Living Rich the Wrong Way: Nate’s Dream House on Oprah

I recently watched a disturbingly warm and fuzzy Oprah show. One of Oprah’s cohorts, Nate Berkus, had been directed to take a schlocky tract house in Seattle and turn it into a “dream home” for an admittedly lovely family. Were they deserving of such largess? I don’t know. I’m guessing Habitat for Humanity chooses the recipients of their good works without so much concern about how camera-friendly they might be.

Nate worked his magic with a lot of help from Pottery Barn and funding by several corporate sponsors. (Can you say “product placement”?) And it was magical.

Ooh, Ahh. No question. The results were spectacular! The modest 1,400-square-foot house had been gutted and pretty much rebuilt from the ground up. A second floor – a snazzy master suite – was added, doubling the living space. And the kids got their very own playhouse in the backyard. Brand-new furniture. Brand-new, top-of-the line appliances. Nate even had a buddy fly in from Australia to completely re-do the landscaping.

And Nate did it all in 15 days. (With no mention made of how many people were on his building and design “team.” You can imagine.)

The family was dazzled. And I’m sure most of Oprah’s viewers were as well. But I was appalled.

Is this a home?

In these pages, Michael Masterson has said, “I have lived in a mud hut in Africa and a 5,000-square-foot mansion – and I can tell you this: The quality of a home has very little to do with how much it costs or how big it is. Think about the houses you most admire. They are probably NOT huge and flashy.”

Michael went on to say, “One of my favorites is a modest three-bedroom in Cleveland which has been transformed by the lady who owns it into a luxurious museum of her love of travel, dance, and learning. Every room is a gem. I am completely comfortable and endlessly amused in this rich and interesting home.”

Isn’t that what you want your home to be? A sanctuary made up of things you put together yourself. Choose. Collect. Oprah/Nate’s presentation was beautiful – but so impersonal.

You don’t want to feel like a guest in your home, you want to feel like it’s yours.

How are you making that happen? How are you building your dream house?