(Note: this isn't a gardening post!)
How much is too much?
My mother-in-law passed along several issues of Architectural Digest last week and, for kicks and giggles, I started thumbing through them over the weekend. One article, in particular, has stuck with me, raising my blood pressure every time I think about it.
A husband owns a business, geological services, in New Orleans. He wants to move his business (and family) to Houston. His wife sees a home there, which hasn't been lived in for some time, and tells him that if he'll buy that home, she'll move.
He buys the home. It's a large mansion on 4 acres, completed originally in the early 1930's. Of course there are repairs and updates and remodeling to do: plumbing, wiring, heating, cooling, a new roof, bigger closets, a bigger kitchen, a family room, a conservatory....
Among those more normal things, which any well-to-do family buying an older home would want and expect to do, here is a list of things they've done in the last 14 years that were touted in Architectural Digest:
1. Reopened a closed quarry to mine limestone, so that they could exactly match the limestone on the outside of their home, during expansions, with the limestone used by the original architect/builder.
2. Had their decorator go on buying trips to New York, Los Angeles, and Paris, often with them accompanying her. They have found (and used in their home) a huge chandelier once owned by Napoleon III, 16th century Italian painted ceiling panels, a 17th century Brussels tapestry (in the wine cellar) and a "museum quality" 18th century Italian mirror - among many, many other beautiful pieces of antique and more modern furniture.
3. Installed an antique chapel - imported from France - adding an 18th century chandelier and 19th century stained glass windows and pews to it.
4. Imported (from France) the antique cobblestones with which they surfaced the driveway.
Am I jealous? Believe it or not, no. As I've gotten older, I've learned that the more I have, the more I have to take care of, in one way or another. I'm finding that simpler is better, at least for me, personally.
What is infuriating to me is that this is a "relatively ordinary" rich couple who is doing this. This isn't a mogul whose name is on all our lips. These aren't the Rockefellers or Carnegies or Hearsts. These folks aren't someone particularly special or unique right now. And they can afford to do this (and ARE doing this) in a time when poverty is climbing, jobs are scarce, and the middle class - those poor blokes who just want to be able to own a 1200 square foot house on a 0.1 acre lot somewhere - are being squeezed out of existence.
Is the house gorgeous? Oh, my, yes. However, as beautiful as this house is and as special as the activities are that has brought it into this sort of condition - I have a real problem with having an entire class of people who are able to do this in our "egalitarian" country. Should people be rewarded for hard work and initiative? Definitely. But there needs to be a limit to those rewards, a limit that is reached before the level of, literally, living like kings. I don't think our Founding Fathers were trying to establish an economic aristocracy when they revolted from England.