The literary salon is an ongoing project. Well, I call it the literary salon. It’s a corner of the front room at Casa Petersen where I keep my rolltop desk, several bookshelves, a fancy little desktop globe and a standing 1920s radio.
I cannot call it my man cave because it holds neither power tools nor a foosball table. I am, I like to tell myself, a man of letters. As such, I require a salon.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to create a salon. I feel like I’m aiming for “professorial Victorian raconteur” but landing nearer to “star of a particularly memorable episode of an HGTV show with a name like Extreme Clutter.” I’m no designer. Designers might be able to make repurposed fruit crates into a delightfully creative bookcase; I look like somebody who owns a lot of books for a fruit picker.
But of course, most people aren’t designers. In this issue, we take a look at designers, architects, stylish buildings – basically, the pros who make things happen and the sorts of places they make happen. If I had any sense, I’d make use of some of the advice in this issue. I’d call a professional, point them towards my salon/corner, and say “fill that with writerly Victorian whimsy, please.” But I soldier on, alone and unadvised. For this, I blame the design shows.
Much like the cooking shows that try to convince us that any goober with an Ikea kitchen can crank out a Michelin-worthy bisque, HGTV shows can lure you into a false confidence about how you can just swan into a secondhand shop and swan out with all the delightful little pieces that, with some elbow grease and a bit of paint, can turn your house into something that goes on Instagram with the hashtags #cute and #blessed. The worst for this is Fixer Upper.
You’ve seen Fixer Upper. It’s the one with the adorable couple who married-flirt with each other while turning some horrific former central Texas meth lab into the most adorable house you’ve ever seen. This show is cruel, for several reasons.
First of all it’s in Waco, Texas, where land is basically free and every house seems to be roughly the size of a minor-league ballpark. In every show, Adorable Couple takes Gormless Texan of the Week on a tour of houses with price tags that South Floridians associate more with a week’s worth of storm insurance.
“$37.50?” Gormless Texan will say, then exhale sharply. “Well, we were going to splurge at Whataburger tonight but, what the heck, let’s buy a ranch!” Then comes the unrealistic part. While Adorable Husband does rugged things with drywall, Adorable Wife goes off to some store filled with old barnwood and kitschy signs. This time, you think – this time she’s met her match.
But the ending’s always the same. The house looks amazing, the new homeowners get misty-eyed and say it’s the best $37.50 they’ve ever spent, the married couple share a little hug or high-five.
It looks so easy, but that’s a lie. You – by which I mean “I” – need a professional.
So this is a call for help. If you’re a designer, come on over to Casa Petersen; I’ve got an exciting project for you to work on.
You will find me in my salon. Mind the fruit crates.