At the risk of coming over all Carrie Bradshaw, are we sacrificing our personal tastes for the sake of an imaginary real estate checklist? If you’re planning to sell your home next year, then perhaps those bright yellow, artisanal tiles you just fell in love with are ill-advised. But if it’s your forever home, I say bloody well go for it. Life’s too short not to.
“Homes should tell stories of the lives lived in them” is a quote I’d like to be remembered by, not that I’m planning to go anywhere just yet.
Some years ago, I remember interviewing the owner of a home in Sydney’s east. It was a stunning house in a super-desirable suburb, just a stone’s throw from the beach.
From a magazine editor’s point of view (i.e. mine), it ticked all the must-have boxes: high-profile interior designer; on-trend colour palette; directional decorating style (art deco meets Hollywood Regency, since you ask) – and a potential cover for sure.
I asked the homeowner several questions about the furnishings and in particular the art, which was pretty magnificent. The owner looked at me blankly and offered to call the interior designer for the details. In other words, the house was an exquisite shell, crafted by a talented designer, but with little or no connection to the person who lived in it. No personal effects, only stage-managed props that added up to a pre-agreed budget. It was no more a home than a movie set but, my god, it photographed well.
Not that this scenario was an isolated incident, or particularly unusual. Chances are that if you have the budget to engage a professional in the first place, you’re paying to leave the choices to them.
I get all that, of course. But the notion of home has always meant so much more to me and never more so than now, when we’re in the grip of a pandemic that has made our homes not just our castles, but our offices, schools, restaurants, cinemas, playgrounds and gyms. Let’s face it, home is pretty much everything these days.
If you’re planning to sell your home next year, then perhaps those bright yellow, artisanal tiles you just fell in love with are ill-advised. But if it’s your forever home, I say bloody well go for it.
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of incredible houses, but very few homes. Real homes tell stories and age gracefully. They are less likely to have the latest style of chair (curved, organic), less likely to display the latest trend colours (fifty shades of latte) or the micro-trends that come and go like the seasons. But what they will have is the patina of life and a sense of continuity that comes from furniture and objects chosen for longevity, functionality and pleasure.
The home I share with my partner David and our dogs (four and counting) at that beautiful nexus between the NSW South Coast and Southern Highlands, is the very definition of “work in progress”. It’s a single-storey cottage with a wide verandah and an interior style that the ex-editor in me would dub “modern country”. There are Scandi bits and country bits; Moroccan bits and Indian bits; contemporary bits and vintage bits. Somewhere in the mix there’s even the odd scrap of Hamptons.
Original works by artist and good friend Robert Doble sit, gallery style, alongside op-shop treasures, fashion photography and Aboriginal paintings. In my office, which looks out across rolling paddocks, a colonial-era nude rubs shoulders with a vintage Bowie poster and an oversized photo of St Kilda beachfront on a wet winter Sunday – my personal ode to a favourite city, Melbourne. There’s a glorious disconnect that somehow works visually and perhaps only makes sense to David and me. And that’s exactly how it’s meant to be. It’s our story.
“Homes should tell stories of the lives lived in them” is a quote I’d like to be remembered by, not that I’m planning to go anywhere just yet. I have bathrooms to finish. That arrangement of words is mine, but the sentiment attached to them is shared by a growing number of interior designers, stylists, writers, photographers, artists and gallerists – even retailers – seeking respite from the modern curse of homogeneity. I’m proud that every item in our home prompts a memory. Every book on our shelves, every lamp, every cushion.
Not that this advice is of much use to The Block contestants. They still have to find that sweet spot that keeps us judges happy, satisfies their buyer, is neither generic nor polarising and – above all – avoids another kerfuffle.
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