Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The people who owned our house before us had impeccable taste.
They had recently renovated part of the house, and the appliances, tiles, fixtures, paint hues were all chosen with great care. Since we are people with neither vision nor motivation to change things in our surroundings, we were thrilled to buy a house that we wouldn't have to put our own personal stamp on. All we had to do was move in the second-hand furniture bought off of Craig's List that we had been keeping in storage for two years. Our crap would be tasteful by association.
As a disclaimer, we do have some nice stuff. When we got married, I registered for a centuries-old Danish china pattern whose dessert plates alone sell for $50. We have a complete set, some of it vintage. Our silver is of a similar vein, with a four-piece setting apparently selling for $600. We have four people in our family, so this set alone would suffice. But we have enough for 12 people to dine at Buckingham Palace without having their lips touch the same fork tines twice. All of this is stored somewhere away from any potential guest's roving eye. We don't want to mar the shabby un-chic vibe of our house.
After plunking down pre-crash dollars for our little slice of real estate, we had a momentary epiphany: Since we bought a lovely house with lovely appointments, maybe we are meant to be people who live in a lovely house with lovely appointments. The exotic shower tile, the Japanese bidet-ish toilet, the glass bamboo border to coordinate with the bamboo bath cabinets, the elegant South of France mural in our daughter's bedroom, the graceful archways, the vintage stove... Could it be?
When we moved in, we had high hopes. We apparently subscribe to the Minimalist School of Decorating, because the two couches and three area rugs did not really fill the house as we had anticipated. Fortunately, we had four 1990s-era TVs, all of which are deeper than they are wide, so that helped add some bulk to our aesthetic. But since our children tend to run haphazardly through the house, littering belongings along the way, we figured a less-is-more approach to furnishings might be safer, literally.
So, it was with cautious optimism that we unpacked all the boxes and committed to our house. We were lucky that the 1920s Spanish house had various built-in drawers and cabinets, so we didn't have to needlessly buy furniture. I would have to describe our initial strategy of putting things away to be "random." Wedding gifts that had not been used in more than a decade were placed in eye-level, readily accessible storage. Everyday items, such as LA-appropriate clothing, inexplicably were kept in boxes and put at the top of 10-foot-high closet shelves. To the untrained eye, however, our goods were officially "unpacked" and we were "moved in."
We quickly adapted our lifestyle to maximize use of whatever items were most convenient to find. We drank water out of delicate Japanese rice wine flutes. Adults and children alike dried off with dinosaur-themed bath towels. Knick knacks from an unmemorable trip were prominently displayed on side tables. A juicer I always meant to return was taken out of its box and given a place of honor on the kitchen counter.
After filling the kitchen cabinets with seasonal cookware and mini appliances that we did not know we owned, we were faced with a stark realization: As unimaginative as we are with decorating, we are even more doltish when it comes to gift-giving. The last kitchen box to be unpacked happened to be the one containing our coffee mugs. Yes, we are coffee drinkers. Although we own a Nespresso espresso maker, which requires that the coffee "pods" be ordered directly from the company, we are not particular about what coffee we drink, as long as it is caffeinated. But since we are a family with very few hobbies or interests, we tend to give each other mugs whenever we are at a loss for anything else to give. We have novelty mugs from various continents, presidential libraries, sporting events, all emblazoned with a logo of some sort. This wouldn't be worthy of mentioning, except for one unhappy fact: When we unearthed the mugs, we realized the only remaining storage space in our kitchen was a glass-doored cabinet.
Ok, I get it. I read Elle Decor and was a charter subscriber of the ill-fated Domino magazine. I know all about how glass doors, coffee tables, mirrors, windows make a room seem more airy and open. My question is: Why does a room have to be so darn airy and open? Some of us would be perfectly happy living in a dark cave. A glass-doored cabinet featured prominently in a kitchen has no other identifiable purpose other than to humiliate the home's occupants by exposing their novelty mug collection for all to see. I swear, the handblown glass goblets bought at Barneys in 1988 (and not on sale) are represented in the kitchen, just behind a wooden cabinet door. Actually, come to think of it, the really nice cobalt water goblets are also squirreled away behind a non-transparent door. Mixed in with the mis-matched plastic rainbow-colored Ikea plates.