On Saturday I “got my inner WASP on” (as a friend cpmmented), and went on the BHA House Tour. The houses for this year’s tour seemed, from this person’s perspective, more understated than usual. There was little of the ostentatious displays of opulence that dominated the houses of tours past which always made one rush to Floyd for a stiff drink.
124 Willow, built in 1831 and renovated in 1885 by William Tubby, was the most impressive of the spaces, but its grandness only extended through the parlor floor rooms, as the rest of the home settled into an average feel. On the other end of the spectrum, the modern design and layout of 12 Sidney Place were not to our tastes, but the daughter’s loft space was pretty cool. 72 Hicks, with its fabric-covered walls, seemed to be a cleaner’s nightmare.
Yet, more interesting than the houses themselves were the people who shelled out the 40 bucks to meander house to house and ostensibly be impressed by the grandeur. It seems most people, including myself, privately find themselves feeling a mixture of awe and contempt — awe over the size and structure of the space, contempt for the owners who to their eyes abused it. “That chandelier is tacky”, “Why is the bed so short?”, “the staircase is gaudy”, “I prefer open kitchens”, “this is what? An EXERCISE ROOM?” — were a few of the comments overheard. The BHA tour guidebook — which is about 20% historical tidbit and 80% name-dropping — seemed to be totally ignored, as few cared if Winston Churchill really ate at the table, and were more concerned with the alignment of the personal mementos and tchotchkes that litter any person’s home according to their own logic. It seems we tour these houses to confirm our private hopes that those more well-off than us have as much subjectively poor taste as the rest of us.
I found myself making similar comments — “fabric walls?” “Mao-era ceramic figurines?” “This looks like it came from Ikea” — until I realized, hey, MY kitchen came from Ikea, what the hell am I talking about? What would I have done with the the space? Turned it into a Pee-Wee Herman’s playhouse? It was envy, over what I don’t have and can’t transform to fit my own personal aesthetic.
I wonder why the home-owners put themselves up to the scrutiny. Did the BHA brow-beat them, or were they so confident in their own tastes and positions that they simply don’t care?
Anyhoo, those were my impressions of the house tour. Did anyone else go? What were your thoughts?