Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big house, little house

Last month I went to a party at a mansion: high ceilings, full bar, personal gym, screening room, pool, you name it. One of my friends (not the owner) was showing me around and at the end of the tour, turned to me and said, "Is it wrong that I want this?" That question really struck me. It lingered for days in fact, perhaps because of my childhood.

When I was a kid, I wanted one of two things, to either live in one of the tiniest places possible (I had fantasies about living in this vacant Fotomat booth in our grocery store parking lot) or live in a mansion. There was no in-between. Coming from a regular (albeit, charming) middle class, two story home, I wanted to experience something different.

As it turned out, wish #1 came true. I live in a place slightly larger than a Fotomat booth, smaller than my childhood home, but no where near mansion size. And you know what? I love it.

And so, when my friend posed this question, "Is it wrong that I want this?" it made me wonder, what if things had turned out differently, what if I'd gotten the mansion instead of the townhouse? To my surprise, the mansion suddenly felt like the lesser of the two options. And believe me, it had nothing to do with the house where the party was hosted, which was hands-down gorgeous, but when picturing myself as the owner, here's what came to mind...
  • Containment: With a gym, pool, bar and cinema, I would never have a reason to leave the house. And one of my great joys in life is leaving the house. I love chance encounters, sharing spaces, and allowing little diversions to add adventure to my plans.
  • Cleaning: Big houses take longer to clean. I guess if you own a mansion, you hire someone. For me, cleaning is meditative. A weekly rite that takes exactly one blissful, soul searching, hour.
  • Things: Lots of space means lots of things, and I only like to own a few things. In fact, I'm constantly plotting ways to get rid of things.
  • Empty rooms: Mansions have more rooms than people. Even in my parents' house, having more rooms than people kind of freaked me out. I can't sleep thinking about all those vacant spaces.
Fate put me in the right house. And in these lean economic times, I'm grateful to have small tastes. The world outside our doors is so big. It kind of makes you wonder why so much attention is put on houses in the first place. We no more own these dusty walls than a tree owns soil or a bee owns air.


  1. I can't believe you found a pic of the Rosendale Fotomat booth. Either it's not there any more or I am so much a product of this area, I don't even see it anymore. I love your thoughts, especially while I sit in my small house. XOXO Em

  2. Yeah, finding the Rosendale Fotomat booth totally made my day. That picture was the first thing that came up on a search for "Fotomat booth". Small world, I guess. Love your thoughts, too :-) Hope to catch up soon!

  3. Simple living, few possessions...that's the way to go. Of course, I say this as Jeremy plots a way to pick up a free pool table from across town...well, at least it's free. And when we move, we can give it away again. It's the circle of mooch!

  4. Well, recycling a pool table is a wonderful thing to do!

  5. Hi Katie: What a charming post! I too have always been delighted by tiny spaces. There is something kind of fairy-tale about living in a space that could be a walk-in closet in some of these larger homes. Living in a house that's as embracing as a hug is the only way to fly.

  6. Hi Katie!! I love this blog! I'm with you. I love to purge. There is something so cathartic about throwing things away. I think it's because on some level you realize there isn't much you "need". Anything (person, relationship, etc..) you truly need will create a space of its own.

  7. Martha, I love your comparison of small places to an embracing hug. So true.

    Natalie, you're so right about important things creating a space of their own. Lovely thought.