HGTV and Me: Love it or Leave it?

Growing up with a father who designs houses for a living meant we spent a lot of weekends at home shows and touring open houses on Sundays and parading through homes. When I was in elementary school, he designed for a national company and worked in an office located in the local model home. My sister and I would spend the occasional teacher work day or minor sick day playing house in a life-sized version. The home we moved into when I was in the fourth grade was one of the neighborhood’s older homes while new houses were being built on the neighboring street and a pack of us kids would explore the home sites as they went from foundations to frame outs until they finally had doors and we were effectively, and literally, shut out. By high school, dad had struck out on his own and his office was in our home. After school, I’d typically pull up a chair to the drafting table and see what he was working on, occasionally offering input or pointing out what I loved and, very rarely, hated, about what the client wanted. Watching his work go from paper to completed home has always been fascinating and a process I love.

Now, decades later, I still love perusing an open house, flipping through Architectural Digest in a waiting room or watching HGTV. It was with some amount of pride that the 8 year old seems to share my obsession with homes. We’ll look up random houses for sale on Zillow with ridiculous parameters in different parts of the country or try to guess which house the couple will pick on House Hunters or wait for the big renovation reveal on Property Brothers, Rehab Addict or Treehouse Masters (on Animal Planet). But the boys seem to be taking it with a spoonful of envy lately. They’ll see a sparkling kitchen or a swimming pool in a large backyard or a huge fireplace and say, “Ooooo, I want that in our house!”

We live in a small ranch home. And living in Atlanta provides opportunities for house envy around every turn. I began to wonder lately, though, if instead of inspiring house pride with these types of programs, I was creating an opportunity for comparison and our house was falling short.

Yes. A new kitchen would not just be nice, but more efficient. Giving each boy their own bedroom would make bedtime less stressful those nights they decide constructing elaborate race tracks and block structures is more beneficial than sleep in their shared bedroom. A guest room would certainly be well used and loved for our out of town family instead of sleeping in the playroom. A master bathroom would be a revelation. But I actually take immense pride in how we do use our available space, in how we can accommodate four family members and our varied interests in our home. I always know where the boys are and what they are up to (with two boys, it’s imperative to have an eye and ear on what is happening in the silences so you don’t wind up with your stock of TP completely used up in wrapping each other up as mummies). We are masters at creatively using space and finding storage. Instead of the boys retreating to opposite ends of a larger home when they get on each other’s nerves, we’re forced outside, reinvigorating our bodies and attitudes. All pluses to our smaller home.

Recently, while watching one of these renovation programs, B wistfully wished for a “house with stairs” (i.e., a second story) and the gourmet chef’s kitchen. I snuggled him into me and told him we already had the perfect house because it had something that no other house in the world had. He was intrigued.

“Really, mommy? What?”

“You. Your brother. Your dad. Me. And that’s what makes our house perfect.”

No renovation budget or demolition needed.

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