One of these days I’m going to get arrested. It’s just a matter of time. My friend Ellen will have to come bail me out. As we leave the San Francisco police station we’ll barely suppress our laughter and then we’ll go for frozen yogurt so I can tell her the whole story. The inevitable crime will technically be for loitering but the real reason will be that I’m nosey. I love to see inside people’s homes. I don’t care about what the people are doing, I’m just interested in their houses and the decor.
I love walking after the sun has set and interiors are warmly lit. I gravitate toward the honey glow and the hope of good wallpaper. In San Francisco, even a second floor flat can be clearly seen if the hill is steep enough. My high school geometry teacher would be proud of me for aptly calculating the line of sight at 30% grade (the tangent of the angle of a surface to the horizontal, thank you very much). Maybe I would have gotten something better than a C+ had he taken us outside.
On clear evenings, I walk slowly down the hill inching my way left or right for the best viewing so as to minimize the neck strain.
Is that an original fireplace? Oh, lovely crown molding.
That color! Apricot? Peach?
And I’ve seen renovations - those can be heart breaking though. Hundred-year-old Redwood trim painted white, French doors removed…makes me sad. But I move on.
The key to evening viewing is to not linger too long. I’ve made that mistake - well, actually my biggest mistakes have been standing on the front steps and leaning too far over to peer through the front door.
Dogs hear everything.
Even sidewalk dawdling can get me into trouble, especially in a city. I don’t think I look like a threat but time passes quickly when I’m sizing up the details of a hall stair and the habitants are parking their car. They think it’s about them, but as I said, it’s about their decorating.
I have been very successful in small towns however; I once was hanging over a fence unaware the homeowner was taking out the trash. I was invited inside for a tour of her 1830s home. That was Bristol though and they love to share their history.
In San Francisco, some neighborhoods are more used to tourists than others so if I’m lingering at the top of Filbert steps with its view of North Beach, most residents don’t consider that my view is actually of their living room. Last year I was gawking at a beautiful chandelier and realized I was witness to a proposal. Sweet.
If my noodling has taught me anything it’s that some people live in their homes and others celebrate where they live. I’ve seen tiny rooms handsomely curated and urban villas that look like storerooms.
And just like there is an art to decorating a home, there’s an art to viewing them.
Turn your cell phone off or to vibrate
Wear soft sole shoes (no clickitty clack or flippity flop)
A hat with a brim or bill to shade your eyes