To the outside world, you present a trendy veneer of Theory, Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga. Meanwhile, chez vous , the grim, unstylish grunginess of your college years lingers on like a horrid odor. Though you now earn good money and could easily afford to upgrade your lifestyle, you blow it all on trendy drag and accessories. And now you are finding that your hagged-out futon, cinder-block bookshelves and ultra-naff 1980’s furniture leave you feeling not gritty and “real,” but grody, beleaguered and horribly unglamorous. Redecorating is not an option: It’s disruptive and expensive and, anyway, aren’t you about to be swept off your feet and into a Park Avenue apartment by Mr. Right?
There is only one cure for this situation: You must embrace the concept of Gracious Living.
Gracious Living is a post–World War II concept which my mother, struggling to make ends meet back in the 1950’s, extracted with great amusement and irony from a ladies’ magazine called She and then proceeded, pathologically and ironically, to adopt-and with life-changing results. Gracious Living, unlike the overachieving hyperactivity of the Martha Stewart lifestyle, makes few demands on its practitioners. Gracious Living is mostly a state of mind, a Blanche DuBois–ish kind of attitude. You don’t need custom Bentleys, cavernous wine cellars or ramparts of hideous matching china. Gracious Living can be yours if you make a few adjustments to your lackluster lifestyle.
1. Buy a Swiffer. This simple floor-sweeping system, with its disposable ultra-static towelettes, will enable you to mince around barefoot (a prerequisite to Gracious Living) chez vous without blackening your soles. And unlike vacuuming, Swiffering is blissfully quiet, allowing you to chat graciously on the phone while you desoot your linoleum. Swiffers can be purchased from Duane Reade for mere $15 plus pads ($6 per six-pack refill). Once the Swiffering is complete, throw on a Muriel Brandolini caftan ($165 at Scoop or Barneys New York) and waft around your Park Slope studio apartment as if in a Roman Palazzo.
2. Buy fruit. Maintaining a well-washed Caravaggioesque mound of fruit in a focal location is a negligible expense, and it’s nutritious. If the bananas and grapes at your local Korean market are looking a bit dodgy, grab a box of clementines (approximately $5.99 per crate) and pile them onto a new Jonathan Adler Happy Home Collection plate ($40 at the brand-new, gigunda Jonathan Adler emporium at 47 Greene Street).
3. Get comfy. Unpretentiously squishy furniture is far more gracious than archly trendy midcentury modern stuff with splayed legs: e.g., Todd Oldham’s new La-Z-Boy recliner, which begins at $599 depending on fabric. Find stores at www.Lazboy.com.
4. Retreat to the bathroom. If your pad is so foul as to render it incompatible with Gracious Living, then move your base of operations to your bathroom and turn it into a steamy mini-spa/retreat/beauty center/office. Buy one of those clunky old metal Hollywood phones ($79 at Pottery Barn), plus an extra-long cord, and drag it with you. Festooned with thirsty towels and surrounded by beauty unguents and sheaves of superficial magazines, you will forget the gnarly world on the other side of that door.
Re squishy towels: Go ahead, shoot your wad on a gaudy designer towel-either Pucci ($200 at the Pucci store on 24 East 64th Street) or Hermès ($170 at Hermès, 691 Madison Avenue)-and throw it on your bathroom floor as a rug. Now throw yourself on the towel, graciously.
5. Moisturize your tootsies, and other salient features, with Fresh’s Rice Formula foot cream ($32 for 100 ml. from Fresh.com). I’m not sure what they put in it (Vick’s Vapo-Rub?), but the tingly afterglow is orgasmic-highly recommended for all body parts.
6. Smell spiritual. Stock up on Himalayan larch-scented candles from Red Flower (13 Prince Street, $30 for a six-ounce candle): festive and graciously season-appropriate without being nauseating or twee.
7. Get Slim. Order a copy of the new Slim Aarons photography monograph entitled Once Upon a Time (Harry N. Abrams). When you get a load of the privileged and overpampered Republicans who adorn the pages of this insanely camp book, you won’t feel nearly so guilty about your gracious indulgences. Vintage Aarons books sell for thousands of dollars on Amazon: As of mid-December, the Aarons fantasy world, complete with piccies of recently deceased C.Z. Guest in her Palm Beach–y prime, can be yours for a mere $75.
8. Start a library of books by deranged lifestyle gurus. My faves include Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard and My Way of Life by Joan Crawford. These bossy tomes are replete with entertainingly insane suggestions (e.g., “Bring a little bit of your vacation to a friend: fill a tiny marbleized box with white sand from Bermuda or sea-shells from the west coast of Florida and tie it with a multi-colored ribbon. Take it to friends when you go to their house for dinner.” -A. Stoddard) and cholesterol-enhancing recipes, (e.g., “One of my favorite salads is wilted spinach. I pour hot bacon grease and vinegar over the spinach leaves until they sag, and then sprinkle crisp bacon on top.”-Mommie Dearest).
Stay gracious … and greasy!