Back in the nineties, a soothsayer named Faith Popcorn predicted that the coming decades would be devoted to something called ‘cocooning’. After some ‘splainin, it was ascertained that this had nothing to do with spinning pupas. She really meant that those among us with plans to live in the future would be concentrating a lot more of our efforts on our immediate surroundings than we had in the previous part of the century, when we were just too busy fighting world wars, breeding boomers and growing our hair really long.
She turned out to be right…..a fine soothsayer she’d be if she were wrong!...(apologies to Larry Gelbart who should, in turn, apologize to Plautus).
It didn’t seem to make much sense at the time, especially for women, coming out of an era that was obsessed with shoulder pads and bashing through glass ceilings. Faith, like other ‘predictors’, also made other wild forecasts, which, like 'Houses That Clean Themselves' a prediction made in a 1960 Look Magazine article which I happen to have saved, have yet to catch on.
At least at my house.
Martha Stewart, for one, paid attention and led the way. She intiated what was to become a torrent of television programs devoted to feeding our fledglings and feathering our nests, so much so that entire channels were eventually created and filled with 24 hours of advice on buying, selling, repairing, renovating, cluttering and, more recently, de-cluttering our dwellings.
The characters on these shows were not actors, but real people.
Well, sort of real. They let producers into their homes and their lives, to construct mini-realities filled with catastrophes and crisis that are easily solved in half an hour, unlike in real life, where I live, and the plumber has yet to install the matching plug in my bathtub after two years of nagging. The ‘stars’ were the decorators, renovators, agents and therapists who pretended to care for the duration of the makeover, and then vanished, like all contractors, into the vapor, leaving us to wonder if there might be the possibility of some new program to deal with the fallout of all these renovations and impulsive house purchases.
Naturally, I have gathered some wisdom from watching these shows and, not incidentally, from actually living in the real world of home renovation and decoration and would like to take this opportunity to pass along some observations for you to consider or to ignore, at your peril.
PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES
First of all, and most importantly, things that look pretty on TV don’t necessarily function well in the real world.
And visa versa.
We all know that goes for people, too. Or there wouldn't be any celebrities, would there?
Most of the star/decorators on TV are relatively attractive and, like therapists, may have lousy personal lives, but I am only going to talk about ‘housey’ stuff at this time. On a recent show, par example, the ‘star/decorator’ admitted to compromising her perfect choice for upholstery fabric because it wouldn’t ‘read’ well on TV, so her clients were stuck with something far less desirable but more photogenic. Of course, they still had to live with these shmattas long after the cameras went home, but that’s the way it is in TVland.
To maintain their pristine appearance, those white marble or black granite counter tops that everyone salivates over when 'house-hunting' need more care than the average person might care to take. Look at Michaelangelo’s David or Venus de Milo if you don’t believe me. In spite of claims to the contrary, everything scratches, stains and deteriorates after a while, including you.
In real life, it’s just the way it is.
And while I’m at it, crystal chandeliers were never really meant to adorn a kitchen, at least, not mine, where actual cooking takes place. Unless you are merely warming up leftover takeout food on an occasional basis, the grease that hovers in the air after you fry up a batch of bacon or sear a rack of lamb on the cooktop, is going to fly right up and attach itself to those sparkly babies like glue.
Stock up on the Windex at Costco because you, or your maid, if you are fortunate enough to have one, are going to need it!