Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Parade

So, my husband and I are home improvement junkies. We watch everything there is to watch on HGTV and DYI Network, and we parade all of the homes there are to parade in a season, three counties over. We like to learn about what’s possible in a home, just because we’re both, at core, really, home bodies. We need to make it as comfortable as we can, right?! And what are you gonna do when you make less money than your heart desires to spend? You dream, and you snoop on others who can afford it, right?!

And you can surely dream while visiting these places – for as many great ideas as we have gotten from these tours, we have gotten that many crazy ones, too. And the people watching is priceless!

Great ideas we have seen. And I am not talking about the really “crazy”, extravagant ones, like golf courses in the basement, and skate boarding half pipes, and mini movie theaters with 20 recliners on premises. Or basement bars with 4-5 suspended television sets above your head. Or indoor pools and bedroom balconies complete with hot tubs and water slides into the waterfall pool down below … I am also talking about the practical, new ideas that we can actually use in real life, for better insulation, cost saving siding and roofing, creative and economical ways to build heating and cooling systems, using solar and wind energy. The list goes on and on. These latter features are really the lessons we learn, constructively, for when we might be ready, one day, to build our own humble abode. One day!

With every house we see, we become more and more fascinated by what’s deemed “comfortable” and “needed” in today’s world. And what is a home anymore? Is it just a place to shelter you from the seasons and offer you comfort at the end of a long week? Or very much a showcase of how much money you have and how wild your architect and interior designer get? Do these people really need all the 10 bedrooms and 12 baths? Really? I know Utah people have large families, but seriously? Most of these mansions have so many “toys” they would never be fit for kids anyway. A horse barn and a waterfall? And a vintage kitchen as if peeled from a French magazine?! Sometimes I wonder how they even have time to cover by foot all the square footage in their own home, in a whole year! I bet you they stash stuff in closets and forget about it, and end up with 10 of the same thing when they eventually move out.

View of the Salt Lake Valley from the living room of one of the homes on Capitol Hill

The size of the homes is not the only thing that amazes me, though. The materials sometimes are unreal, as well as the facilities. You can see everything from elevators to complicated intercom and surround sound systems, from wrap around porches on the second floor to mini play rooms tucked under staircases for the really little ones.

Sinks, in various shapes and colors, made of anything from Murano to recycled glass, the quiet, infinity bathtubs, the efficient (and also quiet) toilets, the 2 toilet master baths, each with its own little room, the views of some of these homes … oh, my! And some homes are built just purely for fun – like the replica of the “Up” house – yes, a real life, very much in-livable copy of the house you saw in Pixar’s “Up” cartoon. Tell me that’s not done purely for experiment and show?!

The "Up" House - complete with the balloons and a hired (or volunteer?!) "actor". The living room has a mural of 'Paradise Falls' above the fireplace and many other movie details

They had on the radio today that the majority of people in Haiti don’t have “permanent homes:”, they live in tents, under tarps and cardboard roofs, in these temporary shelters, since last year’s earthquake, but in America, we can afford to spend a minimum of $100,000 for a “simple home” just for the sake of building.

But it’s fun to snoop. Except for the low points.

The visits are usually fun, except for some “snags” that cramp our picky styles. Like, the infamous “surgeon’s booties”. Man, whoever invented the system was not very bright! I mean – the use of these booties at the home shows: they ask you to slip them over your shoes, not to step on the rugs/ carpet/ hardwoods with your muddy shoes (no mud in the desert, mind you, but …). The worst part is not the wearing of them, but the fact that they reuse them over and over and over again for three weeks straight. And since it’s summer time, most everyone wears sandals – and the booties are wet and smelly from likewise feet! Some homes ask you to put the booties on over you bare feet – again, reusing them forever … and then … it gets really juicy! Some parades, however, forgo the booties, and those are our favorite, no matter what homes they have on display!

Then, it’s the mandatory “chat”. There is usually a representative from the builder’s business or the realtor who’s listing the house – and they must talk to you, about their business, and about your needs, and how the two might meet. And we're not talkers.

I must say, though, other than their normal "business curiosity" – they’re in this business to make money, right?! – they are not too bad. They don’t require you to sign anything, at any time. Some of them might offer a drawing for home d├ęcor or other home services, but they are not forcing anyone to sign up – which is pretty nice.

But then, there is the painter guy who makes all the art and murals in the house. And the stay-at-home mom jewelry maker, and the Blazer scooter salesman, and … the trust fund guy – all waiting for you to exit through the garage and while you’re helplessly and embarrassingly and disgustedly peeling off your booties, they jump on your back like a flock of hungry vultures – even with nothing but dirty looks at times - making you feel even smaller than wearing the booties does and answer their lame questions about when was the last time you thought of a will or a trust fund?! I guess they make money at this – but, again: seriously?! Is that a place to “hit people up” for stuff like that?! Credit card offers are next, I am sure!

As for the other visitors, they are usually polite and courteous. Except for the high maintenance wife who insists on yelling out how cheap everything looks compared to her own house, while she snaps shots with her Iphone and sends them over to her rich husband, on business in Shanghai, I am sure. Or except for the parents who think the open house is a new playground that just opened for their 5 kids, and who are letting them behave likewise … But then … they never offer lessons in behaving in public at these joints, so what are you going to do?! All are welcome, and as we know: “all” is a pretty wide range.

Overall, it’s a fun experience. Educational, in many ways, enlightening in more of others, and never boring – by any stretch of the imagination. If you think it’s boring, just ask my husband for the cure: open a cupboard or a closet, and you’ll find a reason for a chuckle. Almost always!

We were so shocked that someone had the guts to display this at the entrance. We had to emigrate to Salt Lake County for this, but ... it was a treat!

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