The useful home
How much of a hypocrite am I?
Because my brain isn’t very good anymore, I like to spend the few free minutes I have looking at heavy interior design books from Rizzoli.
I used to gripe about the fact that these books only showed the homes of the super-rich. But, for better or worse, celebrated interior designers and decorators only work for the super-rich. Duh. They’re not publishing their work on, say, a 1960s ranch in middle Ohio owned by Joe and Beth, who have three kids and make a combined $60K per year. (Although I do wish that book—and those designers—existed, in a more public fashion. Interior design can and should be democratized, but that is another subject for another time.)
The main thing I think now, when I flip through these beautiful books filled with beautiful mansions, is how wasteful these homes are.
Unless the owners have eight or more children at home, all I can think about is how most of these rooms, all year long, remain as empty and untouched as they are in the photographs. I am sad about it! I have feelings about these museum-like rooms, preserved as if they were gated off from all human life and activity! These palatial homes are a waste of energy, land, and resources, for sure, but they’re also a waste in terms of interior design. I do not believe it is good design to have a slew of rooms that are only used once or twice a year.
And I speak truthfully when I say I do not have house envy when I flip through these books. I don’t want to be responsible for 6,500 square feet of house. Even if it gets me the bathroom of my dreams and a loggia overlooking an inset rill amid rolling countryside, I don’t want it. Just thinking about that burden makes my flesh crawl.
But I am pondering all of this because we are in the process of making our house bigger, and I wonder if I am implicated in some gross interior design hypocrisy.
I am a hypocrite, as I am in many aspects of my life, but I also feel quite confident that we will use every inch of the new spaces in our home. We have the benefit of having lived in our home for eight years before we undertook a project of this magnitude, so we knew how we wanted to live in it and use it. We will likely be surprised by several things, but I fully expect us to live in this house to its full capacity. (As our damaged, scuffed, and scratched floors, cabinets, and walls attest, we are hard on our house.)
In our home’s new design, the room that will get the least amount of use will be our previous bedroom on the main floor. But when family and friends come to stay, it will be a great gift, and I recognize it as such. Aside from that room, I genuinely believe we will use every room in our home every day. And I am grateful for that, for this future usefulness, even as expensive and expansive as the project has been.
I shall likely continue to publicly ponder my culpability, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. As families grow and expand, we all want more room. It is a great and unmerited gift to be able to provide that. But I suspect I will continue to reckon with my twin emotions of guilt and joy as long as I live.
That said, things are happening.
In terms of construction progress, the hardwood floors have all been added and/or refinished on both floors; new mini-split ceiling-cassette A/C units upstairs have been added; the LVP in the basement has been completed; and my beautiful, long-desired built-in shelves and cabinets in the dining room have been installed:
These were built locally by Poem Furniture, and they did such a marvelous job. The paint color is Benjamin Moore Tree Moss, a pale gray-green, which will match the walls in the rest of the dining/family room.
The cabinet pulls are these mission-style pulls in unlacquered brass from House of Antique Hardware, and I’m smitten. They’re like bits of jewelry for joinery.
My plan has been to replace all of our kitchen pulls with these unlacquered pulls as well, to bring the kitchen out of the nondescript early aughts and into my English cottage fantasies, so I was heartbroken to discover that our stupid existing pulls are just slightly nonstandard in size—off by, like, one-sixteenth of an inch. We are working on a scheme (i.e., wood filler) to replace them, because I am so determined. I’ve been fixated on and dramatic about my cabinet-pull heartbrokenness. I told Guion that I was as upset about the kitchen pulls being a nonstandard size as I am about my failed ear surgery. He, appropriately, rolled his eyes.
Looking ahead: Tile is going in this week, and interior trim should start soon. I am most anxious about one of the final steps—the interior paint—as I agonized for months about my chosen palette. I still sometimes have bad dreams that I have made grievous color errors. Time will tell!
The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair
Unsurprisingly, this book is so right up my alley right now. Kassia St. Clair is a talented writer, with a gift for quick, compelling summation. The Secret Lives of Color is a charming, rambling history of color and the human passion for it. Each shade (e.g., vermilion, taupe, isabelline, cerulean) gets a brief essay detailing its origins, and the book is organized in gradations of colors. The most common thread is how willing we are to literally die for color, as the vast majority of paints and pigments humans developed will kill you. I loved learning the names and histories of very specific shades, and I am tempted to buy a copy for future reference.