If You Really Want to Know About Someone ... - Random Reasonings

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If You Really Want to Know About Someone …

I love visiting other people’s homes.

If you really want to get a sense of who a person is, and what’s important to them, you’ll see it when you’re in their homes.

What does your home say about you?

I’m not talking about the size or style of it, whether it’s big or small. What makes the statement about you is what you do with your home.

What colors do you surround yourself with? What type of furniture do you select? Are you minimalist or do you like lots of stuff in your home?

When I go into someone’s home for the first time and see shelves full of books or walls lined with book cases, I immediately feel a friendship for that person. I am a book-lover and finding a fellow book-lover is a bonding experience. People will always see lots of books in my homes.

One of the favorite homes I’ve been in is actually an apartment on the second floor above a retail store in the heart of a downtown area, in a very old building dating back to the late 1800s.

The apartment has two big rooms, one at each end, that are connected by a curving hallway off which are bedrooms and bathrooms. The two big rooms are among the most warm and inviting I’ve ever been in … just like the couple who lives there.

They are warm, fun, intelligent people with interesting lives. Conversation with them is a total delight. They are among the most unpretentious people I’ve ever known. Yet they are highly accomplished, financially well off, and could easily afford a large home in an upscale neighborhood. They choose not to, and it says so much about who they are.

Years ago, when I was spending a week each month working in Manhattan, I stayed at the company’s 2-bedroom apartment on the 28th floor of a high rise apartment building. It was like staying in a hotel room. Sterile and impersonal. Any time I had an opportunity I’d go visit friends in Manhattan who all lived in very small apartments. It was fun to see how each of them used their small spaces. 

My friend Charlie lived in a high rise building on East 86th Street in a 3 room apartment with a loft. He used his entire loft area for his toy train collection. It was  his grown-up playroom. My friend Peg lived on the 3rd floor of an architecturally beautiful building on West 67th Street, also in a 3-room apartment.

Peg was a travel writer and her apartment was so packed with stuff from all her travels you could barely move around. Even her tiny little galley kitchen could barely accommodate two people. And she loved big overstuffed furniture covered in chintz patterns. There were pictures, collectibles, and books everywhere. She even managed to squeeze in a piano. So much stuff! But I could spend hours there just looking at everything. It was fascinating, just like Peg.

I love when walls and furniture in homes have lots of photographs of family, special occasions, places people have traveled to, their friends and people they know. It always makes me feel that I’m being invited to be one of the family. 

Of course walls are a great place to display art. The type of art in our homes says a lot about us. The subject matter of the art we collect shows what we connect with. I prefer art that depicts streetscapes and outdoor scenes. I suspect it’s because I like to imagine myself in the places in the art.

For years I went to flea markets and antique shops on a quest to find the lush, colorful garden scenes created by the Canadian born artist R. Atkinson Fox, a contemporary of Maxfield Parrish, who painted in the art deco style. Fox died in 1935 and prints of his work became highly collectible in the 1980s.

I love the abstract impressionist paintings by Belgian-born artist Christiane David. My first purchase of an original David painting is a cityscape of a French cafe bustling with people and activity and bursting with color. The artist’s grandfather was a chef, and she painted him into the scene. The combination of her vibrant colors and scenes draws me to her work and I now own several original David paintings.

Kitchens are my favorite rooms. I love kitchens. All kinds of kitchens. Have you ever noticed that when a group of people are in your home they seem to gravitate to your kitchen?

When we built our house in Florida it was the first time in my life I got to design my kitchen to be exactly the way I wanted it. Wouldn’t change a thing despite everyone, and I do mean everyone!, trying to talk me out of my yellow cabinets. I love them. My kitchen is eternally sunny.

Two things you will always find in my homes are lots of color and greenery. I love flowers and plants. I remember when HGTV shows were always featuring white and gray. I never understood why anyone would want to live surrounded by white and gray. A colorless life in my opinion.

I guess you could say I’m a house voyeur. I love to go to open house tours, candlelight tours, historic homes tours, etc. I enjoy walking in a neighborhood at twilight, when the lights go on inside houses and I can get a glimpse through the windows of what that home is like.

I hope that when people come into either of our homes, whether it’s our beach house in Florida or the country home in southwestern PA, they immediately feel at home. Because if they do, to me, that is the ultimate compliment. 

“May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.”

An Irish Proverb

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