Designer dreams derail the happy home


Lately, my house and I have not been getting along. Granted, it’s still providing shelter and keeping the rain of my head (mostly).

Nonetheless, something is missing in our relationship.

A general sense of dissatisfaction that I just can’t quite shake threatens to overcome me. This malaise can be undoubtedly be traced to my sad addiction to what I have come to know as house porn.

House porn is the extravagantly perfect homes featured monthly in glossy decorating magazines and the plethora of “homes of people much wealthier than you” television programming populating the airwaves.

These awe and envy inspiring forays into the world of designer budgets invariably feature vast, gleaming bowling alley sized kitchens; formal dining for 20 and master suites the size of small cities – not to mention bathrooms fit to host mid-sized wedding receptions for minor royalty.

Self-esteem. All this is certainly no less damaging to the self-esteem than any Victoria’s Secret catalog or Sports Illustrated supermodel.

At least with the latter I can pretend – delusionally – that I could someday (some 70 million abdominal crunches later, perhaps) look like that.

With house porn it is pretty clear that with the exception of a lottery win, I am never going to have a home like the grand mansions featured in the center spread. No mere sit-up can fix that.

Living large. Granted, I am obviously not the person these extravagant homes are meant for. I want to be, but I just don’t have the time.

I can accept the reality that I don’t have the budget to support what home designers and architects have come to term “the trend toward gracious living.”

It smarts, however, to realize that even with a lottery win under my belt, I simply do not have the life – let alone the lifestyle – to support such grace.

Nowhere is this glaring lack of general graciousness more obvious than in my kitchen.

The people in all those magazine spreads and televised programs touting “gracious living” are, first and foremost, always leading far more notable lives than my own.

Affording it. Perhaps a neurosurgeon and her international investment banker husband who, despite their busy lives, curiously never lack the time to sip coffee each morning on their chaise lounge which was “artfully placed in the bay window beyond the island to capture the expansive water views beyond.”

Their ballroom sized kitchen will, they boast, be a “two-cook kitchen” complete with marble islands perfect for rolling homemade pastry, warming ovens for six-course meals, and two sets of everything so the partners can share in the joy of washing vegetables and sautéing something, anything, in wine sauce side-by-side.

If I have learned nothing from reading these journalistic orgies into the lifestyles of the rich and richer, it is that the upper crusts is deeply involved in sautéing.

Back to reality. Meanwhile, my husband and I must soldier on with only our kitchen-sized kitchen featuring one of most things and none of others (we are, alas, sans authentic French pastry boards imported direct from Europe).

At best, guests can sip coffee and take in the expansive view of the goat pasture and side of the barn.

My last dinner guests consisted of a gaggle (herd?) of pre-schoolers who turned their noses up at my macaroni and cheese. Perhaps it is best that I didn’t invest a cool hundred thou or so in a state-of-the-art kitchen just to get that less than stellar review?

Clearly underprivileged. I don’t have a special marble countertop for rolling out pastry, a stainless-steel walk-in freezer large enough to house a small airplane, or a double-oven that would make a professional chef weep.

Clearly, our kitchen is underprivileged. Nonetheless, it has enjoyed the privilege of welcoming family and friends for nearly 100 years, a whoever-cares-to-cook-don’t-let-me-stop-you floor plan, space for tattered cookbooks handed down through generations, and walls that simply cry out for a small child’s art projects.

Most importantly, this less-than-elegant setting offers room enough for long talks over milk and cookies - or ice cream eaten straight out of the carton with a big spoon for less formal occasions.

So, while I can’t spend a million dollars on an envy-inspiring kitchen, it turns out that after some thought on the matter – I wouldn’t take a million for the memories, and moments, in this one either.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt likes her simple white kitchen just the way it is, most of the time. She welcomes comments c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)

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