It's August so it must be time for Denver's Parade of Homes again.
This year's Parade was held at a development called "Pradera."
Its tagline, according to the official program, is "Live where you belong." Which sounds pretty unapologetically classist to me. Might as well call it "Pradera: Priced to keep out the undesirables."
Just like last year,
we thought we'd be clever and start with the last house working backward. This also made more sense because the last house was at the very top of the hill, and who wouldn't rather work down rather than up a big hill? Unfortunately it seemed that a lot more people had the same idea this time, but what can you do? Apparently no one works on Monday mornings anymore.
The first one we saw was "Dolce Vita," a house that was the most remarkable because an accidental fire had burnt it to the ground just as it neared completion. The builders worked 24 hours a day for 79 days to rebuild it, finally finishing it a second time 15 minutes before the official judging began (or so the informational pamphlet claimed). For this reason we could forgive the fact that the basement wasn't finished and most of the doorknobs were a little loose. Being the result of such hard work and dedication it was indeed an architectural marvel, but didn't really make much of an impression on me. It swept most of the awards, but only in second place.
First place went to "Synthesis," a house devoted almost entirely to an Asian decor. My sister Nancy would have bought it the minute she stepped in the front door. It had lots of nice touches, like shoji screens on the windows and fountains and waterfalls almost everywhere you looked, not to mention a beautiful tear-shaped copper sink in one of the bathrooms. But the lines were a little too clean and the color themes a little too stark for MyFriendDeb's tastes. She put it best when she described it as "aggressively Asian." The only reason we could see that it was called "Synthesis" was because of a couple of art pieces in a bedroom that were aggressively African just to shake things up a bit, and glaringly out of place. The problem with the house, we decided, was that the decor was so uniformly and overwhelmingly Oriental that decorating or furnishing it with anything slightly more Occidental would be hopelessly at odds with the rest of the room. And our hodge-podge stuff, barely a step removed from a dorm room, simply wouldn't do at all.
Third place went to what I consider to be my dream house, "The Outlook." I'm kicking myself for forgetting my camera, but I LOVED this house. It was done in the Arts & Crafts style, which I adore. Mission furniture, oak, stained glass, that's what I'm talking about. It was one of the smaller homes at a paltry 6200 square feet, but that's what I liked about it. The rooms were cozy, warm and inviting, and didn't echo like the vast spaces of the fancier homes. They also felt like rooms you could live in, not just keep in suspended animation to show off for guests. The color theme was autumn leaves, all burnt reds, golds and browns, but brought to life with the generous use of primary-colored glass accents everywhere, like in the tile, or the risers of the staircase made of concrete embedded with glass blobs, or the artwork, or the stained glass windows. I really can't do it justice with words, WHY didn't I bring my camera?? The only pics I can find online are these: The wall outside the master bedroom
and A sink, which doesn't give you much of an idea what the rest of the house looks like.
Trust me, it was simply perfect. Tery liked it too, but in a sad commentary on how she views living spaces, her only remark was, "This is a house I feel like I can clean myself." At $1.8 million, we'll be making an offer on it about 4 lifetimes from now.
Not all the houses were impressive though, despite all having million-dollar-plus pricetags. The "Villa Della Viste" was decorated with horribly uncomfortable-looking French furniture and had an exceedingly silly name. The "La Chiripada," the only house that was sold when we looked at it, seemed nice enough but the floor plan was awkward and made very little sense. For instance, it boasted a detached building in the front yard that was set up as a free-standing office. Nice, except it had a clear view of the master bath and the lady of the house's spa tub, which itself also overlooked the driveway and front entrance of the house. Huh? There was a little girl's room directly off the kitchen, Tery explained for the stepchild that had to get up every morning and stoke the fire. The workout room was huge and consequently mostly empty, with a putting green and driving net stashed in the corner almost as an afterthought. Bleah. Behind the wet bar in the basement was a small room with an elaborate, wrought iron door with twisting vines around the bars. Can you guess what the room was? You don't have to, because it quite unnecessarily had a huge stylized sign above it declaring that this was the "Wine Cellar." It was downright insulting, I tell you. I joked about an improvised wheelchair ramp leading from the great room to the patio outside, a piece of plywood painted safety orange and thrown down, how it really didn't fit in at all with the granite in the kitchen. Hee! I went from room to room declaring my intense dislike of the house, and a passing old man agreed with me, "It's too dark!" he added. $2.2 mil for this, you must be mad! I would have viciously crossed it off my list even if it hadn't already (inexplicably) been sold.
But by far the absolute worst was unfortunately the last one, and therefore the one I remember the best (besides my darling "Outlook," that is). "The Aldwyn." You can tell from the name already that it's a real winner (I'm joking, you probably can't). The first thing you see when you enter this house is the formal dining room, a room which I consider practically useless in any house and hardly the first thing I want to come home to. But it gets worse. From there you entered the kitchen, a hideous work of design with 50's-esque tiles in a repeating retro (but not cool retro) ornament-shaped pattern, and "pre-distressed" farmhouse style cabinets. Ugh. Off to one side was the library with artwork depicting -- I kid you not -- the apostles exploring Christ's wounds. THAT has wide appeal. And nooks in the shelving with big, heavy devotional books propped open and illuminated with museum lamps. Creepy. Off the library was a bathroom with an embroidered poem, something about bad little boys and girls being attacked by "ghoulies" and ghosts and pray for Jesus to save you, children. Nice. Throughout the house were these huge, obtrusive wooden beams obviously designed to resemble a gothic cathedral
. Fuuuuuuugly. Over the stairway was a normal-sized window that was set 10 feet up the wall. I wouldn't have a problem with this except for the shroud-of-Turin-colored drapes flanking it that cascaded all the way down and pooled onto the floor. I'm sure when they were drawn closed it created the illusion of a massive window behind them, but opened as they were they just looked retarded. And I tripped on them. The house also had a 4-foot high room accessed by a 4-foot high hallway, clearly meant to be a kid playroom, as well as another room with a kiddie stage and a treehouse built in. If you ask me, this is two rooms too many to devote to only children. I also didn't care for the little girl's room that featured a small writing desk turned diagonally, CEO-style. The only other thing I clearly remember about the house was the master bath. It had a large, centrally placed tub like all the others, except this one looked like a person-sized vegetable sink,
perfectly rectangular except for a 5-degree slope on one side for luxurious reclining, because everyone knows that bathtubs with rounded, curvacious edges are nothing but an invitation to sin.
Gah. If I'm going to shell out $1.6 mil for a home, I'd like one that isn't so aggressively preachy. The whole house seemed to scream "FAMILY VALUES!" and "FAG, GO HOME!" (okay, that might have been a bit of paranoia on my part). I was gratified that the judges seemed to agree, as the house deservedly did not win a single award. Burn it to the ground, I say, and salt the earth. I hated it that much.
Some overall observations: I don't much care for the new trend of making all the bathrooms but the master these dark little rooms. And I don't understand the tendency to stick the commode into its own little hallway off the main room. Most of them feel like prisons, and like Tery said not even any room for a magazine rack or some reading material (don't laugh, if it weren't for this multitasking I wouldn't get any reading done at all these days).
Tery doesn't see any wisdom in putting what is obviously meant to be a teenager's room in the basement with its own door out to the back patio, for ease of sneaking in (or out) late at night. I agree.
Finally, while sitting on one of the four patios at the "Synthesis," I told Deb how hard it was for me to wrap my mind around the idea of people being able to afford these homes without having to work 24 hours a day. This is because I myself work two jobs just to be able to afford our measly $800-a-month mortgage. I just can't imagine buying a million dollar house and not worrying night and day about paying for it, no matter what my job was. You can take the girl out of the working class, but you can't take the working class out of the girl. Luckily, I don't foresee this being a problem in my lifetime.
My Crackwhore update really isn't terribly exciting. We STILL haven't heard the dogs since last Thurs night. It's as if they've evaporated into thin air. We don't know what she's doing to keep them quiet, or if they are even in the unit, but the silence is breathtaking. It makes me really, really, REALLY glad I didn't follow the Alcoholic down her path of vindictiveness. She did take the screen a step farther and cover the sides as well, taking the pressure off me of staying on top of the poop (so to speak). This also is an indescribable relief. Not to the Alcoholic of course, but she can at least drown her pain.
Finally, Kay. She couldn't wait to tell Tery a "really funny story" at work the other day. She's planning a trip to Africa to help build a hospital for the locals. During the final week they get to take a safari. Before you start admiring her selflessness, she told Tery about her father's pricelessly amusing reaction to the news, which was "Africa....isn't that country full of Negroes?" Oh, what a knee-slapper. Yes, Kay, racism is hi-LA-rious. Again, Tery didn't know what to say. If nothing else, I think it sheds some light on why Kay is as tactless as she is. Like father, like daughter. Like hell.