Forget business for a while. What do you come home to? Lately I have been questioning convention when it comes to how I live in my own home. Precipitated by a recent remodel of our 20-year old kitchen, the domino effect that ensued from having one part of the house updated while the rest hadn’t been altered had me scrutinizing every room of my house to see just what I could do differently.
1950s parents were taught that there were rules that applied to each room in a house with a certain domestic behavior attached to maintaining them. My mid-century modern mom made sure you could bounce nickels off tightly-made beds and messes were put away every day, making a home perpetually ready to receive guests. It was a systematic and nearly complete brainwashing of American women at the time, and it played into the Mad Men economic era beautifully, with every ad touting “modern efficiency” to make life easier on domestic engineers so they wouldn’t think about how bored they were and try to take jobs held by men. Do any of you have a mom who used to say it was important to be prepared just in case someone “dropped by” – ? I can’t imagine the stress that caused in her generation. It was akin to being told the reason you wore clean underwear was in case you got into a car accident and were taken to the hospital.
I suppose it was not surprising when my peers and I rebelled following an act like that – working hard for an extra paycheck so they could hire housekeepers, placing pool tables in formal living rooms, yanking closets out of bedrooms to arrange home offices and rubberizing garage spaces to create home gyms. Kitchens became multi-station prep areas so that all members of the family could get in on the meal-making, realizing that if they didn’t learn how to throw a salad together once in a while they may starve if they had to wait for a working Mom to do it. Say all you want about bygone eras; I like today just fine.
A few domestic about-faces with which I have come to terms include the realization that decorative bathroom towel bars with frou-frou display rags are totally useless despite how model home decorators make them look. Towels are not art. Art is art. So I have been systematically taking them down and replacing them with wall art, display shelves or nothing at all. Now towels are where they belong — in cabinets or hanging on hooks. They’re frickin’ TOWELS.
When we remodeled our kitchen, we eliminated the casual kitchen table and chairs in favor of a huge kitchen island people can now sit around on bar stools. Since we routinely failed miserably at extricating guests or family members from the kitchen anyway, we just gave up on it. Now when guests arrive they drink and snack along with us as we approach that magical time when we usher them into a room we call lovingly call the “dining room” that gets used for even the least formal of occasions.
We have one soaking vessel in a hall bath and no, it’s not Cleopatra’s answer to a day on the Nile in a fancy barge, but why do we need more than one tub? Neither of us are bathers. So our plan is to replace the huge master bedroom “garden tub” (which I dust regularly) with a bigger walk-in rain shower where we can pretend we are in a rainforest standing naked before tropical birds. Those of you shaking your heads over how taking this step may de-value our home should think again. Opinions (and appraisals) have changed dramatically on this issue.
I decided that a guest room should have no other purpose than for visitors to feel as if they were in a fancy hotel. It does not double as a hobby room, office or crafts haven. I made ours elegant, placed robes in the closet, offer hanging and drawer space to them and even stocked the guest bath with Q-tips and makeup remover. I realize not everyone has this luxury of space and it took me a while to defrag that room, but I felt I had to create the kind of refuge I would love to have when I am a guest in someone else’s home. Fortunately, I have a few friends who had provided good prototypes for this. Okay, so I still do have to go in there and “tidy up” right before visitors arrive. Hmmm. I guess there is still a 1950s mom in me somewhere. To keep myself honest, I make sure we invite overnight guests or otherwise on a regular basis because it forces me to finally clean the place up. NOT my mother’s daughter, I’m afraid.
In the end, however, your home must serve you, and not some image you were taught to put forth. Millennials, in particular, have dispensed with all things formal in a home, looking instead for usable, practical areas. So it seems we have something to learn from them, just as our parents did from us. It’s not a bad idea to reassess your domestic spaces and decide just how much you’re willing to put up with within the most intimate spaces you’ll ever know. You just might begin to love where you live all over again.