Ten top things I have learnt from looking at a very beautiful, very glossy book of 100 “dream homes” from down under…
1. Remove all evidence of any life. I am not expecting shoes by the front door, laundry baskets over flowing beside the washing machine, or dishes in the sink in a glossy photo house book. But I am expecting evidence of a LIFE! You know, evidence of a life lived and being lived fully? Evidence of personality, interests, accomplishments, relationships….real LIFE. Real people certainly do not live in these houses.
2. Tables must be bare of everything. They must be big, shiny, and very modern looking. Do not dare have anything on it. At a real push you may have a modern vase with flowers. definitely not a tv remote, coasters, placemats, a bowl of fruit, or heaven forbid… a newspaper. Same rule applies for coffee tables.
3. Absolutely no family photos allowed. Absolutely NOT on any walls. One cute photo (must be black and white and in a modern frame) of a baby or a recognisable and desirable tourist destination (ie Eiffel Tower) on a side board or bed side table is tolerated. Not a family mug shot to be seen. Definitely no photos of events, milestones, ugly relatives or pets. No ugly and mismatched photo frames either.
4. Sofas must be large, very low, angular, and you may select one colour – beige, black or grey. Cushions may be allowed but absolutely must be colour coordinated to match sofa and curtains. They must be located on a very nice (also colour coordinated) rug with a coffee table placed in the middle. (see above, point 2). A TV must not be seen. children’s toy box, definitely not.
5. Kitchens must be glossy, shiny, with bare surfaces. Only exception an italian coffee machine. Any sign that actually anyone cooks or prepares meals must be banished from sight. Food must not be visible. You are allowed a very nice bowl of perfectly formed fruit. All fruit must be same shape, colour and form and the fruit colour must co-ordinate (or juxtapose nicely with) with the kitchen cupboards. Herbs growing on windowsills are definitely not tolerated. Cooking utensils must not be displayed. Pots must not be displayed. Fridges (preferably) must not be visible. Cookers must be stainless (and fridges) if they are visible. Cookbooks must be tucked away out of sight. You may leave out one, but it cannot be the cook book you had while flatting, or your children’s school fund-raising cook book. It must be hard cover. Toast making is definitely not to be seen. Ditto homework activities, high chairs, and any other sign of children in the kitchen.In fact, preferably all your kitchen activity is removed to a dark, tiny room called the scullery or walk in pantry, and the place that is called “the kitchen” is just for looking at.
6. Floors must be shiny floor boards (if a beach house) or preferably tiles. Carpet is not allowed in living areas (apart from one rug (see point 4). There must not be anything on the floor, part from placed furniture and one rug. Shoes must not be left on it. Dogs or cats must not lie on it. It is not to be used for riding bikes, learning to roller blade, or for dancing.
7. Bathrooms must not actually be used.
8. Laundries do not exist. Nor do garden sheds. Nor do junk drawers, filing cabinets, toy boxes, computers or any electronics that have wires, or vacuum cleaners. Anything remotely “useful” or functional must be stored neatly in a garage or a drawer.
9. No one in these houses gets given or inherits ugly presents for their house by relatives and friends. No ugly platters and dinner sets from a wedding 10 years ago, no ugly large vases from dear aunty Mabel, no ugly painting inherited from Uncle Joe, no ugly “doesn’t really fit with our house” furniture inherited from grandma. No, not in these houses. Everything is perfect, colour-matched, coordinated, and preferably new. It is selected and chosen by the owners, for this house.
10. Houses must be big. Shiny. Full of glass. Nothing wrong with that. Built for entertaining. Nothing wrong with that either. They must be modern in all ways. Rooms must be open plan, the bigger the better. Bedrooms must be far from living spaces. Childrens’ rooms must be far from the parents retreat. Visitors must be far from both. One lounge is definetly not enough, you must have at least two of any of the following: a formal lounge, a theatre/tv room, a children’s play room, a grown up’s entertaining room, a visitors lounge, or a family room.
So, what I learnt was, if these are dream homes, maybe I am having the wrong dream? Am I the only one questioning the DREAM? I wonder if these architectural masterpieces are built for living in, or more for show? The more i reflected on them, the more i realised that what they had in common were not things i aspired too. I like small spaces as well as big spaces. I like kitchens that look used, lounges and living areas that tell you something about the people that live there, I like pets and children, and evidence of them. I like family photos, music instruments, books, and things that make a house a real, home. With these 100 houses, I longed for some, any, evidence of life. I wished for visible information about who really lived there. What I saw were designer tables, sofas and paintings, glass and clear surfaces. Almost exclusively – the same things (above 10 points) over and over again. So…are they dream homes? Society says they must be. I think not.