March 11th – The Opening of the House of Norah Goodmanner

In 1967 Norah Goodmanner boasted in Buentoillitant Interior Designer Magazine: ‘I have the best home, the perfect home. I’ve never been happier.’ The magazine, which went out on Friday the 10th of March, dedicated three, full-colour, glossy page spreads to her house, detailing the decorations and items therein (some of which were extremely expensive). The next day, when she was out at the markets shopping for bananas in the correct shade of green, someone stole every single item from her home, even the bath fittings and (dare it be said) the kitchen sink.

Naturally she was distraught. Buentoillitant Interior Designer ran a much smaller piece the following week, showing one grainy black and white photo of a crumpled woman sitting on empty floorboards, the expanse of her house opening up around her. ‘I’ll have it all back, just you wait,’ she said, ‘my house will be perfect once more.’ The thief has never been apprehended, and somehow none of the neighbours had spotted anything out of the ordinary of the day of the theft. One reported seeing a deliveries van arrive at the house, but that was a regular occurrence at the Goodmanner household, and they didn’t spot any recognisable aspects about the van, despite the fact that it was ‘large and grey.’ Nobody else in the City has reported being victim to such a crime, nor has any such van been discovered; the theft is a mystery to this day.

Goodmanner had spent almost her entire thirty five years of life finding all the items that filled her home, before they were stolen. ‘Since I was about five, I’ve had this idea of how my home should be, how it should look and feel,’ she said, in that first article. The magazine had printed a copy of a childhood crayon drawing of the inside of a home alongside the glossy photos, and they bore a remarkable resemblance, if a little less rough around the edges in real life. ‘Some of the items I’ve had to make myself, or edit in some way. Sometimes I look in a catalogue and see a photo and think, “that’s it!” But then it gets here and there’s something off, it doesn’t feel as it should, in my head, and I have to send it back or change it. That sofa there, for example [top left] used to have two arms to it, but I sawed one off and had it reupholstered. I’m always working to this imaginary model in my head but I don’t see it properly until its there in front of me.’

In the years following the theft Goodmanner became one of the City’s greatest furniture designers. She used her experience from creating bespoke furniture for her own house, and the yearning she had to achieve her perfect home once again, to create some of the best known pieces in Buentoille. The one-armed sofa, often referred to as the ‘lounger’ is a famous example, but there is also a blocky modernist chair and a perfectly circular mirror with a black band through it, like a paracetamol tablet. These items, doppelgängers of the pieces she had lost, now haunt many Buentoilliçan homes. Yet despite the fact that she had exact reproductions of most of that which was stolen from her, she never gave up the search, and eventually, she succeeded.

It took her fifty years, but she managed it, she found or bought back every stolen item, and replaced that which was damaged beyond repair. ‘It’s perfect again,’ she said, to Buentoilliçan Post two weeks back, ‘I’ve found it all!’ Apparently the last piece, one of the glass-and-chrome bannisters, had eluded her for many years, after the original set was broken up and resold. ‘It was being used as a rolling pin in a bakery just down the road from me, they didn’t even know what its original purpose was!’ According to Goodmanner, now 95, most folks tend to give her the stolen items for free when they hear how long she has been searching, or at the very least they give her a discount. ‘I take my copy of Interior Designer with me wherever I go, just in case I come across something and have to prove it was mine.’ When asked how she knew which lounger was the original, given all the copies that have been made, she replied ‘I just knew, that’s all.’

Today, exactly fifty years since the original theft, Goodmanner will open up her doors to groups of no more than ten people at a time. ‘I expect them to take their shoes off, too!’ she said, in her public invitation in the Post. A small band of local volunteers who have known Goodmanner for years are providing security for the event, to ward off potential thieves of these now-priceless items. Whilst Goodmanner reports a number of ardent lovers in her lifetime, she has never had children, and with her advanced age, questions are naturally being asked about what should happen to the house upon her death. ‘I’ve talked to my friends, to see if they wouldn’t mind looking after it for me, as live-in stewards. I’m going to give it to the City, so they all share in the perfect home, if only for a few minutes.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Dab the Tincture in Your Eyes and Sing for the Moon
  • The Day of the Heraldic Vine
  • CHEESE IS ADDICTIVE – A Festival to Urge Temperance