It seems to me that some women wear their houses the way some men drive their cars. Success means a Ferrari or a McMansion. For other women, houses are havens. Some women just live in theirs. Artists drape and shape their homes. Women. Houses. I am obsessed with the idea of how we look at the places where we live.
I asked a bunch of my friends to characterize their “dream house.” What resulted ranged from cottage to villa. There were reveries about French doors, Agas, book lined rooms, and swimming pools. The more I talked with my friends, the more I wanted to write about women and their relationships with their houses.
When I was growing up, my mother subscribed to quite a few “decorating” magazines. I have no idea why, because we lived in a modest house, with green walls, matching green wall to wall carpeting, and a furniture arrangement that remained static for the entire time my parents lived in the house. Mom had good taste, but I never perceived her as a student of interior design. I, on the other hand, read all the decorating magazines from cover to cover each month, and developed a sense of “my own style” from reading them.
Part of my obsession with homes and their interiors comes from a deep sense of insecurity that I felt as a child. The currents of my life always seemed treacherous, and I clung to the idea of home as haven. I chose as my favorites books about safety within the walls. I loved the idea of Beatrix Potter, cozily creating her characters in the nursery, staying at home long after adulthood. Louisa May Alcott invented Jo and her sisters living such a delightful and soul satisfying life of “genteel poverty” in their lovely but shabby shuttered New England saltbox. “Anne of Green Gables” was my favorite and most re-read book. Anne Shirley and her beloved home and family soothed my fractious young soul.
At nights when sleep eluded me, I chose a location, and then chose a house to live in there. In my mind’s eye, I first created the outside, and then furnished it inside. I then inhabited the home with whatever family suited it, and finally moved on to appropriate pets. I can recommend this activity highly. It is totally absorbing and completely satisfying.
I am going to share with you one of my house fantasies, and then for the next few weeks, some of the fantasies of some of my favorite women. These fictional women are also my creations, but laced liberally with the ideas and imaginings of my actual women friends.
MOLLY. She’s me! In actuality, I have two cherished house dreams. These two homes have been with me for at least forty years. They were created by the eight year old me, after lights out, when sleep eluded me. To avoid reader boredom, I will share my first house here, and save house two for later:
My urban fantasy revolves around a beautiful apartment in a big city, preferably New York, because I don’t speak French. This dwelling would be very high up. The exterior of the building would be old stone, and the architecture would most certainly include a gargoyle or two. This apartment would be for me and one little dog and two cats. No husband visible in this fantasy, for I am living by myself, it seems. The apartment would be on the corner of the building, so that I could have a large front terrace as well as a smaller terrace off the kitchen. The front terrace would have lovely leaded glass French doors opening onto it from the living room. This “”big” terrace would have high walls so that my cats and dog could scamper about safely.
Usually at this point in the fantasy, I would have to pause to name the cats and choose the dog. Two Siamese, “Parsnip,” and “Coyote.” The dog. Hummm. Yes, a Scottie, “Magnus.” In order to design the terraces, the pets would have to be present and accounted for.
Terraces. Brick herringbone. Large trees in pots. Areas of grass for Magnus to do his business. Beautiful table and chairs. Pillows. I think orange and dark red. Perennials in pots. Room for a Christmas tree in the front terrace. Kitchen terrace would be narrow, and full of different sized pots for herbs, tomatoes, zinnias, and a tiny shed for my gardening equipment. A tiny table for drinking coffee and reading the paper would be essential.
Inside, the only important rooms are the living room and the kitchen. Of course there would be a library, but those tend to take care of themselves with the books and the ladder thingy that rolls. In the living room would be a large wood burning fireplace. I picture some sort of antique mantel, deep enough for the paintings I would lean against it and the daubs and orbs I would put up there as well.
I don’t worry too much about furniture. It would be plentiful, tasteful, and comfortable. I see more in colors: there would be greens and blues, with tiny bits of pink. Persian rugs, of course. Antiques, probably not valuable ones.
Going this far in the dream house usually gets me to sleep. I look forward to finishing the project the next night, populating the house with friends, family, and my fictional reason to be living there in the first place.
Yes, it did the trick once again! I am sleepy. So next time? I’ll flesh things out a bit more. In the meantime, if my blog host is gracious enough to let you, leave me a comment with your ideas of the perfect abode!