Came across this article, “Behold a Four-Day Design Miracle in Noe Valley” (San Francisco) in the local lifestyle mag, 7x7SF. The piece chronicles a – yes – four day furnishing of a house in an increasingly swanky part of San Francisco (beloved of the newly minted Technorati Wealthy).
And it reminded me of all that AltLuxe is NOT.
According to the article, the owners, after some fits and starts, got sick of the process of decorating their home. They were leaving town for four days, and they hired designer Ian Stallings to complete the project in that time. He interviewed them to find out what they liked and cared about, and then executed beautifully, right down to a fully-outfitted cabinet of curiosities. There are quirky flourishes (e.g. a massive statue of a Sumo wrestler) and a sprinkling of cool little vintage pieces, and tons of personality.
Quite wonderful, no matter the timeline. For a four-day makeover, it’s actually pretty phenomenal, even by the standards of the insta-makeover shows on the likes of HGTV, BBCAmerica, and Bravo. It’s not that there is anything really “wrong” with the design, not by a long shot. And I’m sure the owners are lovely people, time-pressed and just fed up with the design process. (We’ve all been there.)
But what’s been created is a hotel suite, not a home. And in fact, if someone wanted an insta-home I would suggest that they book a long term stay in a hotel suite and if they absolutely must make a real estate investment, the purchase of an investment property.
I can’t imagine that this house will ever feel like home. I can’t believe that it could ever bring the pleasure that a home you’ve made for yourself could bring. I suppose it could be a bit like an arranged marriage, where one falls in love with ones arranged-for spouse, after time. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
This is definitely luxe, but not indie luxe, not AltLuxe. This is not about mindful pleasure. This is not about taking time, being thoughtful, being expressive of who you are. This is not about soul, or living better. There will be little history, little essence in the objects arranged around them, and the house will mean less.
There is nothing wrong with hiring a decorator to help with design: that is luxurious, and might qualify – if done in the right spirit – as something that is AltLuxe. Really good designers don’t just create great spaces, but also lead their clients on a journey of self-discovery, pushing them gently to open up their hearts and minds to new adventures, looks, perspectives on who they are and could be. Cabinets of curiosities (a lovely, lovely idea) are created together, or over time. Art is selected because it speaks to who the client is, not just because it fills a little space. Environments go on to create enduring (even growing) pleasure for the eye, the heart, and the soul, opening up the possibilities for deeper happiness, greater joy.
The right environment – and in particular, the home – is essential to pleasure, and to joy. Four-day makeovers are entertainment, not real life. Kudos again to the designer, but boy, this kind of thing isn’t pleasure. In fact, it makes me rather sad.
All images via 7×7.