Soooo, to go back to Crunchy Cons, which I read earlier this summer, in addition to his words on materialism, I was struck by Dreher’s meditations on homey homes. In the passage below, he reminisces about a friend’s genteelly crumbling old plantation house:
“Aside from the generosity of its mistress, what people respond to in Weyanoke is the deep feeling of homeyness it conveys. To be there, even as a stranger, is to know that this weary but big-shouldered country house under a canopy of live oaks is the kind of house we secretly long for: a shelter that harmonized perfectly with its natural environment, and is as beautiful and therefore pleasing to be in as it useful.”
He goes on to outline parameters on his ideal house, and I was pleased to find, as the friend who’d loaned me the book had pointed out, that ours qualified. We sneak under Dreher’s age requirement (pre-1945) by about five years; we have the sort of Craftsman house he lauds. In short, he describes, “the kind of place a hobbit would be tickled to call his own” — and I dare to think our little Cottontail Cottage with its cheery green front door qualifies.
What I liked best about Dreher’s ideal was that it didn’t just glorify the sort of lucked-up ancestral luxury home he first describes in Weyanoke. Of his own house, he says, “What’s compelling about this is to learn that the little house we’d fallen for was standard lower-middle-class housing a century ago. It stood as a plainspoken rebuke to the idea I had growing up that loveliness and grace are architectural qualities only well-off homeowners can aspire to.”
I decided to think of the places I stayed on this last trip around the South, and here were their qualities, from most to least importance to me as a guest:
- Relaxed atmosphere. I don’t know how to turn this into a single-word attribute. Imperfection? Homeyness, as Dreher calls it? The feeling that you won’t immediately break anything in the house, and if you do, it’s no big deal.
- Thoughtfulness. Someone had really put thought and effort into considering what a visitor might need. This could be the WiFi password on the wall, an extra blanket squirreled away.
- Doors!! It kind of doesn’t matter where we are stowed away as long as we get a little bit of quiet time alone. We stayed five to a room in one friend’s apartment guest room and stretched out over three rooms in a friend’s spacious house — which incidentally is more space than we occupy at home. But you’ve already heard me talk closed floor plans to death.
- Elegance. This kind of didn’t matter at all in our day-to-day life, but it was a treat, as long as it didn’t make us afraid we’d break something. But I loved my sister-in-law’s regal old wood floors and my childhood friend’s huge windows, letting in the morning sun, and the airy master bathroom of our beach house.
Plainspoken and lovely seem like goals worth aspiring to; beautiful and useful seem like qualities to establish a house around.