‘Good ain’t cheap and cheap ain’t good’: So proclaimed my Texan godmother (who is an interior decorator) to a client who was trying to skimp on fabrics for the neo-classical house he was building in Highland Park, Dallas, and she was decorating.
I hasten to add that this particular client of hers has three private jets and tends to hire small countries in Africa as his own terrain for private safaris (or shooting sprees) – so this was not a financial concern on his part, it was rather him failing to see the value in a good set of curtains.
I find it endlessly fascinating watching how people choose to apportion the money they have. The oft quoted F Scott Fitzgerald maxim, ‘Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me,’ tells us half the story. For, of course, the ‘very rich’ have greater choices, more mobility and their money gives them a comfort and ease not to deal with the grind of the quotidian.
Queues evaporate; people become suddenly helpful, chores such as visiting the post office and public transport are eliminated. But, and this is where Fitzgerald is only partially right, human nature is what it is and rich or poor, cheap is cheap and a generous spirit and open heart does not discriminate depending on the size of the bank account.
The most giving people with the greatest largesse are not always the wealthiest; far from it, they’re quite often the opposite. I have friends in Norfolk who by their own admission ‘don’t have sous’ and yet their rambling and charming decorated farmhouse (with holes in the roof) is always open, a roaring fire in the hearth and a bottle of Chianti on the go.
And so it is with property. There has in the last ten years been an obsession, almost pathological in some cases, with pounds per square footage: With the tip-topping-up of basement and underground cubic space.
The analysis of spreadsheet comparisons via the respective post-code takes priority over the bones and feel of a place. The aspect, the site, the position in the street, the flow, what we describe in Argentina as the ondas are ignored by this number-crunching calculus.
It’s bizarre and talking to those who subscribe to this formula is rather like communicating with a property android – there is no way of navigating their certainty of what is, in their mind, the right price. It doesn’t matter if you’re comparing a first floor flat with glorious views of communal gardens versus a dark cellar with an aspect predominantly orientated towards a light-well.
If it appears to be ‘a deal’ that overrides all. And so be it, if that’s what the client wants, that’s what they want and my godmother’s words of ‘good ain’t cheap and cheap ain’t good’ remain in my head.