Thursday, September 15, 2011

Inspiration is Relative

A review of Barry Dixon’s new home design book, Inspirations.

I am a huge fan of home décor books. Perhaps I could be classified as obsessive. I rarely implement any of the ideas shown, either from lack of time, courage or funds. It is not often that I review books, but this time I feel I must speak (write), even though only my blog friends will ever read these words. This review is a bit strongly worded for

Out of five stars, I award this book three. How could that be for such a lovely coffee table book? Well, in this tome chock full of props (also called accessories) such a book would not show up on one of the perfectly orchestrated coffee tables dotted throughout the book. Little of real life is depicted in these pages. However, the book is full of thick pages, large clear photos and details on where the moneyed set can purchase the accoutrements of luxury living.

Before purchasing the book, I did view a few pages through Amazon, but did not get into the “meat” of the book until it arrived. When I talk about meat here, it is as if I was looking though one of the manse’s many French doors, watching a couple with lovely, possessionless children eat filet mignon in the expanse of their 30-foot-long dining room while standing out in the rain eating a bologna sandwich filched from a dumpster.

Some of the “family” homes shown in the pages are quite a curiosity for someone that has a family of their own. One in particular really makes me shake my head and laugh sadly. The claim is that the home is designed for a growing family. Somehow that makes me think of young children. I could be wrong. Perhaps the residents are just growing more portly. Before extensive renovations, the home had been described as stately. That encourages me to think that it might of had a surplus of square footage. Well, I’m an idiot then, because the house required the addition of a two-level living room and two new wings. The original living room, no doubt bigger than my original (and only) living room is now an intimate reception room. The original dining room (in a bow to modesty?) remained intact, although, one can dine in a new supper room. Perhaps there are separate rooms for breakfast and lunch and, why the hell not, a late night snack. I suppose if one were to feel peckish while reading, they could have a tray brought into the two-story library. In the evening the master and mistress of the house can retire to their own studies, dressing rooms and bathrooms before traveling on to the master bedroom. When it is time for the family to gather together, they can do so in the informal family quarters in the southern wing of the home.

And so on.

If that home is not to your liking, you can read about the Charlotte Chateau. This home, in the narrative, is described as a castle. Mr. Dixon worked with a local architect (after the first architect was canned) in adjusting the scale of the rooms “in an effort to make them smaller and more inviting.” Why the hell these rooms weren’t made smaller and more inviting to begin with is not explained. Maybe it pleases the owner to know that the footprint of the average American home can fit inside the master bath. And my thinking is that if you have to add a niche to the bedroom to create a focal point, then the room must be too damn large. In my home (and so many others), the bed IS the focal point. In my “master” bedroom, the bed IS the room.

Imagine a world where the sharing of a bathroom is out of the question, even among married couples. Hell, aside from the sharing of a richly draped colossal bed, hubby and wife have plenty of room to roam and never have to cross paths. Children (invisible I suppose) can range about like antelope on the savannah. Plenty of room, just don’t leave out one toy, book, shoe or drawing. One kitchen stove costs more than a lifetime of motor vehicles for an average family. And I don’t think I need to mention the colossal size of the kitchen. But I did. Ah, the joy and beauty (and complete fucking uselessness) of a foyer that could house 3 or 4 extended third-world families.

And then there is the family residing in one of Washington, D.C.’s ritzier suburbs. The owner’s house was just too modestly scaled and, well, the decision was made to scrap that house and start anew. With, of course, yet another kitchen that would put the Hogwarts’ dining hall on the same level as a lower-east-side-tenement kitchen. Naturally, his and her master baths and dressing rooms (with fireplaces) are mandatory. As is the series of guest suites. Yep, plural.

There is one relatively modest abode – a Chicago apartment “in a downtown Michigan Avenue high-rise with sweeping views of the city and Lake Michigan.” Actually, this is a second home , so once inside any restrictions on real estate are covered up with silk draperies and hand painted-wallpapers. I still would not be able to afford a sconce or decorative pillow in this dwelling. Not even for my first (and only) home.

And I have to pass along the most ridiculous decorating tip ever: “Upholster kitchen walls and ceilings with fabrics and textures to absorb street noise and make the room more inviting.” That idea is as practical as the purchase of a fur-lined pot.

At this book’s completion, I am not left with the desire to tear down my modest home and build a mansion with rooms assigned for each moment’s task. I no longer have the desire to upgrade my sheets, hang a painting or clean out my kitchen drawers (although such mundane things were not mentioned in this book). At the end, I just found myself chanting, “tax the rich tax the rich tax the rich.”


  1. Sounds like an Architectural Digest sort of thing targeted to the uber-wealthy, who have staff to make things spotless and the square footage to indulge any of their whims.

    Your review sounded to my ears like seeing what was in the book had almost hurt your feelings and made you feel less-than and resentful.

    It doesn't feel good to feel like that when it makes you either not love your own home or dislike them for having theirs.
    My empathy housewife.

    I would not keep the book - I'd give it to a library.

    I felt that way about Barbra Streisand's Passion For Design book that she published in November 2010.

    I loved the exterior and the gardens/grounds with a passion, and how detailed everything in her home is - but frankly, it is waaaaaaay outside of my budget, although not out of my daydreams to ever do such a thing.

    As far as taxing the rich more, hurting them doesn't make sense. Then they cease to employ people who now have jobs.

    If you take away their 'excess', then they cut down on all of the things that now keep an economt flowing for many - the gardeners, the housekeepers, the painters, the cooks, the manicurists, the personal trainers, the car detail people, personal assistants/secretaries, etc., etc.

  2. Housewife, I am siding with you. I personally do not get the same impression of your post that Cinderella did. I see where you are coming from.

    I can see how reading about a growing family needing to build on two new wings and a second level to their living room a tad absurd unless they have more than a dozen kids. Ok that is a bit extreme, but what family truly needs that much room? Personally I think our society is off on thinking larger and more is better. You would need a bull horn to tell your family that it was time for dinner, that is if they sit down and eat together.

    I think Housewife you do not feel envious of these families that can upgrade and expand their homes this way. I feel that you are wondering at how this money could be used in a better way. Yes it is their money to spend the way they want, but if they can afford this, then they can afford to pay more in taxes. Will it hurt the economy by taxing the rich more???? Personally I do not think so, they want to cry this so the government won't raise their taxes.

    Also Houswife, I just think you thought this book on inspiring you to redo your house was a bit over the top. And I do not read in your post that you dislike your house.