Sunday, May 3, 2009

Showcase house of the male/female divide

Interior decoration has never been one of my interests, probably due to a genetic deficiency I have, called "gender." Chicks dig it, though.

For proof, just sit and watch the droves of well-groomed ladies pouring off the shuttle buses at the Pasadena Showcase House.

This celebration of state-of-the-art interior design, held at a different spectacular mansion each spring, boasts a women-to-men visitor ratio, based on my unscientific observations, of about 100 to 1, and the one is inevitably a septuagenarian in a salmon-colored golf shirt.

Or me.

Women invariably tour the house in pairs, because dishing the dirt over a designer's choices with a man is basically a monologue. That is because women and men see interior design differently; women see infinite possibilities, while men see a very long summer kissing drywall. But I agreed to attend with my wife out of a morbid curiosity over what the new "black" is.

Plus, Brownie Points never hurt when you are thinking about buying a new car.

You enter the mansion through something called a "port cochere" ("costly porch"). Before entering, however, since nature was calling, I was glad the event planners had also placed a row of "port au potties" off to the side of the house.

Each room in the manse has been completely re-imagined and decorated by different designers, some of whom stand amidst their creation to answer questions, and are very proud of their work.

Therefore, based on my personal experience, I do not recommend phrasing your question like this: "So what's up with the big ball of moss?" It might be taken as mockery, when intended as good-natured ribbing, which some artistes apparently just don't "get."

"Concept" is the main idea of interior design, I know, but please do not tell me that it is necessary to stifle a heartfelt giggle when I see, in a tiny bathroom, a chandelier hanging over a toilet. I'm sorry. That is just funny.

I am clearly a bad audience for "concept," and I blame my parents for not endowing me with ovaries.

The breakfast room had lovely china plates mounted to the walls just below the ceiling, to give a clue to anyone with any doubt about what a dining room is for. This made me curious, though, just what I would find hot-glued to the bedroom walls.

Outside I came across a little bonsai tree inside a bird cage, but there was no one to explain, so I was left to assume it symbolized man's enslavement of nature. Or a love of quiet pets.

The sun room ceiling appeared to be paneled with tan fur of some kind, which was striking, but made me feel a bit like I was inside a pony. The library's most intriguing feature was the stack of books in its fireplace. I have to admit I do this too, when I run out of shelf space, except I doubt if the designers ever light theirs.

In the laundry room, sitting atop the giant, gleaming dryer were four petite vases, each with a tiny orchid, a nice touch, but I have to say that has so been done to death on my dryer at home.

As I left the mansion, the only other man at the place, Mr. Salmon Shirt, caught my eye pleadingly, as his wife led him into the big-decorative-arts-shop-under-a-tent in the garden. I looked away. There are some things a man should never watch another man endure.