Conversations with Critics: A Day in the Life
A discussion amongst our home critics about what a day in their lives of reviewing the world's best homes actually entails.
How to define the role of Plum Guide's home critics? Here, we're sharing what our roles consist of, as well as some memorable stories from past Plum Tests.
Charlotte: When people ask me what I do, or what a Home Critic is, I always think it must be really obvious but apparently it isn’t. The only description that seemed to resonate was when I said that I snooped around people’s homes and judged them. But I also think that isn’t quite right. So I was wondering how you guys describe our job?
Loreli: It’s only half snooping. Half of it’s sitting right out there. I do enjoy the snooping though. I think what we’re doing is assessing the objective qualities of a home and then the subjective qualities. The feeling of the home is entirely up to us to assess and describe. And I think it all comes back to that thing Doron wrote about the emotion that a property evokes. It’s not a real thing. It’s a combination of feelings and design and setting and all sorts of things that aren’t tangible, but you end up with this feeling. For me, when I go into a home, I get that feeling ‘Oooh’ or I get the ‘Eugh’.
Charlotte: It’s literally the noise isn’t it?!
Loreli: I have a terrible poker face too. And I’m sure that sometimes I say it out loud. Because I know it’s not going to be Plum or I can just feel it doesn’t have those qualities that jump out at you. We’re there to assess the objective and the subjective, but the subjective is the most important part and it is largely emotional, about a feeling, a look. It’s the sum of all elements, not the actual elements themselves.
Sheri: The first home I tested is called The Glamper. In LA, a lot of the time you’ll be looking for what the outside is like. You assume that guests might not be spending as much time in the house.
Charlotte: I wanted to ask you about that, because I feel like, for Lori and I, the outside is probably always the most disappointing part of our homes.
Loreli: The outside is a decoy!
Shira: The Glamper was built by a pretty successful architect as his second home. It’s very clean cut and has a beautiful infinity pool. The grounds have rustic style and the house is, of course, very stark and finished. He was there when I did the test. I could tell he was proud of his home - he was shining every single thing. It was his baby. I showed it to some friends and they said they wouldn’t want to stay there because it wasn’t personal enough, wasn’t warm enough. I think it was a really nice house - the views and the outside are fantastic.
Charlotte: It looks more sculptural than homely.
Shira: Yes, absolutely. It’s definitely his dream architectural project. Another home I tested is Satsuma. That one is designed by another architect, this time from Austria. It’s a bungalow on the Venice canal. We rented it for a month to a young couple from Mallorca I think - I did a viewing for them. What was so fantastic about it was that it was funky. The kitchen cabinets were all IKEA so he was just being really clever in a really fun way. These old bungalows cost a fortune now, but just happen to be on these little Venice canals - there’s just 4 blocks of them. This home was basically all about the outside. If you look out from the porch, you’ll see the canals which is very unique and you have no idea where you are. People are canoeing, walking, coming down in their wedding gowns and taking pictures there. It’s charming.
Loreli: It’s gorgeous.
Shira: The third one I sent you is called Steampunk. A couple bought this concrete block building in Venice. It was arranged as little square apartments, like a dormitory. She goes to flea markets and furnishes each one with a theme. This one was called Steampunk, another one About Time because it had a whole collection of clocks on the walls and another one was all done in Louis XIV gold leaf style. Whenever there is one of those barn doors, her husband makes it himself. There’s a backyard as well, and she picks up old bikes at the thrift shop. Anyone can use them and she doesn’t care if they lose them. Bikes for your use, just hopefully bring it back, but if it gets stolen it gets stolen.
Charlotte: Or you forget where you left it, never mind!
Shira: Or you just abandon it! One of the questions I ask when I go into a place is would my parents stay here? They would not have stayed there. They would have thought - what? They would have liked The Glamper maybe. But I think a lot of people would be charmed by somewhere like this. I always imagine who would stay there.
Loreli: Part of the difficulty of doing a test and coming to a verdict on the eight that aren’t immediately a pass or a fail, is sifting through all the details to see if there is a Plum guest who would appreciate this home. There are guests with families that want places that are pristine like a hotel. There are guests with families that want places that are lived in, that they don’t have to worry about. There are guests that want a big place so they can be by themselves. There are guests that want to come with ten friends and it’s important that they’re able to sleep ten.