The House on Mango Street: Deep Dive

Photo by Qusai Akoud on Unsplash

In the opening words of an oddly formatted online quiz, “all houses are people and all people are houses.” What does it mean? We’re not sure. When Esperanza visits Elenita to have her fortune told, the witch woman says, “I see a home in the heart.” What does that mean? What are these people trying to tell us?

If all houses are people, then all furniture pieces are bones. We were fortunate enough to be exposed to several unique pieces of furniture during the game segment of the podcast that we thought were worth exploring. According to an article written by Bassett, an American furniture store, furniture styles can be roughly broken down into traditional, contemporary, and modern. Some examples of traditional-style furniture include Jacobean, Queen Anne, Hepplewhite, and Art Deco. Shabby Chic, Casual Luxe, and Urban Collection (a new type of Boho Chic) are examples of more contemporary furniture styles.

So what kind of bones were we considering when trying to pick the perfect house for Esperanza? We did some research to find out.

Is it a chair? Is it a couch? Is it a chaise? No, it’s a borne settee, specifically in the style of Louis XV, the strange grandchild of the conversation and chaperone chair bloodline. Enormous, elaborate, and offering breathtaking views of whatever rich person waiting room you find yourself in, the borne settee-inspired furniture can still be seen in museums and hotel lobbies today. Based on the ornate golden details in the edging and legs, the Turkish style centerpiece, and the color, we’re roughly estimating that this pink chair was built in (or, at least, based on a design from) the 1730s at the height of First Style in the fashion of rocaille.

This is the “Waves Sofa For Two” by Anne-Mette Jensen and Morten Ernst for Erik Jørgensen, a company named for the innovative Danish furniture designer. The sofa consists of two curved sections of leather seating molded around a fiberglass base. The fluidity of organic shapes and the functionality of the piece won the duo the Erik Jorgensen Mobel-fabrik design competition in 1994. Because this piece was specifically designed to dually serve as an art piece, we’re not sure what style of furniture to consider it.

The Germans called it Jugendstil. The Italians knew it as Stile Liberty. The French knew it as Art Nouveau. The English missed the memo and simply referred to it as Modern Style. Popular between roughly 1890 and 1910, the style drew inspiration from the natural world, often in a whimsical way. It’s easy to see how the chairs and backing gracefully curve and pivot.

But the most obvious signs are the ornate butterfly centerpieces. It’s hard to miss the fauna that inspired these chairs. We’re not entomologists but we feel relatively confident saying that these carvings were based on the common yellow swallowtail. Best known for their large size and the elongation of their hindwings (their “tails”), these members of the Lepidoptera can be found throughout Europe.

According to the high-end auctioning website, 1st Dibs, we could have owned these exact chairs for a whopping $12,680.53.

Last but not least, this is the house-slash-person that the quiz ended up assigning to Esperanza. This is the Wyckoff Villa, also called the Carleton Island Villa, an abandoned mansion located in Carleton Island, New York. Built in 1894 for William Wyckoff, an assumedly eccentric man who earned his fortune selling typewriters, the property has been sitting vacant for almost 75 years. Wyckoff and his wife both died of heart attacks within the first month of moving into their new home. While the Villa has close to fifty rooms, including eleven individual bedrooms, it does not seem to have a functioning attic.

This blog is created by Hannah and Ella in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode, The House on Mango Street, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Or you can simply click on the link to the episode to listen.

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These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped our childhoods. @PGCMLS

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These Books Made Me

These Books Made Me

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped our childhoods. @PGCMLS

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