House snoop­ing and snip­ing could re­veal more about you

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver

NOW, let’s be hon­est, at times we all adore a bit of a snoop.

There’s prob­a­bly at least one celebrity’s home that you’d like to look round: not to see the care­fully staged and styled glossy mag­a­zine shots, but see the house in “the raw” as it’s lived in. There’s also at least one house that we all know and looks so in­trigu­ing that we’d love to check it out. Af­ter all, this is one of the main rea­sons that vis­it­ing stately homes and palaces is so pop­u­lar. We’re des­per­ate to see how other peo­ple live, so we can work out ex­actly who they are and what they’re like.

If you’re in any doubt about this just ask an es­tate agent. They’ll tell you ex­actly who are the pro­fes­sional “view­ers” of prop­er­ties: they look and never buy. We of­ten play ama­teur psy­chol­o­gist and reg­u­larly judge peo­ple by the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, their hair­styles, their ac­cents and the restau­rants and shops that they fre­quent. All these char­ac­ter­is­tics are very vis­i­ble and very pub­lic. But a home, on the other hand, is a per­sonal and pri­vate space and we know that a good look in­side will re­veal the true per­son­al­ity of its own­ers.

Given half a chance and just like an ex­pe­ri­enced de­tec­tive, once in­side, we’ll scru­ti­nize the shelves of books, CDs and DVDs to iden­tify par­tic­u­lar in­ter­ests and ex­pose the real na­ture of the col­lec­tor. Our eyes take in ev­ery piece of fur­ni­ture and ev­ery in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion de­tail. We gloat over in­con­sis­ten­cies.

We snig­ger at the cool, sleek, crisp white, min­i­mal­ist home that has chil­dren’s paint­ings held in place on a pris­tine Smeg fridge with colour­ful lit­tle al­pha­bet mag­nets. We raise an eye­brow at a beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian an­tique din­ing room with ul­tra-mod­ern, high-tech LED light­ing or cringe at a chintzy, cot­tagey flo­ral print sofa in front of a mas­sive flat screen tele­vi­sion with sur­round sound and 150 satel­lite chan­nels. We scoff at the lat­est culi­nary gad­getry in the knowl­edge that the most com­pli­cated dish to come out of the kitchen is an In­dian take-away. But what re­veals most about peo­ple is what’s hang­ing on their walls. This could be sport­ing mem­o­ra­bilia: a rosette, team scarf or even an oar from a by­gone univer­sity row­ing era.

It could be a re­li­gious ar­ti­fact, aca­demic cer­tifi­cates, African masks, a Span­ish som­brero, or a stag’s head. All lead us to cer­tain as­sump­tions that may or may not turn out to be ac­cu­rate. As we walk around some­one else’s home, we in­stantly be­come art crit­ics. We care­fully in­spect works to see which are signed orig­i­nals and which are by well known, pres­ti­gious artists. We nod ap­proval or shake our heads in dis­be­lief and dis­gust at what we see. There may be pho­to­graphs of loved ones or im­ages that re­mind us of a par­tic­u­lar place. There are pic­tures that record sig­nif­i­cant oc­ca­sions and rites of pas­sage (new-born ba­bies, grad­u­a­tions, wed­dings, mil­i­tary ser­vice and so on). This isn’t new. Af­ter all cave men were paint­ing walls thou­sands of years ago.

Just think what a house full of nine­teenth cen­tury wa­ter­colours tells us or, for that mat­ter, walls cov­ered in re­pro­duc­tions of con­tem­po­rary mas­ter­pieces (think Andy Warhol’s Camp­bell’s Soup, Damien Hirst’s “spots” or David Hock­ney’s York­shire land­scapes). With the ad­vances in dig­i­tal print, these are read­ily avail­able and also can be of re­ally quite high qual­ity. While pop star posters still adorn kids’ bed­room walls, por­traits of the Queen that were so ubiq­ui­tous not so long ago, have vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared. Con­se­quently, when you see one, you im­me­di­ately think that you have delved deep into some­one’s con­scious­ness.

We take in all these de­tails and in the more con­tem­po­rary homes, note the atomic agein­spired clocks de­signed by Ge­orge Nel­son that not only tell the time but also look so mod­ern and stylish. In short, we think we know all about a home’s res­i­dents. In fact, if we stopped and thought about it hon­estly, these ob­ser­va­tions and our con­clu­sions re­ally say far more about us than any­one else.

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