The special qualities that make a house a home
What’s the first thing you notice when you enter someone’s house? A beautiful interior with gorgeous furniture, antiques and art pieces will grab your attention, but I usually find myself drawn to clusters of photo frames. A picture paints a thousand words, and nothing makes a home feel like one than photographs that capture the life stories of its occupants. When nearly everything is stored virtually – when was the last time you have a photograph developed? – making an effort to materialize a memory of intangible sentiments immortalized forever speaks volumes. The stories that accompany the photographs give so much more life and character to the home that no designer furniture or immaculately staged interior can ever provide. When I spy a photo or two of myself and the host/hostess displayed proudly in their house, even in an obscure corner, it makes me feel like I’m part of the family than just a passing visitor – a part of their journey, a character in their life stories. The real beauty of a beautiful house comes from its ability to make a guest feel at home.
When I think of all the gorgeous homes that I’ve visited, the ones that leave the most indelible impressions on me are those with happy memories of shared experiences – a simple dinner party, an elaborate celebratory shenanigan or just chilling out over wine at the usual spot. And you know you are a regular guest when you have a ‘usual spot’ in the house! I always remember the house parties that I’ve thrown, and each property that I’ve moved to will be most fondly remembered by the parties that I’ve had at that place. The most epic one was perhaps at my current place, over a party that lasted through the night, till the wee hours that our friendly neighbor decided to call the cops about the noise. When they came knocking on my door, my intoxicated girlfriend asked if I had ‘hired dancers’? No dah-ling, they are real cops! Between the Lines
The other aspect of the house that I’m always drawn to is the library or study room. I like to observe the books lining the shelves as, again, it gives away the personality of the occupants. Likewise, in the digital age that we live in, when the books and magazines we read are on an iPad or Kindle, seeing physical copies of literature evokes a sense of a bygone era. I’m not sure about you, but there’s something about flipping pages. I still do enjoy reading a page-turner, quite literally. A book that fits a coffee table indicates design flair, but one with dog-ears and crumpled pages, by the bed, hints at the personality of the reader. I often find myself hiding my chick-lit books or ‘questionable’ choices (like the 50 Shades trilogy) as I was afraid of being judged by my literary picks. So much for not judging a book by its cover! Perhaps the incident that ‘scarred’ me was when a friend from NYC visited my place and saw a copy of Primates of Park Avenue, a memoir by Wednesday Martin about life on the Upper East Side, Manhattan’s most exclusive zip code. I thought it was a hilarious, tongue in cheek tell-all, explained through social anthropology (she has a doctorate in the history of anthropology from Yale), on motherhood in a ‘jungle’ for the upper echelons of Manhattan. But my New Yorker visitor wasn’t too impressed, dissing it immediately with, “Oh… you are reading that…?! You know its exaggerated right?” I immediately felt judged!
Where Life Happens
One of the most communal spaces in a house has to be the kitchen, especially if it’s large enough to fit a kitchen island. It’s a spot where guests like to gather and mingle with the hosts while they prepare a spread. It is also an open space, which leaves much to be observed! I have guests who came over to my place, opened the refrigerator and exclaimed, “There’s no food in the fridge – only bottles of San Pellegrino and a bunch of grapes!” Yes, I guess that pretty much summed up my dietary habits – a liquid diet. I also find myself scanning through the pantry shelves at friends’ homes and making inferences on their eating patterns: Are they into organic food, do they snack, are they coffee or tea drinkers, do they cook. I ask many questions based on just simple spices and what nots. A simple house, beyond the ubiquitous furniture, can be a voyeuristic experience. It is from actually living in the space and not treating it like a show flat – where every item is meticulously placed and not used at all. That is after all, what a home should be, a space where memories are made and the living takes place.