Conversations with Critics: The Meaning of ‘Home Away From Home’

Our London home critic Charlotte Smith catches up with Loreli Briel in New York and Shira Geller in LA

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Fresh Flight, Plum Guide home in London

One of the positives of this slowed-down period of the pandemic, has been the opportunity to catch up with my fellow Plum home critics on a much more regular basis. We’ve been taking time to reflect, share more of our experiences with each other and really dive deeper into our discussions of just what it is that we do. So we thought we would share some of our conversations - let me introduce you to Loreli Briel in New York, and Shira Geller in LA.

Here, we begin by talking Plum homes (of course)...

Loreli: This one, Cloud Divine.

Charlotte: It looks pretty spectacular. 

Loreli: It’s a wonderful building, very quiet and discreet. What I liked about it was that it’s essentially a family home. There’s an incredible art collection. The first painting I recognised was Kehinde Wiley, who did Obama’s portrait. Everything was just of such a high quality and so personal But it had the family home thing where things were slightly worn. The pink walls are a little off-putting to me, but it’s still one of my favourites. Everything there had something. 

Cloud Divine, Plum Guide home in New York

Cloud Divine, Plum Guide home in New York

Charlotte: It feels really playful.  

Loreli: There are homes that you walk into that are so perfect, and as I say feng-shui’d to death, that you feel like you’re almost invading them by walking in.

Charlotte: Yes!

Loreli: Here there are kid’s toys left in the rooms. The owner really wanted a family to stay, and for their kids to play with the toys. That sort of thing, that makes it feel like a home. This is the type of home I could sit in with my husband and have a case of wine and we’d never go out to the street. Every night we’d sit in and talk. It just made you feel that way. I think that comes into how I judge a home. Would I stay here? What would I do? I hate it when people say - you’re only sleeping in the rooms. To me, I’m living in the rooms. And I care very much that they are well appointed and hopefully special in some way. It doesn’t have to be quality or a $30m home. I just want to know that someone took some care and added something, added a bit of themselves to the place. I’d much rather stay in a family home than a show place. 

Charlotte: I don’t know if you come across this as well but when I go into the kids bedrooms, in some homes you can tell the kids bedrooms have been designed by an adult to go with the rest of the home. And then there are the ones where you are just in a kids imagination and they’ve allowed that room to become that. And part of that sense of a family home is having that space as well. 

Children's room in The Colourful Family, Plum Guide home in London

Children's room in The Colourful Family, Plum Guide home in London

Loreli: I agree. I’m a big fan of what I call divine clutter. The photographs, the amazing artefacts from around the world that people collected. When someone is willing to share that with strangers, to me that is a huge indication of a host who is very comfortable with themselves and comfortable with the whole premise of someone else living in their space. When you asked the question, what turns you off, and what do you look for in a host. Well the host who’s worried about damage. The host who’s limiting things, as you said, scrimping on coffee capsules. It’s like, what’s the point in living if you’re going to do that?! It seems like a small thing to do and a gracious thing to do. 

Want to keep reading? Next up, Charlotte, Loreli and Shira discuss a day in the life of our home critics.

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