Monday, April 25, 2011

Luxury Defined...

Last week I shared my little treasure, A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. Originally published in 1964, this is a great read with many topics relevant today. In fact, in a world of Snookies and
LiLo's, it should probably be required reading for all females.
I frequently refer to this book and wherever I open the book is where I start reading. Today I opened to Luxury. And while I truly enjoy this book I can't say I am in total agreement with this chapter. In fact, it made me stop and evaluate what I define as luxury in my world.

Ms. Dariaux states, "It {luxury} may be interpreted to mean superfluous, expensive, refined, extravagant...For many women, the sensation of luxury comes simply from the possession of an object that her friends do not own."


I have never been an envious person. When good things happen I am genuinely happy for the folks they happen to. In this vein, I don't recall ever feeling anything I own(ed) to be a luxury simply because no one else had it. In my world, this line of thinking is not is sad.

The morning of Holy Thursday, I posted my last thoughts for Holy Week. This was never due to not having something to say (indeed, I have never been accused of lacking an opinion) but rather a conscious effort to go through the Holy Triduum in reflection. I had taken time off from work and as the weather was lousy I spent a great deal of time reading, cooking, sharing quality time with my husband and family, napping, and attending church. Compared to my usually busy life, this was, to me, a luxury.

This got me thinking...what are my true luxuries? Are the material things I have that I have a passion for my luxuries? The shoes, the cashmere, the lingerie, the perfume? Nope...because they could go away tomorrow and I wouldn't really miss them. So what is it that I just can't get enough of and just can't live without?

In no certain order, this is what I have come up with:

Hearing my children laugh
Sleeping in (which in my world is usually 7:30 a.m., but's better than 5:00 a.m.)
Cooking in my little kitchen with a glass of wine and music playing
Being in my garden
Ending a day physically exhausted rather than mentally exhausted
Sitting outdoors on a warm night enjoying time with friends
A conversation with someone I adore
A bubble bath, shower, or anytime in the bathroom uninterrupted
Laughing until I asphyxiate
A kiss
Knowing I mean the world to someone

I am sure I could keep going, but it occurs to me that none of these are material items. And they are all things I would wish for all of my friends to have. For me, this is luxury defined. In a world of unemployment, cancer, foreclosure, etc. the idea of placing such emphasis on material possessions and envying others for theirs seems vulgar.

How do you define luxury in your world? Confident in my luxuries, I again must agree with the great Coco Chanel. Coco said, "I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it."

Well said, Coco, well said.


  1. I keep looking at this little book on Amazon--for years, even. Overall you find it still appropriate? Useful?

    I'm a little more willing to go with Dariaux--in the sense that luxury, in the limited scope of the sartorial and craftsman world, used to mean something carefully made in small amounts. The conglomerate world of fashion (and most goods) does not allow that anymore, although pockets exist. It also takes work to unearth, so in that way it isn't something so crass as Dariaux describes.

    But I LOVE Chanel's definition, and that's probably much more in line with my own spirit. Luxury also means, to me, something produced with an awareness of its materiality. Something artisanal. I love the mark of the hand.

  2. I am right with you on the luxuries in my life.
    "Things" can certainly be nice, but its the experiences in my life that mean the most to me.

  3. I find your list very appealing Beth, I've never been someone who cares much for material things either.
    I'm glad you had a nice Easter and thanks for that wonderful comment you posted on my blog, it really made my day.

  4. Hi Beth! Dropped by to say thank you for your sweet comment & a response awaits you there. Here's a quick link to take you right to the comments ... and what a beautiful post this is. I couldn't agree more. To me, luxury is what brings me pleasure. It doesn't have to be expensive and something that would be the envy of others. I keep a book called "My Favorite Things" on my studio desk. It was an empty white journal that I bought years ago. I keep a handwritten list of things that I truly love. I consider anything that I love to be a luxury because it brings me pleasure. A few things on this list are: fresh raspberries, the smell of baby powder, soft puppy bellies ... and some of them are more expensive but do bring me pleasure ... such as hotels that leave mints on your pillow ... I highly recommend keeping a book like this, as it brings pleasure merely opening a book that contains such personal treasures. I keep it at my desk so if I think of anything to add, I can do it easily. ;)

  5. great post! I like your luxuries. and share a few of the same. it made me re-think how to answer....which is good!
    by the way,,,I need you address to send you your winning Beth! I don't know how else to reach you other than commenting here!I don't have your email address. -Slavica

  6. I'm a fan of Dariaux, and I see luxury assigned to material items or experiences that occur rarely but perfectly.

    Luxury is an overused term in real estate markets or vacation brochures - the use of which now intones luxury as the new bare minimum. The marketing use of the word luxury demeans its value, and yet the public at large assumes luxury is either ubiquitous or out of reach.

    The exquisite craftsmanship of a true luxury item is something that should be appreciated, like a hand-stitched bag or shoe, but not necessarily coveted. The same rigour can be applied to experiences like a cup of perfectly brewed tea in a china cup rather than a bag thrown into a travel mug.

  7. Thank you, everyone, for the wonderful comments!

    I do adore Dariaux and this book; I refer to it constantly as it is one of my favorite reads. As I mentioned, I believe it should be a must-read for all women everywhere!

    I love Sandy's idea of the journal - goodness knows I have tons as I am a journal freak! And I agree with Rebecca and AA that a beautifully created piece is magnificent and as Rebekah mentions, perhaps it is because the term "luxury" is used so haphazardly that its meaning has lost its luster.

    Thank you, again! I love hearing everyone's thoughts!


Please share your thoughts, ideas, hopes, and dreams...I love reading every one of them!