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Have you taken the video virtual tour of this year’s HGTV Dream Home? Every year, it triggers the question “If I win, would I leave Minnesota and my family and friends and move in?” I was on the fence about last year’s remote Utah lodge, but this year my answer is “heck, yes.”
All it took was a photo of the tropical wood front porch furnished with charming woven chairs to make me fantasize about living in the “coastal cottage” on Kiawah Island, only 20 miles from Charleston, S. Carolina. The marshland surroundings and nearby Atlantic Ocean give it a “walking on the beach with Nick Nolte in Prince of Tides” kind of feeling.
The house is just my style - old-fashioned beachhouse-cottage architectural details on the outside and a clean-lined modern aesthetic on the inside. My to-die-for space is the second floor loft awash in a “tidal blue” color palette and suspended above the great room. And on hot and steamy evening, I’ll sip a cocktail on the back porch surrounded by southern palmetto trees and an Infinity Plunge Pool that’s lit up at night.
The builder/designer thought of every amenity for Southern comfort -- the structure can even withstand hurricanes. That’s a relief.
I'm going to enter twice a day at www.hgtv.com and www.frontdoor.com until the Feb. 15 deadline to win the completely furnished home – plus $500,000 and a GMC SUV to sweeten the pot. Eight-one million dreamers entered last year.
What do you think of this year’s charming potential life-changer on the S. Carolina coast?
Photo provided by HGTV.
I spent Sunday night with my 22-year-old daughter, watching the Golden Globes. She stuck around long enough to see Lena Dunham and "Girls" pick up awards, then headed home to her apartment in Uptown, where her roommate and the "Girls" season 2 premiere were waiting.
Like the characters on "Girls," my daughter doesn't make a lot of money and can barely afford her rent. Her apartment is nothing glamorous, but it's in the heart of Uptown. That makes it perfect in her eyes.
It's also a magnet for her friends and their friends, which is both good and bad. Everyone wants to hang out there, which is fun at happy hour but kind of a drag at 1 a.m. when random acquaintances want to crash on her couch rather than pay for a cab.
Hearing her stories -- and watching "Girls" -- reminds me of my own early 20s, and the "perfect" and not-so-perfect places I called home during those dramatic years.
There was the duplex in Prospect Park, the one I shared with my two best friends from college. I couldn't afford a car, or even much food, but at least I got skinny.
Then there was the duplex in Seward that I shared with two other friends and an army of mice. (Couldn't wait to get out of that one!)
My first solo apartment, at age 24, was actually in a senior citizens' apartment complex, where my comings and goings were closely monitored by self-appointed surrogate grandparents.
Finally, at 25, I found my "perfect" home -- a freshly renovated century-old house with a built-in buffet, pocket doors and a fireplace. It was still a rental, but a palace compared to my previous dwellings.
A decade later, I was a young mom, and the perfect home became one with a good school district and a cul-de-sac full of little playmates for my kids. But now that my kids are young adults, I'd like to unload my too-big house, leave the 'burbs and find a perfect little house back in the city.
No doubt, my daughter's definition of the perfect home will continue to morph as well. I think she'll remain an urban dweller for years to come, but maybe she'll tire of Uptown's constant bustle and sky-high rents. Or maybe, as her career -- and hopefully her paycheck -- grows, she'll be able to afford a slightly more spacious and stylish apartment.
The cash-strapped girls on "Girls" can only dream of the apartment inhabited by Charlie, Marnie's ex-boyfriend, who used his architectural and handyman skills to put a distinctive spin on his space. ("'Girls' has a breakout star: Charlie's apartment")
A blogger at Houzz has even imagined the homes the "Girls" girls will create once they grow into their own style -- and have the cash to express it. (http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2518280/list/Screen-Style-Forecast--When-the--Girls--Grow-Up)
What's your idea of the "perfect" home? And how has it changed over the years?
Our front entry got an instant upgrade last week. That's because I finally ditched our beat-up old console table and replaced it with a new one that I picked up at a bargain price because it was a floor sample, too imperfect to sell for full retail.
It's got a couple dings on it, but it's still way better than the one we had, with a finish that had cracked and peeled away in strips, as though a giant had raked his fingernails across it.
But the old table quickly found a new home -- in the apartment of our 22-year-old daughter. She and her roommate were as happy to get it as I'd been happy to get rid of it. When the roomie carried it inside, a guy who helped her maneuver it through the door even commented that it was "a nice piece."
Really? It had looked nice enough when I bought it, about 25 years ago, when we were newlyweds. But it was so cheap at the time, and so damaged and dated looking now, that I never considered it an heirloom. Still, it's real solid wood, which is more than can be said for a lot of new furniture today.
Our daughter wants to strip and refinish it, to get rid of the scratches and give it a more stylish espresso color. I explained the process to her, what she'd need and how to do it. When I said goodbye to her, my eye fell on the two little accent tables that I'd refinished myself when I was her age. They were somebody's cast-offs, bought for a buck each at a garage sale. Yet they still have a place in my family room, and they still look good.
There's an awful lot of good-looking used furniture out there. My daughter and her roommate have beem pleasantly surprised by the offerings at local consignment stores and thrift shops. A couple years ago, I toured a new Parade home (pictured above) that had been completely furnished with secondhand stuff from the warehouse of Bridging, a program that helps families in need set up households.
If you have used furniture that you'd like to find a new home for, there are lots of options. Bridging (www.bridging.org) is one; it accepts "quality gently used furniture." The Hope Chest (www.hopechest.us), a foundation that helps breast-cancer patients and their families, also accepts "upscale" furniture donations for sale in its consignment shops. The Arc, a nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities, accepts "select furniture with manager approval" at its Value Village thrift stores (www.arcsvaluevillage.org).
What do you do with furniture that's past its prime or no longer useful to you? Do you refinish or reupholster it? Sell it? Donate it? Or hand it down to your kids?
In furniture years -- which are a lot like dog years -- our sofa is a very old lady.
She just turned 20, and she's definitely showing her age. Her cherry legs are still shapely but scuffed and scarred. Her upholstery is dull and faded, so worn by wear that it's torn in a couple of places.
When I ordered her, direct from the manufacturer in South Carolina, the rep assured me of her longevity. "You'll be tired of that fabric long before it wears out," he said of the high-grade tapestry I'd chosen.
That turned out not to be true. I still love the fabric, but two kids and three dogs have definitely taken their toll. I'd even consider reupholstering in the SAME, EXACT pattern -- if it was still available, which it's not.
The frame is in perfectly good condition. Its style is old-fashioned -- with a high curved back and rolled arms -- but it was old-fashioned even 20 years ago, so I tell myself it's timeless.
I hadn't realized how tattered and shabby she was looking -- until our 22-year-old daughter, who's now furnishing her first grown-up apartment, discreetly suggested that it was time for us to put the sofa out of its misery.
My husband and I tend to treat furniture like cars, i.e. we run them into the ground and replace them only when absolutely necessary. But I guess 20 is awfully old for a sofa. A few years ago, in 2006, the average life expectancy for a "good-quality sofa," according to a survey of prospective furniture buyers, was 7.8 years, down from 12.1 years in 1996 and 14.2 years in 1985. I found those stats while researching a story about the trend away from heirloom furniture and toward "disposible" pieces.
That trend probably slowed during the recession, when few people could afford to replace dated yet still functional furniture. But there's no denying that more people today consider furniture a short-term style statement rather than a long-term investment.
How long do you think a sofa should last? And how long do you typically hang on to yours?
I'm a sucker for exotic homes. Like this one, a Moorish-in-Minnesota fantasy inspired by the Alhambra, a medieval palace in Spain.
I'd kill to live in a house like this. But first I'd have to get divorced. My husband's taste is a lot more mainstream. He likes four-square Colonials with sensible white walls. The few times we've come across a truly unusual and beautiful home that we could actually afford, he's always managed to resist its charms and magnify its quirks. The three houses we've owned together have all been compromises.
Yes, I know -- compromise is part of marriage. But every married person has their little fantasies. Not just about the perfect partner but about the perfect home we could create if we didn't have to take someone else's taste and habits into account.
I know I'm not alone. My fellow Homegirl Kim Ode blogged yesterday about "Second chance" decorating. Huff Post blogger Liz O'Donnell wrote last month about "Divorce houses." These are "the houses married women imagine moving into when we fantasize about what life would be like if we lived alone and could decorate without compromise." Her fantasies run to antiques and feminine colors -- with no baseball bobbleheads and sports trophies!
When I'm not fantasizing about Moorish castles or George Clooney's estate on Lake Como, I sometimes fantasize about a duplex. That way, my husband and I could enjoy each other's company without having to "enjoy" each other's decorating and housekeeping.
What's your "divorce house" fantasy? And, guys, don't be shy. We know you have your fantasy homes, too.
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