Wednesday, August 15, 2012

House Hunters International

House Hunters International

Despite a certain fellow’s embarrassing pronouncement that he found their state of preparedness “disconcerting”, the people of Great Britain once again lived up to their country's name by giving the world a truly great Olympic games. They all should be extraordinarily, rightfully, proud of their accomplishment. Even the weather cooperated, which is no small thing to control, I would well imagine.  Night after night, I surprised myself by watching sports that I didn’t even know existed and found them all to be excellent companions to knit with.  And let’s face it, these British games provided a colourful oasis in that mind-numbing desert that is television programming in summertime, an interminable stretch when our choices for even vaguely intelligent viewing options are decidedly thin on the ground.   Let’s see, we have the house full of edgy, unusual people all locked up together for a lengthy period of time, the essential entertainment being, I can only assume, the ever increasing anticipation of the inevitable day when one of them will finally experience some sort of psychotic break and run screaming, and hopefully naked, from the premises.  Or let’s see, we can watch those folks appearing on “So You Think You Can Dance”, only to rapidly discover that none of them actually can.  We can keep up with the Kardashians, a program that has the unique ability to humiliate both  “performers” and viewers alike.  Or we can always watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, a show that seems to be on somewhere every hour of every day which only serves to prove that everybody does indeed love the fellow, I guess. For myself, I am now waiting for Wallander, that morose and haunted Swedish detective played so wonderfully by Kenneth Branagh.  Adapted from the novels of Henning Mankell, these PBS productions are imminently watchable and a new season is due in the first weekend in September.  Till then, I shall have to content myself with House Hunters International, a program I simply cannot seem to resist, no matter the season.  

If you’ve never seen House Hunters International, the premise is simple.  Americans looking for holiday houses outside the US.  This gives us all exactly what we dream of - the chance to jump in the television alongside these intrepid souls and follow along, dragging our own dreams behind us.  For whom among us hasn’t fantasized about that golden stone villa in Tuscany?  The tall-windowed atelier in Paris?  The rose-covered Cumbrian cottage?  I know I have.  

  Most prospective buyers on this program seem inordinately concerned with the size and a few very specific attributes in the houses they seek.  In fact, I’ve often thought it would make an excellent drinking game if one took a shot of whisky each time one of them said “it’s too small” or “granite countertops”.  One would be drunk out of one's mind before the first commercial break.  But I hasten to say, I would make a horrible participant in this program.  The questions I would ask these poor realtors would seriously make them question their chosen professions, I have no doubt.  Homes, to me, are so much more than mere investments.  I am not particularly concerned about reselling or entertaining.  I couldn’t care less about a barbecue. I have no interest in impressing my friends and family with either the size or the grandeur of my abode.  What I’d want to know....
Are there enough bookcases?
Where would the Christmas tree go?
Is there a window where Edward and Apple can keep watch over the garden?
How does the light change when it snows?
Do all of the windows open?  Wide?
Are there owls that hoot in the trees at night?
Are there fir trees in the garden large enough for Christmas lights?
Do the windows sing when the wind is high?
And could I perhaps stay here alone for an hour or two, 
just to listen to the personality of the house?

When The Songwriter and I found our cottage, he was immediately sold on the old stone fireplace - rough grey rocks that touched the ceiling and promised many cozy fireside nights to come.  I myself was seduced by the trees - towering hardwoods that encircled the house like a necklace of green.  We wanted to know how the rain sounded on the roof of our bedroom.  Which windowpanes best captured the light of a setting autumn sun.  Upon moving in, we soon set about making this old house our own, infusing every single inch with parts of ourselves so that now, many years later, this house is as much as part of us as our ticking hearts.  With kitchen cabinets painted with replicas of Maxfield Parrish doorknockers, ceilings papered in Sanderson flowers and stars shining over the guest room bed, our cottage might be difficult to recreate elsewhere.  Difficult, but not impossible.  That’s why I keep watching House Hunters.  I just know there’s a quirky Scottish croft with my name on it.


No matter their size or their countertops, my favourite houses are always those in which the owners, be they celebrated or unknown, have made their homes  extensions of themselves.  One of the best examples of this type of home has to be Charleston, the Sussex farmhouse of Vanessa and Clive Bell.  Along with artist, and sometime lover, Duncan Grant, Vanessa created a unique home that one can still visit today.  The photograph below shows a corner of the sitting room.  My favourite book about Charleston, one I find I go to over and over again, was written by Vanessa’s son, Quentin.
 It is simply delightful.
Find it HERE.


  1. Hello Pamela

    I am saddened to see the end of the Olympics. I seldom watch TV and found myself nightly glued to the screen, cheering for athletes and sports unknown to me prior.

    We do not have cable so cannot watch house hunters.

    I do feel as you do about homes. I find the staged look unappealing and could never buy such a home. We treasure our antiques and memorabilia.

    Your house sounds unique and beautifully and lovingly appointed.

    Helen xx

  2. Pamela I cannot wait for PBS 's fall programing begins. I have read more than ever this summer while rehabbing.

    I always imagine your home and grounds to be a I would like to wake up to one day!

    Art by Karena
    2012 Artists Series featuring Harrison Howard

  3. Your summation of summer tv is high hilarity, and just reading that paragraph has given me more pleasure than anything I've seen in quite some time!
    Am giggling so, I haven't even gotten to the rest of it (the post) just yet.....

  4. love the Bloomsbury house and everything in it. house hunters can be pretty weird at times with people with a ton of money and no taste...guess i’m just one of those who want the quaint little cottage and not a McMansion with 8 bedrooms and granite countertops.

  5. I am so hooked on HHI. The thing that amazes me most, is the astronomical overseas prices. I watched one that was in Romania. Some are so tiny, I can't believe anyone would put up with that. I guess I am too spoiled with spaces.

  6. I wouldn't mind granite countertops, but that springs from my love of anything made of stone...and the thought of your stone fireplace leaves me weak in the knees.

  7. You post is so on target! I have a Tv in my bathroom for my winter evenings, when coming home usually exhausted, I relaxed in the tub and watch some TV (I can no longer try to read in the tub as i have too many times dropped my books in the water, half asleep)... but to get back to the point, in some of these dreary winter evenings I have watched this show...OMG, I totally agree with your comments, they are so superficial, who care about a granite counter top or "nice size bedroom", nice nice kitchen. Neither the realtors hosts nor the clients make really noteworthy comments. Yes I would dream of a house in Tuscany (I just re watched Stealing Beauty last night... a dream house).. best I look for it myself
    As for the Olympics, well done Britain!! I can't wait to go to london this winter.

  8. Dear Pamela,
    Charlston is such a lovely place to sister lives in Sussex, so it's close to our hearts. We don't get House Hunters here in the UK as yet but have many, many other programmes very similar and the prospective buyers all say the same thing..... 'light and airy' and 'en-suite' are particular favourites of mine ( not !!) and when they say that they are going to rip the beautiful cast iron or inglenook firepace out or replace the original sash windows with double glazing, I cannot tell you what I shout towards the television !!!!
    ...... and, I am extra proud to be British at the moment. I think that we presented the most wonderful Olympic Games and here's to the athletes, the games makers, the BBC coverage, London Transport and the wonderful spectators who not only cheered our own athletes on but cheered everyone else on as well. I don't think that there is another country that could have most of the sports held in historic venues. ....and then, the final day when the marathon was run through the streets of London, on a gloriously sunny day, past many of Londons iconic buildings, with a crowd of hundreds of thousands .... apparantly the biggest Olympic crowd for a marathon EVER !!!! I think that you can tell that I enjoyed the Olympics !! We now have the Paralympics to look forward to and, after that come the Autumn, we have some wonderful period and modern drama coming up, along with the new series of Downton Abbey. Look out for The Paradise ........ I'm sure that you will get it eventually. It hasn't started here yet but it looks good. Another period drama about a department store !! XXXX

  9. We have similar inane programmes here in Summer Pamela. As to one's house - or should I say home - it is such a personal thing. I have to put my stamp on wherever I live, take my treasures possessions with me and make sure that I like the view out of every window.

  10. We loved Wallander too, and highly recommend Unit One (it's Danish) if you can get it on video. This summer we're watching The Eagle (another Danish one). If you like the British version of Mankell's detective, I'm sure you'd like the original Swedish, which we loved.
    House Hunters International - it's the best comedy on HGTV. I love how they always seem to start 'Joe and Betty, of Dallas TX are looking for a holiday house in Costa Rica. With a budget of only 800K they need three bedrooms.....' Love it!

  11. I also surprised myself by watching more Olympic coverage than ever before. In fact it became quite addictive and I'm really missing it. My husband and I dream of quirky Scottish crofts too. Your home sounds wonderful, Pamela!

  12. Should I ever land in Merry Old England, I think Bloomsbury would be at the top of my list. Just divine.

    HHI has been marked off my watch list; it is sooooo staged as to be unbearable to watch.

  13. Gosh, you know more about British TV than I do! Must look for that Wallander programme. Your description of 'reality' (whose?) TV was a cracker! We get 'Location, Location, Location' and the like, more stuff about houses than I can bother with, but I agree that I would ask different questions than about 'granite worktops'. I ask you. These days I'd ask about size and aspect of the garden, south and west facingn windows, what period features it had and how near to a village and to public transport. Size is no longer the main issue...

  14. Charleston House has the same ornate richness of your blog, so I can see why you would like it. I am drawn to the very simple (you can see this in the look of my blog), but I enjoy seeing what you like.

  15. Pamela,
    I am always entertained when reading your posts. I agree, how do people watch some of the mindless programming, especially in the reality area of television shows? I have a few, well educated friends that confess to enjoying certain shows. We enjoy Wallander as well and love Masterpiece Theater, Mystery and some of the cable series. I thought this year's Olympics were the best, I'm not sure if that's because I have a soft spot in my heart for the U.K.
    On houses, as we've just celebrated 30 years in our cottage, I'm with you. My concern is more with comfort and cozy than grand and granite.

  16. The more I read your blog, the more I realize what kindred spirits we are. Yes! I admit to being a House Hunters International addict. Sometimes I get highly indignant with the buyers who pass up the most adorable croft for a new builder model with all the mod cons. (So why are they moving to that country in the first place?) I think the one that got me the most was the one - in Sweden or Norway, I believe - where the woman of the house just HAD to have a disposal. Really! So they ended up building their own house. And they were shown the most adorable cottage that I would have been falling all over the realtor asking where do I sign.

    I, too, who am not a sports fan except for college basketball (Go Heels!), watched the Olympics every night staying up until midnight most of them. Sheesh! Bravo to London for staging it all so wonderfully.

    And, I am eagerly awaiting the fall season of PBS.

    I have an abiding interest in the Bloomsbury group, and I've had that book on Charleston on my list since it came out. I may have to indulge since it's not at our public library (though I have way too many design books as it is). I still have a clipping from years and years ago from House Beautiful, I believe, when a young couple did up their darling 1920's Tudor Eclectic that had been in the family in the style of Charleston. It was very fresh and creative.

    I think your house sounds wonderful, and I was drawn to our house as well because of the huge hardwoods encircling us with green, and various 20's architectural features that newer houses just didn't have. We've been here almost 25 years. And it's in the same neighborhood my husband and I both grew up in. But I still dream of that enchanted cottage in an ancient and mystical land.

    I wonder what country HHI will be in tonight?

  17. Sometimes I dream of a nice house in Buckhead ! No French builders, electricians or plumbers .

  18. Yes, Wallender is great! Thoughtful and super.
    I fear that Househunters International is a bit bogus....though some of the houses are attractive.
    Yes, I think we would all like to move in to Charleston!
    I first saw it in 1972 when Duncan Grant was still alive.
    My tutor Quentin Bell took his art history students there.
    His daughter Virginia Nicholson has written three wonderful books that you would love. Available on Amazon.
    Much too hot in New York still!
    Buster sends greetings to Edward and Apple.

  19. Great post Pamela! Charleston, like Carl Larsson's Swedish home, became a canvas for creative people wishing to display their art in their personal environment. We are fortunate places like that still exist, and even moreso if we can actually visit and view them, as most of us are hesitant to paint exuberantly on our walls! How delightful to feel that free, and then be so talented and artistic to make the end product look so awesome!

    TV programming - mostly terrible. PBS is the only redeeming channel and I look forward to the new Wallender as I loved the first (available from Netflix), and of eventually Downton Abbey Series 3.

    I've seen some HHI programs but then gave up because a) they are so contrived and full of people with too much money to waste, and b) they repeat them over and over again, so boring. I rarely watch anything now on HGTV.

    I did see my dream holiday home - well actually I would live there all the time if possible - it isn't of course! In my brother's French village - but although tiny it would require a huge restoration being so old and uncared for. I would need to win a lottery first!

    Hope you and Edward are enjoying this waning Summer week.
    Love, Mary

  20. Must admit I watch very little TV mostly because there's not much to watch. I particularly dislike these 'reality' shows, O don't know whose reality they are but it isn't mine!
    Glad you enjoyed the Olympics - we did do a pretty good job didn't we:) I especially loved the equestrian arena at Greewich Park, what a lovely backdrop for the horses.
    Charleston - one of the many places I intend to visit one day!

  21. I have gotten emails from House Hunters International twice now ! They know my home is for sale. I have a friend who has worked with them on sales of apartments here in BA.
    He told me what a pain in the neck the whole experience is so we were flattered but happy to say no thank you :)
    I want a house like yours, with that sort of neighborhood ( trees and no houses) .. so I am having fun with Trulia while we wait for this place to sell.
    Someday, I can say See you soon :)

  22. Inside tip: instead of renting a house in Tuscany go for Umbria. Much better options at lower prices. I can see why that show would be fun and your house sounds delightful.

  23. The latest series of Wallander, shown over here a few weeks ago, was wonderful. Like you I can't bear reality tv shows so would rather read than watch tv at the moment although I have been captivated by several art and history programmes that have been shown here over the last month or so plus the wonderful Shakespeare season. Like you I would want a home that is book and animal friendly and would work in every season of the year:)

  24. WELL..I can answer al of your questions with YES...And there a re hedgehogs...owls...lots of birds..and the house was build many sounds come with it...sometimes is laughs..its a happy house and its for sale..

    BUT..its standing in Holland..

    Lovely post dearest.

  25. Oh how thrilled I am when you come to visit me; being a real writer and all, your comments touch my EGO as well as my sentiments! teehee...

    I LOVE THAT FIRST PHOTO. It reminds me of the neighborhood I grew up in and this memory has remained embedded in my childhood corner of my mind JUST LIKE THIS...misty, colorful, perfect.

    I agree that the games were beautifully organized and the closing ceremony was splendid. The music and all the artists that GB can boast about were all a joy to watch.


  26. Your questions made me ponder about my own home, which I love. After thinking through my answers (minus the snow/owl questions) I love my home even more. Excellent post.

  27. I adore your priceless description of summmertime television viewing. There is a British version of House hunters international in which each episode ends with the subjects decide to go away and think about their faraway purchase never actually buying. Perhaps it was down to the lack granite countertops!

  28. Wonderful art designs. It's look like very greatness and pretty. very neatly performed. You did a great job.

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. HHI gets me when they insist on double sinks in the bathrooms. Can't wait for Wallender to start the new season!

  31. Wow, your blog is really very nice, its colourful to saw,keep sharing such a nice blogs.


  32. What a lovely blog and I particularly enjoyed this post. to enjoying more of your blog. Having recently moved from a city house to a quiet farm community I can relate to your list of requirements. How endearing its is to read the "owls hooting" requirement because when I first sat down here this morning it was still dark outside and I could hear one right outside my window.

    I too have the Charleston book you mention and its one of my faves on the Bloomsbury artists and writers. I collect and read anything I can find on them.

    Your writings are wonderful and I look forward to reading more of them!

    By the way, I followed you from Pinterest.


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