes it can mean hiding something in places most people won't see.  For example, Terri Windling drew one of her signature Rabbit Girls on the wall of Bumble Hill when it was being worked on, fully knowing that the fey creature would be painted over.  She would, however, still exist behind the paint, watching over the home.  Terri also will cover walls and furniture in hand-written favorite quotes, sometimes tucking them underneath framed artworks hanging on the walls.  Mystery in a home can still influence the environment even when no one knows it is there but you.

All good stories contain an aspect of Mystery, whether it be a major plot twist revealed at the end, or the simple mystery inherent in following a tale from beginning to end.  Our lives are a labyrinth in which we constantly move forward, sometimes by twisting around back the way we came, but always circling to the center.  Shouldn't we also surround ourselves with this Mystery in our daily living spaces as well, a reminder of our path?


  1. Am coming back to read the post properly after work, but thought you might like to take a look at this

    A modern twist in our contemporary art gallery here in Nottingham. It is still Domythic.

  2. I always enjoy the glimpses into the home and workspace of Jen Parrish. I love her decorating style as I do her jewelry designs.

    Great post on incorporating the Mystery, Grace!

  3. Charlotte, what a wonderful modern take on the idea!!

    Rebecca, Jen and I are hoping we can share more of her home in a blog post early next year! thank you.

  4. My friend who was there for all of FaerieCon and I started referring to Hunt Valley Inn as the Winchester Mystery Hotel because the first day we were there, she said that it seemed like they had made the hotel so labyrinthine by haphazardly adding on pieces to the original building.

  5. "Winchester Mystery Hotel"

    I LOVE IT. That's perfect ;)