Sunday, December 14, 2008

when a house is not a home

We went to an awful Christmas party last night. It was at the house of someone my DH knows from work, and it was the weirdest home I've ever been in. It looked like a model home for a new housing development, totally sterile, but even a model home tries to look "homey". Perhaps this felt more like a stage of a house that needed the finishing touches to make it authentic.

There were NO BOOKS IN THE HOUSE! Can you imagine? Even in the "study" there were no books on the shelves. They were filled with tastefully placed "things" that only a decorator uses. They were not mementos from family trips or art projects by the kids. The shelves beside the fireplace --which was unlit even though it was 5 outside--were empty and faux poinsettia trees were placed in front of them.

The other thing that struck me as odd was the absence of photos. These people have kids, for goodness sakes, and have been married years. Where were the wedding pictures and baby pictures? What about the snapshots from the family vacations?

Then there was the art--or lack of it. All of the "art" pieces on the walls were giant metal scrolley-things that are there to take up space on huge walls. The house had vaulted ceilings in every room on the main floor and lots of wall space.

The "picture" over the fireplace looked like something you'd see in a high-end furniture store as a display, but not for sale--just there to take up the space. It was an abstract flower in blotches of dark burgundy and black. Burgundy was the "unifying color" in the house, as a decorator would say. The picture was obviously picked because the colors "matched" the decor.

All of the Christmas decorations looked like displays moved from a department store. The tree in the living room was one of those tall, super-skinny ones. Just little white lights and---are you ready?--burgundy and gold butterflies, six inches across, were perfectly spaced all over the darn thing. There must have been a hundred of them. They should have had price tags and a sign 3 for $10. Nothing hand-made by the kids was on the tree or anywhere else. Where were to popsicle stick ornaments, or the little balls decorated with glitter-glue?

We were there for 4 hours and I don't think anyone sat down the entire time. The chairs in the living room had multiple, perfectly arraigned little pillows with painful-looking beads on them. A sure sign of "don't sit here" if I've ever seen one. The couch had a cashmere (yes I checked the tag) blanket fanned over one side. The other end of the couch had a wooden serving tray on it. The tray wasn't used all night and no one moved it to sit down. It reminded me of a photo from a magazine or catalogue.

I feel so sorry for the kids.

I found this blog and think that picture looks like it came from a house I'd like to visit. It looks like someone LIVES there. It may not be my color scheme or style of decorating, but it is lovely, and it looks like a home.

So, what makes you feel at home in a new place? Is it the decorating, the furniture, the pictures, BOOKS? Have you ever been in a house that feels like stage, not a home? What do you think it takes to make a house a home?


Karen said...

I agree... that's not a home, it's a house... with 'things' in it. How sad it must be to live there!

FIONA said...

I only hope that after Christmas, it is "undecorated" and becomes a home, but I doubt it.

Aleta said...

A home should be comfortable whereby you don't feel guilty for using the furnishings, for pete's sake! That house (not a home) sounds cold and depressing. I definitely have to have books in a home. LOTS of books!! And a certain amount of clutter doesn't bother me; everything being too neat and "proper" does.

FIONA said...

Aleta, it's not clutter, it's the byproduct of living.

This house was DEAD. I'm already writing a murder set in that place. It needs some death to bring it alive.

That tree with the perfectly spaced burgundy velvet butterflies was the thing that did me in.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I did design for years. Only time can really make a home a home, but mostly it's surrounding yourself with things you love, putting some space between the walls and furniture, candles with burnt wicks, and not hanging the pictures too high--even on huge walls!

FIONA said...

ss@s, there were no things that they loved in this house, it was all for show.

I really like your idea about keeping furniture off the walls. It makes a room feel cozy.

We have high ceilings in our living room, but we have a couple of huge plants (real) that are on those walls.