21st century Home Voyeurism

Category: Daily Diary

I was a kid who always liked to stroll sidewalks at night when I lived back East. And I'm an adult who cannot shake the same habit.

I am a 21st century home voyeur.

A few friends and I have shared the habit over the years. Lest we sound like social deviants, let me explain more clearly. I've NEVER been interested in seeing PEOPLE at home.

We NEVER WANTED to see people. In fact, that ruins the effect. Because the point is, of course, projecting yourself into these different habitats and trying them on for size in your imagination. Which house would "fit" you?

The best houses for viewing leave all of their lights on and you can just peek inside lighted windows and see kitchens, stairways, living rooms, ceiling lights...dreaming, assessing and thinking of what you might do differently.


As a kid, I would gather ideas in my head as I would gather ideas in my notebook years later. The folks on the corner took out their living room ceiling and created a balcony out of their upstairs hallway. The family on the next street cleverly turned their breakfast room into a greenhouse with windows and plants all around the table.

My friends and I are the same people who now buy magazines devoted to house and home and devour them from cover to cover. House "pron" if you will. We spread the pages out on the dining room table and look at the same photos over again, hunting for clues we didn't see before. What kind of knobs are on the cabinets? Brushed or shiny nickel fixtures? Where are the outlets placed? What about the trim? The shape of the windows? The slant of the light?

These obsessions later drove us to create our own spaces, braving old plumbing and squeaky floorboards and cold winters during (sometimes years of) renovation. Except they have a modern twist...the Internet and the sharing of our passion with like-minded folks from across the world. And a boost from modern technology to drive our research and dreaming. Which leads me to quote this paragraph from brickmanhouse.com:

Now that we've got clear access to the plumbing for all the bathrooms from the underside, we should start demo on the bathrooms themselves. But hey, you know what? It's just too damn cold. Home renovation motivation takes a serious dive when we risk frostbite just opening the door to take out a bin full of plaster chunks, and no way we're actually opening windows to toss cast iron chunks of bathtub out onto the ground below. So we light a fire in the fireplace (which is still seriously ugly, but it's just going to have to wait), huddle around it, grab the laptop, and start combing the 'net for vintage fixtures and tile.

House obsession as fed by the convenience of the Internet. How very modern of us!

**Detail from one of the Christmas Cards in the attic, 1932. Artist unknown.

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lol this made me laugh. It's a habit I learned from my mother. The best time to take a walk is at dusk. It's dark enough that people have turned the lights on in their house, but early enough that they haven't gotten around to closing their curtains yet!

I'm enjoying your site, and living vicariously through your efforts. I haven't been brave enough to tackle my own house yet. Though I probably could have paid cash for one if you add up the cost of all the House Books, Magazines, Tours, etc..that I've spent over the years.

thanks again for your great site!

My wife and I are seriously afflicted by house voyeurism. Thing is, we do this regardless of the condition or style of the house. In fact, sometimes its the really awful houses that draw the most stares from us. And these are the times we get caught staring, and commenting. If we don't know the people well, we just take off running.


wow - what a revalation! I thought I was the only person who would spend days/weeks/years...etc. mentally renovating other people's houses (the more dishevelled...the more intriguing to imagine the possibilities). I used to take my kids for walks around the blocks in the neighborhood, noting how people planted their gardens, arranged their furniture, etc. wonderful to know I have plenty of company!


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