Give Me The Simple Life

Several years ago I was at a photo shoot at a large estate in Santa Barbara. When I asked to use the restroom, I was directed to a tiny bathroom in the garage, the staff bathroom. Of course, I was shocked, dismayed, and indignant. Then I realized that this was probably karmic and I should be glad I wasn’t told to go down the hill to the gas station.

The thing that really bothered me, though, was how expensive this multi-million dollar house was (in the upper-teens) yet it looked exactly like a Macaroni Grill. It was designed in a Tuscan style with not an item out of place. Everything was brand spanking new. Each brick and stone was perfectly clean fresh from a box. There were no books, family portraits, or odd nick-knacks.

If you’ve ever watched Beautiful Homes on HGTV you know what I am describing. Each luxurious “beautiful home” is more overdone than the next. Yes, a closet probably cost more than my house, but all that marble, gilding, and brocade wallpaper. Why? I understand that most people don’t want to live in Philip Johnson’s Glass House, or deal with a waterfall in the house at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. But does anyone require a bedroom that looks like it belongs to a Disney Princess, or a kitchen that was designed to fit in at Versailles?

I look at Paul R. Williams’ houses and know this is the right way to do it. They’re beautiful, tasteful, elegant, and functional. They’re never overwrought or heavy handed. Williams took classical and simple forms and created warm spaces. If I were going to spend 18 million dollars on a house I’d buy the original family estate in Virginia, Castle Hill. Or, I’d buy a Paul Williams house, not a Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden disguised as a house.

For more: Williams/ grand-daughter, Karen Hudson monograph, Paul R. Williams, Classic Hollywood Style (source of many of these images). 

Paul R. Williams, Beverly Hills Hotel Suite, 1949