Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bob Vila Is A Dreamboat.

A few weeks ago I read a biography of Grace Kelly.

SPOILER ALERT: she marries a prince and dies in a car accident. 

I enjoyed it so much I downloaded an audiobook about her and listened to it over the last few days while I gardened and tended to my house drudgery.

SPOILER ALERT: this book ALSO ends with her death. It also includes her marrying a prince.

Then because I had Monaco on the brain I watched the film Monte Carlo on netflix. It was very cute and there's a cameo by Catherine Tate.

SPOILER ALERT: no one dies in a car accident, nor marries a prince BUT all three main characters learn about being true to themselves. 

Other than immersing myself in facts about Monte Carlo -- for example, the citizens of Monaco are called Monegasques -- I've been reading books and magazines about kitchen renovations.

I hesitate to call our DIY plans "renovations." It would be more accurate to say we are "fixing broken and/or ugly shit in our kitchen." This list includes, but is not limited to:

1. replacing the deck railing around the stairwell,
2. removing the faux tile back splash,
3. removing the linoleum covered by the faux tile back splash,
4. buying new counter top,
5. replacing the bottom cabinets so the new counter top is parallel to the floor, and
6. installing a built-in dishwasher so cats no longer lose their toys under the portable dishwasher then sit next to the dishwasher looking pathetic(er).

Once upon a time I loved decorating and renovating. I even applied to a college program on interior design. Part of the application process was to audit a day of classes. In the first session the students were finishing up their term project: designing a restaurant. This involved creating sketches and blueprints for the the dining room and kitchen and choosing and designing uniforms for all staff, menu items, and the menu all around a central theme.  Most of the students spent the fifty-minute class colouring. COLOURING! Or rather: rendering the colour palette for their restaurants. But I remembered doing a similar project in grade 5 French class when we did a unit on food. This made me justifiably dubious about the program's value. I went home, made a few calls and tracked down five people who'd graduated from the program. Only one was working in anything even remotely related to the program: in the paint department at a Home Depot. I withdrew my application.

My home decor interest persisted for years afterward and I spent far too many hours watching HGTV and TLC and reading design magazines. The death knell for my interest came while watching an episode of Trading Spaces. I loved that show. Frank was my favourite designer. I hated Hilde. I was on the fence about Vern and Doug. I was pretty sure Genevieve spent far too much time sitting next to the paint thinner at Ty's workstation.

At the reveal the homeowner was nonplussed. Pushed by Paige for details, he admitted to liking the design, but said he'd be moving the tv back to it's original position.  Because the hookups for his satellite dish were on the original wall, and there were no power outlets anywhere close to the tv's new position. The penny dropped. Access to electric outlets determines where ALL my furniture goes. In magazine spreads appliances are seldom plugged in because designers are not concerned about practicalities LIKE ELECTRICITY! Wires are UGLY! Let's not use them!

I never watched another episode of Trading Spaces. Though the damage was already done: my house had a deep red accent wall and the living room was painted olive green.

I've become increasingly skeptical about the design and decorating industry. It's an exercise in frustration to read a design magazine (ie Canadian House & Home) that month after month trumpets only high-end products and lavish lifestyles that no middle class family can obtain without accruing substantial debt. Designers and publishers appear oblivious to the economic downturn. The housing market is too soft to justify lavish upgrades to houses as "investments."  Image should not trump practicalities (ie, front loading washers look nice but they stink up your house and your clothes). The rise and demise of trends -- especially expensive trends -- makes me roll my eyes and I find myself coveting white cabinets. White floors. White walls even.

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Here's my prediction: granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances are going to quickly fall from favour in manner of my mom's avocado refrigerator from 1977.


  1. Monte Carlo IS a cute movie! I happen to own it, due to the eight-year old girl who lives here. :-) She would probably say that SHE owns it.

    I may need to read that biography, I've always been fascinated by Grace Kelly. I checked out the movie Young Victoria from the library yesterday and am planning to watch it on this rainy afternoon. With some hot tea and a fake accent in my head of course. I read the book last summer, but don't remember ever watching the movie. But I think I did. So maybe I'm rewatching it, who knows.

    I dream of a few kitchen updates, but everything works and so I can't seem to justify it. I sure do hope your stainless steel prediction comes true before I crack to the pressure. We happen to have perfectly fine white (gasp) appliances.

  2. We toyed with the idea of renovating our kitchen a few years ago, but my husband works in commercial real estate so the thought of spending a ton of money at a time when the market was going downhill on greased rails was something I just couldn't do. Frankly, though the final nail in the coffin was the realization that my kitchen counters and table and island are constantly covered with crap. I try to keep up - put things away, exhort the kids to get their crap off of there, be more organized - none of it works. Could not justify spending thousands on a beautiful new kitchen that would also be covered in crap such that people could hardly tell we had a new kitchen. Have decided that people in design magazines either don't have children or have a staff dedicated to removing crap from surfaces. Bah.

  3. Home renovation just depresses me because we can't afford any of it. Not even fixing the broken things.

    But I had similar thoughts about the fashion industry this week when someone declared Anchorage the "Worst Dressed City" in the US. For wearing bulky clothing. Right.

  4. I'm intrigued, are front-loading washing machines not the norm over there? I've never seen a top-loading machine anywhere other than in a commercial laundry, and even in laundrettes they're usually front-loading here. Weird.

  5. I have had similar thoughts about granite countertops. I keep expecting them to go out of style.

    When we moved to Morocco, people kept getting it confused with Monaco. This still mystifies me. I mean, Americans are justifiably famous for bad geography skills, but really? Morocco is PRETTY well known, one would have thought.

  6. Monegasques? Weird. Although I guess 'Moneco-ites' was too - coital? I never understood Haligonians or Glaswegians either. And I hate design shows. Everybody seems so fake and shallow. Although I think I'd be a decent decorator for people who don't have as much crap as I do. I snorted out loud at 'deep red accent wall'.

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  8. I stopped watching trading spaces when I read about the shoddy job they did on people's rooms that they then had to re-fix. Made me mad.

    I now only watch shows about finding houses in places I will never live.