Friday, November 13, 2015

Is This My Idiom?

 I've had a moment of clarity after years of subscribing to magazines of house porn -- you know, Architectural Digest, HG, Veranda, House Beautiful and the like.

It started innocently enough with a subscription to Country Living many years ago. I loved looking at pictures of pretty rooms and some of the ideas were interesting and achievable.

It was the beginning of a slippery slope as I succumbed to the lure of higher end house magazines -- houses and gardens that would never be in my reach. 

"I'm just looking," I told myself. It was a nice diversion from hoeing the garden, milking the cow, dealing with the dirt engendered  by life on a farm, life with kids and cows and dogs and cats.

A cup of coffee made indulgent with heated milk and a little sugar and I could stretch out on the sofa with my feet up and enjoy perusing those monthly little treats. 

Sometimes I'd get an idea -- pomanders -- I can do that! And have. A mirror wreathed in bay leaves -- or are those eucalyptus? I have a bay tree -- that would be doable -- but paper white narcissi -- no way. They'd wilt. 

I had pretty much quit subscribing to these magazines when they began to send me imploring letters and cut rate subscription offers -- so, just for old times' sake I gave in.  And yesterday I was leafing through the glossy pages (of which over half are glossy ads) of a nameless publication when I saw this:

And I realized, yes, it is. And not in a good or reasonable way like that rich chocolate cake or the Eggs Benedict we had for breakfast on our anniversary, but really truly decadence. 

Like a watch paved with diamonds -- a watch that suggests rather than tells time. (Anyone who could afford this watch doubtless has no need to be punctual. She has people to do that for her.) 

Or a custom built kitchen range. In my years of following trends in magazine kitchens, I've seen that as people seem to cook less and less, their kitchens get more and more elaborate.  A restaurant range is almost standard -- so in order to be really decadent, one can go for this beauty-- if you have to ask what it costs, you can't afford it.

Somehow, the innocent indulgence of ogling a lifestyle that will never be mine -- and moreover, a lifestyle I wouldn't choose, even should the Money Fairy drop millions of dollars into my lap -- somehow the indulgence no longer seems innocent but silly.

I mean, can you imagine the mess our dogs would make of all that white upholstery?



Thérèse said...

So much fun to read your post today. I gave in too years ago till we moved then it was easier to say no even if I was saying yes in my head. I wonder where does the "culinary" piano comes from?

Ms. A said...

Yeah, that stuff is way out of my league and lifestyle... but I do like that stove. That stove would suit my kids and their love for cooking.

Anvilcloud said...

I once heard the phrase, conspicuous consumption.

Barbara Rogers said...

I think I prefer periodic personal indulgence. But the pursuit of beauty is in my bones too.

katy gilmore said...

I have a huge sweet spot in my memory for House Beautiful. A long time ago now I subscribed, and I'd share with my friend Carol - so many cups of tea drunk and pages flipped, while kids ate after school snacks. I'm sorry to hear the new ones are full of impossible decadence - as opposed to a cup of tea and peaceful children decadence. And I did used to love the little essays about Thornhill Farm - Dee Hardie - I think those essays were hugely influential for me, to know you could write about home and family in such an engaging way. I really liked Dominique Browning's essays also. Now I am curious. Maybe you've sold a subscription Vicki!

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for a good laugh. I really can imagine the dogs on that furniture. I've never been much into those magazines except for Southern Living. The OLD Southern Living which was ever so much better than it is now. I love Our State which is more my style than House Beautiful.

BeBe the Mechanic's Wife said...

I agree with you! I visit the parade of homes in Gainesville and see these beautiful kitchen that no one cooks in...they are just for clean you know they don't cook! But they are beautiful, I just would rather cook in mine.

Carolyn said...

Oh, I can relate! I've always been a magazinaholic for shelter magazines, as the industry calls them. It started innocently enough with Country Living and House Beautiful and some others that are now defunct when I started setting up house. I spent most of my career days working in housing and interior design, so I had an excuse. My last fifteen years working in high end furniture retail before the great recession did it in honed my taste for well designed and well made furnishings, which I could never afford for myself except in small bits with my discount. Still, I poured over the glossy magazines and clipped and filed extensively, as if someday I could afford such a lifestyle (while married to a school teacher). I do love design. But now that we're retired and I'm older and more realistic, I know that none of those dream houses will ever be mine. I need to tweak my cabin kitchen and add storage, but those kitchens in magazines are bigger than our whole first floor, so there's not much I can relate to. No, I will never have a La Cornue range or a $2,000 sink. More and more it just seems ridiculous. I have let several subscriptions lapse (even when I'm tempted to renew for $5!) and just last week cancelled House Beautiful, which I've received forever, because the features hardly ever appeal to me anymore. Is it just my imagination or are the magazines covering more and more expensive high end housing and design - way out of reach of most Americans - than they used to? (Or maybe those that do are the few left.) Catering to the one percenters? Seems like I remember the days when you would still see Formica countertops in featured kitchens - 'horrors'! I still get Country Living and Southern Living, and only renewed the latter when they reduced the price way down to lure me back. I still miss Cottage Living, which was my favorite. So, now I lurk on blogs and Pinterest to get my fix, and I'm still prone to treating myself to an outing at Barnes & Noble and scanning the decorating magazines. The British ones are my favorite because the Brits still hold onto things and have mastered the lived-in look. But I find my needs are small and I no longer sigh with envy, except maybe over a quaint English cottage surrounded by gardens and countryside.

Vicki Lane said...

Carolyn -- I got a couple of the English magazine for a while -- really, they were my favorites. So gorgeous -- but the prices were even worse.

Unknown said...

I enjoy these magazines and their online descendants on sites like Houzz and Pinterest, But what fascinates me is not the luxury level but rather the design. Good design doesn't have to be expensive. You can look at a well designed room full of ludicrously expensive furniture and objects and develop your own visual sense of how to put together your own more humble items in a pleasing and harmonious way. And there are some amazing furniture and accessory designs done with inexpensive materials like cardboard, plastic and plain lightbulbs on wires, and some of these find their way into very expensive spaces. But yes, some of the stuff in the magazines and their ads are really over the top and worthy of some eye-rolling.

Vicki Lane said...

Absolutely, Vicki vV. They were inspiration for me for many years. But somehow, in today's world, all that over-the-top luxury has just become off-putting to me. The beautiful design is still there.