Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Window

DISCLAIMER: every photo in this section is poor and hardly displays my point.

The house we rent sits back from the road, built perpendicular to the houses around us. Two houses on each side of our shared driveway face Östersjövägen (our street). The house next to us is “back here,” too, but is situated parallel to the other houses. There is a wing on our house, with two large windows and windowed French doors, that runs parallel to the house on Östersjövägen . From those windows, within sight above the fence, I can see the back windows of their house, two of which are opaque and one that is always transparent. This window is my model for all the Swedish windows I have seen.

From what I can tell, and have confirmed with my fika (tea time) friends, the windows of a home are little showcases--boxes of light. Very rarely are any curtains drawn or blinds pulled over a window—but if they are, they are drawn farther into the room so as not to interfere with the little showcase.

In the window I get to enjoy, there is a small table lamp with a light green, bell-shaped shade. Right now, there are two ceramic cats on each side of the lamp and beside each cat is a potted tulip. During the Christmas season there was the typical seven tiered lamp stand, but I do not recall there being any plants. I may be wrong, as many windows also displayed tiny evergreen topiaries or geraniums during the Christmas time. Before Christmas, it was the same green lamp with some small urns on each side. I can count on seeing lamplight in this window from 8 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night.

During February, many people displayed heart-shaped lamps in the windows, or some decorative red thing or plant—maybe a few hearts hanging on strings inside the window frame. At Easter time, I saw chicks, hanging colored eggs, etc. You may have read in “Getting Ready for Christmas” blog entry about the advent lights in nearly every window in Sweden—and I mean one lamp per window of a house.

Those people with a few more resources, who seem to live in the highest apartments or in amazing houses, often use the same fancy lamp or candelabra in each window—and from what I’ve seen in lamp stores, these lamps cost as much as $800 each (or more than SEK 4,900). They may stand in the window sill or hang from a socket in the window frame. There is always an outlet or wiring for a lamp near the top of a window and the window lights are usually all on one switch (at first, I imagined having to walk throughout the house turning on window lights and thought that was just too much trouble). For the regular consumer, the lamp is usually a small lamp on the sill or a café light from IKEA, or something similar, hanging from the top of the window frame. Imagine what can be done with a sun room!

If there are curtains on these windows, they are valences, drawbacks, or two long, narrow panels at each “end” of the window. If you are up on Swedish design, you’ll know that people here like a rather large geometric design in striking colors on their long curtain panels. If you are aware of IKEA design, you’ll understand what I mean even better. These curtains might be changed from one season to the next, as well. Swedish windows are most often “dressed,” as one dresses a storefront window, and about as often. Even if a house is vacant throughout the winter (many homes are summer homes only in Southern Sweden, known as Skåne--pronounced Skoana, the oa pronounced as one) the windows are properly dressed with something generally pleasant and cheery.

Within the row of four windows in a dormer of the house I see outside my writing window, there are white cylinders of varying heights growing rounded topiaries. I know they are real, though they must be difficult to reach from inside the house (the windows look into a very high ceiling), because when the ceiling lights are lit, I can see the green of the plants. They have been growing brighter green with more light.

There are quite a few greenhouses or “blomman” shops around here. They are popular places to buy plants and garden ware for dressing windows, window flower boxes, plant stands near the front stoop, and decorations within a house or business. People regularly change these plants for the different holidays and seasons, too. People do not get hung up on keeping a plant alive forever. They let it live out the season, then buy a new one for the next season. My guess is that much of the business gained by these greenhouses during the winter is specifically for dressed windows.

The neighbor I actually know, whose side living room window faces one of our living room windows, keeps two large Asian-style urns in her window and a wall-sconce of candles within the room that shines as if between those urns. If she draws the shades, however, I can no longer see the urns. She told me once that the candles were for a romantic setting when she and her husband watched television. During Christmastime, she had an advent candle between the urns.

My fika buddy, whose windows sport the hanging café lamps and narrow curtain panels, says that the lights in the windows are not so much to light the house, but to create this little windowed atmosphere. She says that she often enjoys using no other overhead lights in the house in the evenings than her hanging window lights. She says it is more restful for the eyes after a day of being under a bright desk lamp at work and staring at a computer.

You might wonder what people see in my windows. Well, when I arrived, the set of windows in the wing of the house facing the green-lamped window had a myriad of carved shorebirds, a nice candle box and a sailboat (it is very common to see a large sailboat in at least one window of the houses, here, because we are surrounded by the sea and everything sea related). But Hunter began to play with each item such that I finally put them away for safety. Now what you see in that window, most often, is Hunter. He sits on the marble window sill, at a wicker table, coloring or drawing with his markers.

In another window, I’ve placed a two glass candle stand, and in another, I’ve gathered various candle holders from around the house into a grouping next to a tall, tapering sea-green ceramic vase. I lit the candles pretty often in the dark of winter, but keep forgetting, these days. In another window sits my new metal candle stand, which I lit on special evenings in the winter, but have stopped for fear of setting the house on fire. But at each end of that candle stand are some bulb grasses growing from yellow ceramic pots next to a carving of a cave man and then a bear. These were in place when I arrived.

All in all, I’m as lazy about dressing my windows as I am about jewelry. I don’t do either. My shades are within the glass panes, so when I shut them, people can’t enjoy my windows, anyway.

When I’m finally back home in Idaho, I may try some seasonal window dressings just for the fun and sentimentality of it. But I am crazy about the idea of going for an evening walk, just after dark, so I can be the kind of voyer that is allowed around here, to enjoy the window dressings and get a glimpse into the personalities of those whose hearts warm the houses they living in.

Sentimental is the best word to describe my feelings about the window with the green lampshade. So much so, that if I go to bed earlier than eleven (this may surprise you) and have to go to the restroom before that lamp is turned off for the night, I look out the window for it as I pass. It is a little green beacon to my darkened house and yard.

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