From Where I Sit – House Lust

The National Post has been excerpting Daniel McGinn’s House Lust. In the three parts I’ve seen, he touches on a broad range of topics I find endlessly fascinating.

According to the book, ?real estate falls into the category of intimate things??topics like roles and relationships you discuss with close friends. Preoccupation with all things real estate is a growing concern when it manifests itself in a ?voyeuristic hobby.? Constantly checking out real estate websites and watching hours of HGTV are a couple of indicators. I don’t do the online surfing but I definitely love the myriad home improvement, real estate, staging, and property flipping shows.

Who hasn’t succumbed to the urge to translate that concentrated focus on design to a trip to the hardware store? Who isn’t carrying paint and fabric swatches? Who doesn’t know about crown mouldings and coping saws?

The excerpt points out that housing is no longer merely shelter or a status symbol or an investment, but has become an obsession for many of us. ?Finding someone who doesn’t know the square footage of her house is like finding a Playboy centrefold who doesn’t know her bust size,” writes McGinn.

Everyone wants the wow factor that accompanies the two-storey ceilings, granite countertops, travertine tiles, walk-in closets, Jacuzzi tubs, multiple fireplaces and bathrooms.

Home sizes have gone the way of serving portions (super-sized), or clothing sizes (distorted). At only 1,120 square feet, our 1960 house is minute. For our day-to-day living It’s obviously adequate for two adults. For larger groups or entertaining, think sardine can.

It is our home and we are grateful for it but that doesn’t stop us from updating and tweaking it every so often. The old-fashioned layout and lack of support for today’s technology don’t really make it user-friendly.

McGinn’s book looks beneath the superficial at the sociological implications of today’s monster homes. It seems personal technology (iPods, computers, TVs, gaming systems) has more to do with causing isolation than large square footage does. Families still tend to congregate around the flat surface of a dining table or kitchen counter regardless of house size.

A British design show features a tagging system. Family members wear electronic devices that time where and for how long they use the various rooms in their homes. Sometimes the results are staggeringly lopsided, with a handful of minutes spent in one room versus hours and hours in another. It also tracks isolation. Of course, the resulting design remedies all that.

Last night I spent some time with family viewing condos for sale in Edmonton. The staging shows are right. We focus on the personal details of someone else’s life. Together, the bright red bedroom-cum-weight room, leopard-print duvet and Trailer Park Boys poster in the master, monster black leather sectional and flat screen, and cereal boxes stored above the cupboards all spell bachelor pad.

Seeing how others live is great, from where I sit.