Overlook Porch, 2013
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I’ve always found it a little strange to rent someone else’s house. It’s a vicarious adventure, whether you look at it just from the standpoint of living in a different setting than you normally live, or from the standpoint of living among the furnishings of someone else’s life.
The Mid-Atlantic oceanfront is dotted with houses built and furnished just for the rental market. They tend to be conspicuously impersonal, with furnishings designed for durability rather than comfort, and so universal in their features that anyone who rents will know how to use the dishwasher.
We’ve rented places like this through the years and I’ve always found them a little too impersonal and uncomfortable for my taste. More and more they’re being designed for people who prefer air conditioning to fresh air, indoor/outdoor swimming pools to the ocean that’s just steps away and for people who simply must have home theater systems and media rooms. There’s nothing wrong with these features, of course. They’re just wasted on me. I place a high priority on a good book, a comfortable chair and a screened porch where there’s a good breeze.
Side Table, 2013
To find this you frequently have to find a rental that is actually someone’s home. The house we’ve rented in New England in recent years belongs to a friend who only lives there during the cold months when she can’t cruise the coast in her yacht. I know she removes a lot of personal items from her house when it’s rented. But the basic furnishings and art are what’s there year-round. So it’s like visiting Margaret, only without Margaret being there.
A week ago we were in a rental house in the Catskill Mountains that belongs to a well-known photographer of rock musicians. It’s a comfortable house, very much a family house with furnishings that reflect the owners’ tastes and the needs of their young children. There’s even a little screened porch with a settee just long enough for me to stretch out on and read if I don’t mind my feet hanging over the end. Like any good rental, there are notes from the owners that include instructions for things that you might need help figuring out and requests—like please don’t wear shoes in the bedroom that has white carpet—that you’re happy to accommodate in return for staying in someone’s personal retreat.
There aren't a lot of clues in the house to the owner's vocation. There's an absolutely primo record collection, however, including many first pressings autographed by the artists themselves. We never did figure out, though, why there’s a little jar in the bathroom containing a pickled baby shark.
The Kitchen View, 2013