Interior Desecration Style, updated
While I read Lilek’s book, Interior Desecrations, a laugh-out-loud book if there ever was one, I kept having ugly-house-flashbacks.
The first house my husband and I bought was done in Early Mexican Restaurant style (at least the prior owners had mercifully removed the whiskey barrel furniture when they moved out — we declined their offer to sell it to us for a reasonable price), with the added bonus of buffalo plaid carpeting in the kitchen and den, and PINK bathroom walls. We bought it at a really good price. The house we live in now was the lowest priced house (for its size) in the Township, probably due to an overzealous (and pricey, I’m sure) interior designer who used 5 different shades of maroon in the living room, smurf-blue walls and Williamsburg-print curtains in the dining room, cheap paneling in the basement with equally cheap (and old) vinyl floor tile that imitated cheap brick, and brown background/small flower print wallpaper in TWO, count ’em, bedrooms. To spare the innocent I won’t describe the kitchen. The Husband and I both have spent some quality time ripping out carpeting, tiling a kitchen floor, and painting, painting. Had I known, I should have bought some Home Depot stock when it first was offered. As a result of all this home improving I have become inordinately fond of the many shades of white or beige wall paint available at the local paint stores. To me, a loud color is what you find at Restoration Hardware.
Lileks has obviously been there, done that.
When I sold houses I saw hundreds of houses afflicted with Interior Desecration Style. There are several types of such style, for the 1970s opened the floodgates to what was an unfortunate form of self-expression. Kleenex tissue box foil wallpaper in bathrooms, covering walls, doors and ceiling. Mario Buattaesque (some actually done by Mario himself) explosions of lace, ruffles, flower prints and color-related pastel plaids, accentuated with Staffordshire china dogs on the mantel. An entire foyer, stairway, and all doors covered in mirrors, fun-house style. Taos pastels used throughout an entire 8-room condo, where everything including the dish detergent matched (visitors’ clothes would inevitably clash, unless they wore the right shade of grey). Plaid, really plaid, dens (I leave the iniquity to you). An entire mansion (all fifteen rooms, except for the basement) decorated in small, pink, Laura Ashley prints. Psychodelicesque pop art in rooms with ruched fabric ceilings and bead curtains on the windows (well, maybe this was a 1960s retro style, not a 1970s leftover) — you could almost smell the bong and hear Grace Slick in the background. Moulin Rouge boudoirs. Personal quirks materialized in room after room.
Needless to say, those houses weren’t selling. Brave buyers with the time, energy and inclination to undo what has been wrongly done are few and far apart, and when they make an offer, they low-ball. That is the plain, unadorned, undecorated truth.
HGTV, A&E, and BBCA have come to the rescue. HGTV has Designed to Sell, where a young woman decorator brings in a team of people to repaint and redo. The decorator actually helps with some of the heavy work. Her budget is $2,000. A&E’s Sell This House has a young woman who paints and moves furniture and a male body builder decorator who doesn’t do heavy lifting, on a lower budget (well under $1,000), with the homeowners doing all the penance/work. BBCA’s House Doctor is an American decorator in the UK who removes all evidence of bad taste (of which there’s an abundance), for a budget of 1%-2% of the total listing price, but she brings in workers. The aim is to render the abodes into mostly neutral anonymity. Here’s what the three programs do
- Clean up, weed, and replant the yard. Remove all hazards, such as a lean-to that was about to collapse.
- Paint all walls in pale neutral colors, mostly shades of beige.
- Remove all old carpeting. If not feasible, have carpeting professionally cleaned.
- Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of all the furniture
- Send the pets on vacation
- Remove all family pictures and mementos. Remove all clutter
- Remove all noticeable patterns, such as wallpaper, curtains, etc.
- Clean the entire house until it shines.
There you have it. Express yourself all you want, but don’t expect people will buy it.
And I’d definitely give Lileks book as a present. Just be sure none of the people receiving it have been heavy-handed in their self-expression.
Update, Dec. 21. The flasbacks continue: I remembered this morning one of the worst, the brown plush (the stuff teddy bears are made of) covered bathroom walls. Darn.