So I follow Apartment Therapy, which I have rather a love hate relationship with, and yesterday I logged on to facebook and saw a familiar looking picture. I realized that a before/after I submitted over a year ago was featured.
I wrote about this transformation in an earlier post. See below:
My first thought was wow I didn’t expect that. One of the reasons I say I have a love hate relationship is because often the house tours, before and afters, and product plugs seem to be elitist. Professionally decorated houses, rich folks, contracted before & afters, expensive product recommendations. When I first started reading Apartment Therapy it didn’t seem that way, so lately I have become disenchanted, feeling like my efforts would never measure up and their articles just no longer appealing to my demographic of do it yourselfers. It felt like Etsy turned Restoration Hardware, you know?
The comments sections have also grown a lot over the years with expanding readership. And this was my second thought after realizing my project was being featured: Oh great now people will be judging my bookcase instead of seeing a clever use for a old bar area. And sure enough this was correct. The internet is a funny place, it’s no secret that our society is obsessed with critiquing and the power of getting to comment on anything and everything. We put a high value in our opinions, what we might have just thought or said to ourselves we can now say to the world with a few clicks. And lets be honest you don’t start a blog or have something like Apartment Therapy and not expect comments and people expressing their own opinions. We love to hear ourselves talk and we love to see our comments on the screen.
Now I have thick skin, as the editor of an online journal I have been called all sorts of things. Reject a poets poem and watch out. Working in education a favorite quote of mine is: “the battles are so bitter because the stakes are so small.” Which was originally said by Kissinger, or Neustadt, or Sayre depending on who you ask. Write an article and be prepared to have your character, education, intelligence, spelling ability, and the attractiveness of your author photo judged. It’s the nature of putting yourself out there on the web, it has to be accepted for better or worse. But this experience definitely taught me a few things about Apartment Therapy in general and about my own approach to that site.
First I submitted this piece over a year ago and assumed they could care less. Also they naturally edited my submission. Suddenly my retired dad who is good at carpentry became a retired carpenter. A lot of readers picked up on that and used it to really blast the piece, how could a carpenter not provide better cabinet doors blah blah. AP edits what you sent, which makes sense, so it was an honest mistake I am sure. They also took the comment about me having a lot of books and ran with that. You had the typical mine is bigger than yours people crawling out of the woodwork. While I do have a lot of books, boxes in fact, I am not one to have messy bookcases, I neatly arrange the books I want displayed or want accessible and anything left goes in boxes in the closet or even in storage if I don’t think I will need them anytime soon. I also have more than one bookcase.
You cannot get a feel for an entire project based on a few sentences and a few photos. And funny enough people will read things in the comments section and mistake them for facts in the article.
For instance, one person assumed my condo was a rental, that snowballed into lectures on getting approval and landlords, and inspection practices in Canada… The approval process where I live in California was, Me: “Lauren as owner can I get rid of this unsightly bar and replaces it with something I will actually use and like?” Me: “Why yes Lauren do whatever you want, just mind your budget and don’t make it a pain in the ass for dad or he might not want to help you anymore” Not a renter, nor does Apartment Therapy ever state I am. In fact, my complex doesn’t really allow renters, they do but the owners must own the property over a year before they can rent it, which means few people buy units for rental purposes.
The write up also mentions we used the existing wiring to create display lights, however I chose to keep the lights off in the picture because they are bright and it was washing out those shelves. Naturally no one read this so the helpful suggestions of adding lights were put forth.
I am not a huge commenter on the site, I am usually too lazy to login, but I too cringe when I see character destroyed. Painted decorative woodwork makes angels lose their wings. Making a craftsman modern is stupid. And sometimes painting old furniture is not a good thing, you could ruin a possibly valuable piece. But sometimes it is. The blasphemy of painting a piece of classic furniture, might have been the only way to save it and keep it being a useful piece. I can sit there and say oh you should have kept those drawers, when maybe they were rotted? Maybe they were beyond saving? You can’t always tell the shape of a piece based on a picture.
There was nothing wrong with the cabinet doors on my bar, they were just ugly and dried out, a coat of white paint and suddenly they don’t look so bad. You have something perfectly good just a bit unsightly or out of fashion, rehab it. Recycle if you will.
A lot of people said they liked the before better than my after, which I found hilarious. But once again, they are looking at one photo. They couldn’t feel the plastic faux marble counter top that was there. The one that had been obviously cleaned for years with a product not meant to be used on it, which had eaten away at the smooth finish leaving a dry and nasty feeling surface. Or the wood which hadn’t been refinished, let alone pledged or liquid golded in more than a decade. With it’s dry, dark finish. And we aren’t talking like old classic wood work, we are talking cheap 1970s contractor fabrications. They aren’t particle board, but we’re not talking too much higher on the food chain. Of course a lot of those people probably didn’t mean it, it was just their attempts to be cynical.
I don’t drink so a bar area served me no purpose, also this area is now my office, so keeping it a bar wouldn’t really make sense, having storage though… Of course, I could have dropped a sink in there, which someone helpfully suggested– regardless that there isn’t any plumbing any where near that area or the fact that the kitchen sick is a stones throw from this bookcase. The area is really large so either way it would have looked empty regardless of how I decorated it, a few whiskey bottles (decorative since I can’t drink them) would have been dwarfed. Mirrors… well I am trying to get away from 70s grandma not embrace it. Though perhaps a really large statue would have done the trick. Maybe a full size nude … I’ll look into that.
A picture is not always worth a 1000 words. The after picture admittedly makes the shelves look larger and the books look smaller than they are, and admittedly the books are kind of small. I would like to put larger books in that area but at the time it was my only display area and I wanted to display my favorite books. You also can’t tell that I needed room above my stereo because it has a cradle for my iphone. Maybe having my stereo out is “tacky” but I have no other place to put it and guess what it’s the stereo I own, it’s nothing fancy but it’s mine and I don’t feel like buying another one. And I integrated it into the design to hide cables and make it more presentable. I know more space could have been achieved for books, but my purpose was not to maximize book storage capability it was to create a nice area that could be used for display. Resale is important, and I wanted to create something that would be versatile for other owners. This area is technically the old dining area, I don’t use it as that but someone else might. And maybe they will add extra shelves, maybe they will put a cute bar set in one cubby. Maybe Maybe…
But my purpose here is not to defend my choices, they are my choices, they were made for a reason, and in the end I am the one living with them in the condo I own. So really what needs defending? My purpose is to reexamine how we look at design sites like Apartment Therapy. How we judge these projects and house tours. We are seeing a small slice of the bigger picture, that has been translated to us through a second party (Apartment Therapy’s editors and writers). We can only see so much in the photos and we cannot speak to the owners decisions or situation. Who are we to decide what someone should or should not do with their own home? Apartment Therapy is not a site to critique design, but to share design. Share projects and ideas. Get inspiration. I know that I will look at posts differently now, I will be more conscious of the fact that I can’t understand everything about a project as I am not involved in it.
In other news my guest bathroom is almost done! Basically just have to install a toilet now. But my dad is getting ready to leave for Cuba next week… funny my last bathroom got delayed due to travel as well.