It all started with a Daunt Books carrier, but now Islington local Francesca Hornak has created the ultimate bourgeois catalogue in History of the World in 100 Modern Objects
You know how annoying it is when your favourite TV programmes are constantly interrupted by adverts? Well, Francesca Hornak doesn’t. ‘When I was a child I was quite fascinated by brand and adverts, having that glimpse into someone else’s life,’ she says. ‘Later I saw that people chose objects that say something about themselves, like being a Waitrose or Tesco person. I always found that thought process fascinating.’
So fascinating that, now a fully fledged journalist working for The Sunday Times Style, Francesca’s obsession turned into a column. Featuring a different iconic object each week – which began with seeing the Daunts Book bag everywhere she went – Francesca told darkly humorous tales of contemporary life through these possessions we love. ‘Sometimes they were quite well-known social stereotypes,’ Francesca says on the characters who cropped up in the column, ‘such as the middle class family in Crouch End with a Dualit toaster. Then it was a mixture of people I knew or people I had met. Islington is great for this and is still a real mix’
Flicking through History of the World in 100 Modern Objects, I am partly horrified, partly amused that plenty featured are things already in my possession, or things I want. The home features heavily throughout, from the aforementioned Dualit toaster to the G-Plan sideboard (read Francesca’s take on that below). Is there one stand out interiors-based object for her? ‘The Farrow & Ball Sample Pot,’ she responds without hesitation. ‘Everyone loves that. Choosing what colour to paint something in is so stressful, especially when you have 100s of little swatches, but Farrow & Ball is your friend that’s got taste. They will get it right.’
The book is out this month, but Francesca is not taking it easy (possibly on a corner sofa, featured in History of…) as her next publication, Worry with Mother, is out in 2016 that acts as an anti-parenting guide of sorts. Those things that bug you as a parent? Well, wait until you see this…
Words: Mark Kebble
History of the World in 100 Modern Objects is published by Portico on 1 October
In 2013 Polly and James moved into a flat in Clapton. They sourced a G-Plan sideboard on eBay, and put it beside their Ercol table and chairs. On it, Polly arranged a book on typography, a terrarium of succulents and some dusty Babycham coupes. Above it, she hung a Rob Ryan print reading: ‘This Trumpet Will Toot When We Touch Noses In The Night.’ She put a hazy photo of the tableau on her tumblr, hashtagged #grownupshelfie, and got a flurry of likes. The sideboard went on to star in Polly’s brunch-time supper club PollyPutTheKelloggsOn, where she served ‘nostalgic breakfast cereals’ in vintage china.
Now James and Polly have a baby, Marlowe. Polly has had to ditch her Pashley bike, and her dream of opening a café offering cake and knitting classes. She no longer has time to do her daily beehive or coral lipstick. James’s UKIP-voting dad tells his exhausted son that his beard is reaching ‘terrorist proportions’.
One night, pacing the flat trying to jiggle Marlowe to sleep, White Noise app blaring, Polly looks at the sideboard in despair. It is covered with unsorted laundry, sticky Calpol syringes and papers for her tax return. #grownupshelfie.