Arbiter

The spe­cial qual­i­ties that make a house a home

Portfolio - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Wendy Long

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.

Mak­ing Merry

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.

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