Curtains Suck: Interior Design Tips By Ivan Illych
Want to have fun with your interior decorating this summer? Fantastic! Leo Tolstoy’s very own Ivan Illych would love to give you some pointers. He’s a law expert, regular man-about-the-town, interior design extraordinaire, and as dead as the economy.
How’d he get that way? By living as he should have, of course—pleasantly and decorously. By consulting his personal tips below (pried from his clammy hands before he was stuffed into the earth to decompose like a sack of worm food), you too can learn how to fabulously jazz up your space this season.
Decorating With Ivan
Hi there. Ivan's the name. I hear you want to make your house fashionable for the season? I have a few tips that could help.
Tip # 1: Conformity is very important
The last thing you want to do is be unique. The important thing is to live as I did: “pleasantly and properly” (The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, “The Death of Ivan Illych,” 1463). This means decking out your living area with stuff that will impress the higher-ups and literally no one else: damasks, dark wood, plants, rugs, dull bronzes, and everything else that “people of a certain class have in order to resemble other people of that class” (1466).
God help you if you choose something like light wood and no rugs. Seriously, why would you even bring that up? It’s crucial to get in with the right folks these days and your interior design, if impressive enough, can propel you into that swanky lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
Tip # 2: Don’t let your family members help
Marriage is definitely not a sacred institution built on commitment and sacrifice, and it was never meant to foster children, family life, and build the moral foundation of future members of society. That’s a load of balls. It’s clearly about advancing your social position. If it doesn’t, totally feel free to pull back, especially when it comes to your interior decorating projects this season. Furnish the place entirely according to your own preferences. Your family doesn’t have live in the house as much as you do, anyway.
Tip # 3: Beware of curtains
We all like some sassy curtain flair on the windows every now and then, but don’t knock your ribs against any walls while hanging them up. I did that, so be careful. I mean, you could get a bruise and—ha ha!—die or something, like literally end up sacrificing your life to the gods of decadence and societal conformity. Wouldn’t that be ironic?
Tip # 4: If you do start to feel strangely after decorating, ignore it
We all get bumps and bruises when we’re decorating. If you start to sense a strange taste in your mouth and a slight throbbing in your side, there’s no need to panic. Just hire a few “proper” specialists that are highly regarded by your social circle and trained to give you vague answers and lots of medicine. A lot of medicine.
But seriously, they’re great. They’ll come and poke at you, cloak your diagnosis in euphemisms, and leave you unsure of your condition. Just take extra care not to ask frank questions about life and death. These types of experts hate that, and anyway, why would you want to ask something so unpleasant?
Tip # 5: Curtains are totally overrated
Well, crap. Am I right? By now, you’re probably like me and realizing that your interior decorating project caused more trouble than it was worth. Just hope you have someone to take care of you during these dark hours of crushing existentialism, when you realize that you spent your life in distraction and now that distraction can do zero for you as you face the horrifying alternative possibilities of absolute nothingness or eternal judgment by a God who is cruelly silent at the moment.
But no worries. I’m sure your family can help you in this time of—oh, yeah. They’re all at the opera right now. Funny, so was mine. Well, there you have it. It’s not like you can interrupt their routine with this sort of naked, stark reality that is ten times more real than anything they could possibly see on stage. Well, surely your friends—oh, yeah. They’ll all playing bridge. It’s important not to dwell on something as unpleasant as death, after all. I mean, we don’t really expect them to do otherwise, do we?
There’s that one servant though, old what’s-his-face. He doesn’t seem to mind cleaning up your expelled crap and other dead man’s goo. He did similarly for me. Really, he seems quite fine with talking about our demise, like it’s the only real thing there is. It's like the only thing that matters at death is true, genuine human affection. Who would’ve seen that coming?
After all, didn’t we do everything that we ought to have done? We plumped our routines with distraction, infused our days with flurried activities, and filled them with pleasant conversations. We built a hefty career. We made money. We never paused to dwell on life’s unpleasantness, not for a moment. We certainly didn’t think about death. That happens to other men—not to Ivan Illych. And certainly not to you.
Really, this entire matter is quite unfair, if you ask me.
Tip # 6: Enjoy crossing styx
Well, I guess you should try your best to fight “being thrust into a narrow, deep black sack” (1485), but we both know you’ll probably loose in the long haul. I definitely did. And who knows what lies beyond? The important thing is that you hung up those curtains—and that they look just like everyone else’s.