Friday, August 11, 2006

On Being Inoffensive

I've just finished reading a great book on writing, by Sol Stein. His last chapter talks about the writer as shill, the one who will write inoffensive pap in order to put food on the table, or in my case to pay the orthodontic bills so that my kids will have a perfect, even set of choppers.

This leads to what I write in order to pay said doc. I write decorating stories about model homes and model suites -- those lovely little airless vignettes intended to dictate to the consumer what an interior should look like. The mantra should read like a William Morris anti-statement: I will have nothing interesting, unusual, beautiful or even remotely functional in my home.

After a year and a half of writing this mindless drivel, I can tell you pretty much that 90% of these builders don't know what it's like to live in the real world. And, incidentally, most of them are men.

You can't imagine how many pictures I get of "lovely" furniture (for the most part, cheap offshore construction, dark stain on particle board with a plastic varnish to give it the durability that will withstand the abuse the public can give out.) If you can unglue your eyes from the arresting decor for a moment, though, you'll notice all the flaws. Like electrical outlets in places they have no business being, and several of them clustered together. These little white squares are jarring on an expanse of builder beige or taupe.

Layouts: formal front living and dining rooms pay lip service to the name and function of these spaces. In reality, they look more like doctor's waiting rooms, uncomfortably crammed into the small space beside the door.

Corridors, Scarlet O'Hara staircases, double height ceilings with no sense of proportion or scale, eat up a goodly portion of these monstrous homes, so that if you parse it down to room sizes, it's clear that these subdivision homes have precious little more room than a standard three-bedroom semi in the heart of the city.

OK, that's enough for now. I will continue my rant anon.


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