And I'm not talking the NASA kind of space...sorry, Rachel.
Here at Chez Barbieri, we are fans of two shows that air on our beloved HGTV: House Hunters International and House Hunters, the domestic version. They air, conveniently, every night after dinner, and we hunker down together to see different houses and their inhabitants.
The concept of each show is deceptively simple but fascinating: a person or couple is interested in moving, buying for the first time, or investing in a vacation property and are shown three possibilities. We, the viewers, are given a tour of each house just like the person or people on the show and are told what it costs. We then make a decision based on the information we’re given, and in this family, turn it into a game where we guess what the prospective buyer(s) will end up with. Ultimately, we are voyeurs, looking into the lives of the people who own the property and the prospective new owners. At the end of the show, the choice of the buyer(s) is revealed and we see what decorating touches are put on the new abode.
I am happy to say that I am almost always right in my guess as to which house or apartment will be picked. Patrick comes in at a close second, leading me to believe that the kid has a knack for real estate.
House Hunters International airs first. In this edition of the show, buyers are usually looking abroad: a British couple looking for a pied-a-terre in Paris, say, or an ex-pat American looking for a home in Scotland due to a transfer. What is astounding to me about the international version is how little people want or expect from their home. They are more interested in the particular appointments or fittings in the abode, like a beautifully tiled, river-rocked shower, or a gorgeous bay window overlooking the Seine, or maybe a lovely “garden” (aka back yard) where the children can frolic in the Provencale sun. There is no talk of “stainless steel applicances” or “three-car garages” or “square footage” like there is on the American version of the show. People are concerned with “granite countertops” or the size of the master bedroom suite. They are certainly not concerned with Jacuzzi tubs that spray water at you from all angles or the pool or the hot tub that may or may not fit in the back yard. All they are really concerned about is basic comfort and beauty, not the size of anything.
It’s interesting to watch the two shows back to back because they truly contrast the way we look at how we live here and abroad. It’s evident from watching the two shows that many Americans are concerned with size and lavishness with basic creature comforts taking a back seat. Perhaps many people think that size and comfort go hand in hand, but after watching people in Europe search for the perfect living situation, it appears to me that they do not. I’ve watched as European couples stand for several minutes eyeing beautiful and delectable olives that hang outside a rustic kitchen window, whereas in the domestic version of the show, you might see this very same tree removed to make room for a larger patio or a “water feature” beside the in-ground pool. The large garage, with space to store items that probably will go unused until the next move as well as several cars, is essential to many of the home buyers. And each child needs their own room, obviously, whereas in the overseas version, we see people sharing small spaces in order to live in great, picturesque neighborhoods or bucolic idylls.
I always say that my own house would be perfect if we had one detached garage space, another shower, and an office for me that had a door (and wasn’t housed in a cramped attic space that has become the repository for all unwanted family items). Four of us live in fifteen hundred square feet and share one shower and two toilets. Whenever the kids complain about waiting their turn to get into the bathroom, I remind them that we’re living the “European way” and to quit their belly aching. We’re close to the village, we can walk everywhere, and our neighbors always know if something suspicious is going on. There’s something to be said for that, right? Who needs a Jacuzzi when you have all that?
I’m interested to hear from our Stiletto faithful—how do you live and do you think you need more space? Could you do with less? What are the most important aspects of your home, those that make you feel great about your space? Let us know.