Other people’s houses

When we go on vacation we nearly always stay in other people’s apartments and cabins. Hotels serve their purpose for a night or two on weekends or in in-between places (and we’ve managed to rack up some points to stay in some neat ones). But for longer stays, it’s cheaper, sometimes more comfortable, and easier on the gut to stay in other’s living quarters. I can’t take eating out for more than one meal a day, or too many days in a row, even in places with my favorite cuisines – I need home cooking on a regular basis and I like exploring  new markets (or we bring our own groceries if it’s remote and/or slim pickings for good stuff).

I like staying in places that feel homey but don’t seem too much like someone else’s home – strong smells, dog hair on the sofa, stained linens, funky (stinky) plastic dishware, too many personal effects, and condiments of dubious quality still in the fridge are turn-offs. But on the other hand, places decked out in all new things that all match, bought brand new in either “wal-fart for cabin” or “swedish store Euro-chic” seem too sterile.  But I suppose I do prefer the sterile, even with resin bears and thin wobbly dressers, to cabinets with tubes of butt cream, half-smoked joints in the bowl on the living room table, and 73 photos of very sticky germ-ridden grand kids on too many unlaundered sticky doilies… And no matter what, I always spend way too much time thinking how I’d tweak any place a bit – from cleaning out the moldy caulk and rubber tub daisies, to painting a cheap wooden chair so it doesn’t blend in so much with the wooden walls…

And I’m a bit conflicted with the act of owning a second property – granted, it’s fine if it’s well-used by extended family and renters I suppose, but it leads to over-building, destroying habitats, and the production and disposal of more cheap crap (not to mention my contempt for the rich, but that’s another category since they usually don’t share or rent their homes to others)…

But we’ve yet to hit the jackpot for meeting all of my hopes – clean, not moldy, not very cluttered, but stocked full of (not sticky) puzzles and games and take one/leave one paperback, decent mattresses, a nice place to read or knit with adequate lighting, and a kitchen with a pot large enough to boil pasta and a corkscrew. So we pack along as much as these things as possible when trying out someplace new.

The cabin we’ve stayed at a few times now in the White Mountains doesn’t really meet many of those things either, but it’s got something a bit more rare – history and honest frugality. Now, that isn’t surprising for New England, but for rentals, they are elusive qualities. The place dates only to the 1960s or 70s, but is full of a generation’s or two earlier cast-off furniture and books.

I love this particular dresser – the quarter-sawn oak veneer is still in excellent condition, but the handles are a lively mismatch of whatever was on hand. Too many of us (myself included at times) would just go down to the big-box and buy six matching replacements when it is totally unnecessary.

NH-dresser

The bathroom wallpaper initially made me a bit twitchy, but I’ve grown fond of it and it’s in really great condition – the room could be brightened up a little with some accent paint in that cheery orange…

NH-wallpaper

And the curtains were perhaps bought new via an advertisement in Yankee magazine from the early 70s – I love that both still live in the cabin, though I’d certainly wash the curtains because they probably never have been… And both the magazine and one of the popular style trends was in the “ye olde” variety for that time period, it also dates to the beginnings of me and makes me feel ye olde and crumbling and yellowed and low-tech too…

NH-curtains

And there is a small settee awkwardly shoved in a corner that was probably semi-banished when a bigger new sofa went in a couple of years ago, but they still kept it – it’s in fine shape with a delightful bird pattern – I’d be tempted to get rid of the big new sofa and use it instead… (but the new sofa is damn comfy).

NH-textiles

 I wish there existed many more old but perfectly good (not smelly or sticky) things in our lives and weren’t so quick to toss them… though I don’t have that much of a love for bobbles…

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Filed under collecting, home, home decor, recycling, travel

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