09 November 2007

Houston House and Home

What is this doing in my den? I usually don't show old home movies on Monday mornings!

Who are these people and why are they studying a computer in my kitchen?

And now, they are eating - don't they know I don't entertain except for my two family holidays - Hanukkah and Father's Day????



The story of these pictures is this: A short while ago, the editor of Houston's oldest shelter magazine, Houston House and Home stumbled upon my blog while googling different Houston interior designers. Linda Barth, the editor, lurked on my blog for awhile and then emailed unsuspecting me one day. Would I, she politely asked, allow her to come invade me privacy and the sanctity of my home, to determine if her magazine would be interested in plastering pictures of my house all over the Houston area? Would I? My first inclination was to say no and I had many reasons why, with which I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Linda not to photograph my house. My reasons against: my house is too small, it's not a new Mac Mansion, there aren't a lot rooms to shoot, I'm too shy, I don't seek out publicity, you won't like it, the floors need refinishing, I'm in the middle of updating the hardware, and on and on. The editor lady was unmoved by my excuses: we like small houses she claimed! This cat and mouse game went on all week, until finally I reluctantly relented and Ms. Barth arrived for the scouting shoot. The next day, she emailed me to say that her committee did indeed want to feature my home in the next issue and probably wanted to put my guest room on the cover. My guest room? OMG, you've got to be kidding me! You mean the room with the silk headboard that has a huge grease stain front and center from my husband's hair? That guest room? They must be nuts, I muttered to myself.


So, the good news, I suppose, was that I had been accepted by some "committee," the bad news was I had exactly one week to get my home "photo ready." I was totally overwhelmed by this news, but my family was ecstatic and promised to help me clean it up, which I knew would be a lie (it was.) There was so much to do to get my house "photo ready" - two words I would come to loathe. The list of rooms that couldn't be photographed was growing: my office is such a disaster even I hate to go in there, my daughter's room is a typical teenage mess, the kitchen, with it's outdated appliances, has new pewter hardware clashing with the brass plumbing fixtures which are awaiting their turn to be replaced. This same problem affected all the bathrooms. My decorating crises didn't leave too many rooms "photo ready"so I had to get the rest of my house in tip top shape and fast. Like most people whom I sure don't have "photo ready" rooms, my house is filled with the clutter of everyday life: piles and piles of unopened junk mail, back issues of unread magazines stashed everywhere, an overcrowded garage -- not that they would want to photograph my garage, but after the grease-stained headboard cover story, who knew? In other words, my to-do list was very, very long, so long that I dreamed of calling the magazine to cancel. My suddenly publicity hungry husband threatened me with divorce if I did. And so, I proceeded on to d-day.


In order to make it "photo ready" I did major spring cleaning in the fall. I moved my televisions, phones, radios and anything with a vile electrical cord into the garage. Bookshelves which have remained the same for years were rearranged. Stylish vignettes magically appeared out of scattered nick-nacks. In short, every inch of my house was cleaned, arranged, polished, dusted, or painted in order to become the dreaded "photo-ready." God forbid Houstonians see my house and how we live with any degree of realism. At a mad, frantic pace, I stuffed my already overloaded garage with the flotsam and jetsam of every day living. Baskets of throws and magazines were banished there, along with computers and work files and anything else that wasn't "designer." My guest room got a HGTV instant redo with the help of Restoration Hardware, my daughter was forced to hang up her clothes, I had a bench and chair slipcovered overnight in Chappell Hill via a series of stealth maneuvers that the Army would envy. I had my workroom rush a pillow order for the den, only to loathe them on sight. Thankfully Daniel at Area provided the backups I needed. With all this work going on, I didn't sleep much that week. And there was more. My "regulars" disappointed me: the window washers managed to clean the outside of the panes, but vanished before doing the inside. My gardener promised to bring me fresh annuals for the patio, only to show up the day after the shoot laden with a gorgeous array of fall flowers. I moved around every accessory I owned and discovered such dust that even my housekeeper was disgusted. And finally when I announced I would be kenneling my two dogs for the big day, I was told: No, don't, we LOVE dogs! How true I would find this to be.


In the end, the dreaded Monday came and went, and I found I actually enjoyed the experience. For instance, the crew was professional but fun. Milo, the red headed Croatian photographer was the sweetest, kindest man whom I plan to use in the future. The art director was hysterically funny and put me at ease when he promised to "vertically" stretch my photograph to melt away my extra pounds. The editor, Linda, who's fault this all was, could not have been nicer. She was supportive and complimentary to a fault, all the while orchestrating the shoot efficiently and with much grace.


All that was left to do now, was to wait for the magazine to come out. It was a fast shoot and I was lucky the wait wouldn't be long. In the interim, Linda emailed me my quotes to verify, which absolutely horrified me: did I really say THAT? How pompous, how obnoxious! She asked me to go over the photo's captions and together we came up with a short list of resources. I learned so much more than I expected to from the process, about photography and wide angle lenses (the key to great design photos) and I learned that maybe I was not quite as shy as I thought. Yesterday, the magazine finally arrived on the stands. I was waiting in line at the bagel shop when I spied its cover - a picture of two darling dogs on the cover of the new Houston House and Garden. My dogs! They looked so adorable - their coloring even matched the decor - but I knew how tortured they had been that day, asked to perform and do things they've never been asked to do before. Looking at the cover picture though (the guest room didn't make the cut), all I saw, and all anyone will see, are the two most beautiful dogs in the world sitting in a "photo ready," just-OK decorated den and that's OK with me!


To see the entire article online, click here. If you would like a copy of the magazine, email me your mailing address and I'll get one out to you. Hey, this is my one and only shot at fame, and I'm pretty excited about it!

The Cover Shot!