RSSAt Home With Marni Jameson
Marni Jameson, mom and author, writes about the latest trends in home décor and her experiences running a home of her own.
It’s so true: Some things in life you just can’t put a price on.
Until you have to. When it’s up to you to liquidate your parents’ treasure-filled home, you need to price the priceless.
How much for that baby grand piano Mom used to play? How much for the sideboard that served up every Thanksgiving dinner you can remember. How much for the porch swing Dad built?
Up there in the category with death and taxes is this inevitability: At some point everyone will likely have to clear out a parent’s home.
I’m not going to soften the blow. It’s like having open heart surgery without anesthesia.
“It falls into the ‘most stressful’ category,” said Peter Brenton, of Medford, Mass., who with his two older sisters cleared out their childhood home this past year, after their mother, and last living parent, died. Having gone through this myself last year, as many of you read, I felt an instant rapport.
To make lives of the less fortunate better, I have gotten dressed up, teetered around a party in too-high heels while balancing a glass of champagne, and written a check. I have also put on old jeans and a baseball cap, rolled paint and hung blinds.
And I will tell you which one is better. Hands down it’s hands on.
Top Los Angeles designer Mark Brunetz and I think alike. “Designers get a little weary of always dealing with the luxury market,” he told me recently, “but that’s the nature of the business.”
As someone chronically on the lookout for great design, like a sailor scanning the sea for shore, I sometimes need to check my compass to remind myself what great design is. It’s easy to get swept up by high-design and think a Lamborghini, a gown at the Oscar’s, a Cartier watch, or a French chateau define design at its best.
But they don’t.
Great design is not some hoity-toity, fancy-pants status symbol reserved for those who can afford it. It’s the opposite. We experience great design every day without thinking about it when we touch a paper clip, a zipper, a light switch, an egg carton, a door knob, a tin can, or bubble wrap.
It’s the curly-hair-straight-hair dilemma all over. You have one, and want the other. Those who live in new homes covet the character and charm of old ones. Those living in old homes long for the modern amenities new ones offer.
Having lived in houses ranging in age from so new the glue’s not dry to older than the light bulb, I get the paradox.
I want soul and all-new appliances with a homeowner’s warranty. I want mature landscape and a big gourmet kitchen with a hot-spot island. I want patina that comes with history and surround sound. I want a claw-foot bathtub with jets. I want deep wooden window sills with handsome panes and uber-tight energy efficiency. I want a great front porch and an attached garage.
When the dog’s leash is in the drawer with your hairbrush, when you pull out the vacuum and three suitcases fall on your head, when you have 15 jackets but only wear two, when the space under your sink looks like the recycle bin and under your bed looks like the Dumpster behind Wal-Mart, when your wallet needs a rubber band, you have Legos in your pantry and your property tax bill is in the tool chest, honey, you need to get your, uhh, stuff together.
This reality might have even occurred to you around New Year’s. Getting organized is second only to losing weight on Americans’ list of resolutions for 2014. However, by now, one month in, a third of resolution makers will be reso-losers. Eventually, more than 90 percent will fail.
“People fail with their resolutions because they go to deep, try to do too much, and are too vague,” said my friend and America’s favorite professional organizer Peter Walsh, whom I called after stumbling on his “31 Days 2 Get Organized,” challenge, which is on his Facebook page.
It could be the best home improvement you never see. Or not. It’s hard to know.
Window film — a transparent barrier that, its makers say, keeps big bad sunrays from eating up your furniture and driving up your air-conditioning bills — is at its best unseen.
And that’s the problem. How do you know it’s there? Because it’s invisible, I’m tempted to put it in the same category as the Emperor’s New Clothes, or as those who buy and sell galactic stars. I worry that homeowners are buying into some big transparent lie.
It happens every January. Once the glitz, glam, glitter and gluttony of the holidays are over, I crave simplicity. I long for austerity and to surround myself with natural neutrals. No frills, no excess. I want food no fancier than plain water and a tuna sandwich, and a home no fussier than a monastery.
So last week when a sea tide of photos featuring undyed natural linens in a beautifully simple home flowed into my inbox, it was an oasis for my over-stimulated eyes.
I had forgotten how much I loved linen, but Richard Ostell, a respected fashion and home designer, reminded me. The shots were from his home in Westchester, New York. Rough woven linens graced his tables, windows and bed like a pure sigh of relief.
I had just stepped out the door for a morning jog, when I saw a blizzard of pink Styrofoam packing peanuts swirling and skipping down the street. What idiot did that? I thought.
My stomach turned inside out when I realized the eye of the storm was my trashcan. Moments before, it had been filled to the brim with the pink packing material, which had cradled my mother’s china on its sentimental journey from California to Florida.
The trash men had just been by. It was a windy day. And I had instantly become THAT NEIGHBOR! I can’t stand people like me.
As I close out a year that saw more changes than a newborn — a year during which I cleared out and sold my childhood home, sent my youngest off to college, moved into my fourth home in three years, and still managed to cover the gray — I am raising a Waterford crystal flute filled with something bubbly to toast….
… my editors, who make me look better than I am.
… the many experts I’ve talked with, who make me look smarter than I am.
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