In this part of the conversation we discuss the way in which being a Plum home critic affects the relationship we have with our own homes: from the way we organise them to the way we style them and more.
Shira: So, a question for you both. Has viewing all of these homes influenced you to change anything in your own place?
Charlotte: Yes! I’m not the world’s tidiest of people but going around all these homes has inspired me to become more tidy. Partly from feeling that if I’m telling people to clean their cupboards and tidy them for guests, which apparently I’m very aware of how to do, I should probably take my own advice! I’ve also just had a lot more time during lockdown as well, so I’ve been sorting through my kitchen and re-ordering the cupboards so it feels more intuitive where everything is. I’ve also started growing vegetables on my patio as well - my radishes and kale are coming along nicely. I was inspired by this really nice home that was owned by a restaurant owner and he had a great kitchen garden. And even my seeds, I’ve thought about how I’m going to store them, and have a specific shelf in a specific place and make a feature out of it. I think it’s the invisible side of the homes that I’ve found really interesting. Seeing the difference it makes in those homes, how the organisation becomes part of the atmosphere. The other thing I’m doing is collecting ideas for my bathroom - I get so excited when I got into a bathroom in a home and its had as much excitement and thought put into it as everywhere else. So that’s going to be my next renovation project.
Shira: For me, it’s the Home Manual. Along with my brother and sister, I have a vacation rental place in Aspen. We didn’t have a Home Manual - just some notes my brother had scribbled on a piece of paper, and you can’t read his writing! But I went out there for a month and a half this year, so I made one. It took a long time, but I realised how important it is by going to all these houses. People want to know right away - what’s the WiFi password, how do I do this, how do I do that.
Charlotte: Did you put pictures in it? I love the ones that have photos - the real ‘Idiots Guide’, with a finger pointing at each button.
Shira: No I didn’t, but I hope I did it meticulously. My brother installed a really complex TV and sound system. My sister said: ‘I wish you would just sell everything and have something with one button!’. I realised everyone is probably having the same problem my sister was having. So I wrote instructions for each TV - step one, step two, step three, step four. It’s a big manual, but it’s got everything they need to know now. They just have to find it in there. I also updated the decor a bit - a new sofa, loads of pillows - and I did a very deep clean. It’s always clean anyway - I’m a clean freak. But I really spent a lot of time with a toothbrush, let’s put it that way.
Loreli: You take it with you everywhere!
Shira: I took the glass off the table, cleaned all the light fixtures, that kind of stuff. I made sure we were stocked with extra bulbs, and the manual tells people where they are stored. I also labeled everything on the shelves - I brought my P-touch machine. I P-touched every single cabinet inside, glasses, wine glasses, cutting boards. There’s nothing they can’t find. I just made sure things were more like what I was seeing, so it’s much more intuitive for guests.
Loreli: You should definitely get your place on Plum.
Charlotte: Now it’s got the Home Manual it’s good to go!
Loreli: I’m not sure what I’ve taken away from other homes. In some ways I’m like a fan, or a design tourist. I love discovering things like a gorgeous collections of glass up on shelves, hidden in a closed cupboard. You can’t see anything from the outside and then it’s a wonderful surprise. And I’ve seen incredible Home Manuals. There was a guy out in Williamsburg and his girlfriend hand illustrated the whole thing. It was a notebook. They wrote their information in it, and guests wrote things afterwards. But the girlfriend just kept illustrating it all the way through, through the comments and people’s reviews. It was so personal. It made you feel you were lucky to be in a home like that. Our home was always more like…. I’m more like Charlotte than you Shira. If it’s behind a cupboard, it’s a mess and we don’t really need to do anything about it right now. Deep cleaning is something that visiting these homes has inspired me to do. But the pandemic has perhaps inspired me to do that more. Just being here a lot more, with the opportunity and the time to do things. You do see things about how people have organised their homes. Mostly it's the little things, the personal touches and inspired use of objects. And quite often I share with hosts my perspective that any homeowner with a good set of sharpies can retouch every piece of furniture in the place.
Shira: That’s what I do too.
Loreli: It’s that easy. Get the wood ones too if you have a larger spot, but basically you can make anything look better again by detailing it in some way. Or even add some interest to it that wasn’t there before.