Rants and Wisdom
One of my favorite quotes originates with Oscar Wilde and goes something like this: We “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
In my world, I often hear homeowners speak of the “value” of their home and how much money they dare put “into” it, this poor piggy bank of a structure. It’s as if some homeowners want to monetized home life into a simple equation of number of square feet times cost per square foot, purchase price and average neighborhood sale price.
But what about the experiences of life that are part of every day in a home?
In a recent article in Fast Company magazine, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, talked about this issue of acquiring things versus experiences:
“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
As an architect, it would appear that I am in the business of “stuff.” Homes, for some, are investments only, places to put their things, and places to accrue more and more things. It can also simply be a ‘pretty box’ to be purchased and then sold at a profit. Yet I would respond that the home is the penultimate experience. How do you put a price tag on the experience of a wonderful view, a softly lit kitchen, a balanced and proportional room, a warm and cozy satisfying home that feels inviting and not overwhelming?
This is a very hard concept to explain. Lord knows I’ve tried. I constantly try to educate clients that this structure we’re designing will be a home, the place of life experiences, the backdrop to stories you will tell, the place where family and friends will gather. I believe that a well designed home is full of everyday delights, like having just the right thing in just the perfect place and the perfect ‘space.’ Done right, a home is like a little bit of vacation every day.
Just as your vacation has a cost, these delights may and likely do have a monetary cost. However, in my opinion, they are ‘pearls beyond price.’ Thoughtful investment in the experience of a home is a different (and I would argue, better) choice than investing in just more house, just more rooms, just more stuff, and just more decoration, simply for the sake of having them, rather than a better experience.
Agreed, the experience of living in a just right home is not skydiving or traveling the canals of Venice, but in my opinion every day in a well designed home is indeed part of the very sweet life experiences of which Dr. Gilovich speaks.