Ready for Mr. DeMille

It was a terrific and generous offer and then it got complicated. Jim Quinn, a good friend of mine and a colleague at the Chicago Tribune, where he worked as a photographer, offered to do a “shoot” of our new house, which he and his wife Karen like a lot. What could go wrong with such an offer from a great photographer?

We soon found out when we asked Anne, also a friend and interior designer who has helped us with the furniture and finishes of the house, to help us with some “staging.”

We didn’t really know what “staging” meant until a few days later we saw a television show about how a designer “staged” an empty apartment in New York to help sell it. This imperious and annoying New York City designer/stager brought in truckloads of furniture and ordered everyone around as if she were Scarlett O’Hara tarting up “Tara.”

Not to worry, our friend Anne is not that sort of person and she wouldn’t tear the place apart. After all, she bought or designed most of out furniture. Still, “staging” turned out to be a weird experience that involved basically fumigating our entire house against any signs that human beings lived here.

Out went all family pictures, travel souvenirs, silly but to us meaningful tchotchkes, magazines and books. Stew’s kitchen–usually a pretty neat place–almost became a magazine spread with Mexican jars, cookbooks and towels artfully placed here and there. All pet pictures and recipe clippings were removed from the refrigerator along with any hints that actual cooking ever took place in that space.

On our large dining room table Anne installed the only thing she brought, which was a Mexican-type runner and a huge flower vase with wooden curlicues that added up to a four-feet tall centerpiece. Beautiful and stunning but not exactly reflective of Stew and Al’s lifestyle–remember, we’re the only two gay guys missing the interior decorating gene.

The office and the bedroom were similarly sanitized of any personal items and even the towels in the bathrooms were moved around.

Stew’s blood pressure rose quietly but measurably. “It looks as if we’re moving again,” he muttered, while I just basically stayed out of the way and drank decaf on the terrace. I did my own muttering though during the next couple of days when I went to look for stuff and couldn’t find it.

Anne appreciated Stew’s concerns and reassured him the home could be returned to normal living after the photo shoot.

It didn’t take that long. Anne left a couple of hours before Jim arrived with a van full of photo equipment. And psst, while Jim was setting up, Stew and I went around replacing some of our personal stuff and photographs. Jim also did some of his own de-staging by making sure that our decidedly non-designer cats got in some of the pictures.

Anne did a great job and the photos look great but the experience was strange. Attached to this blog are some of the beautiful shots Jim took. Thanks go to Jim and Anne and our photogenic cats.

For the complete slideshow, visit:

One thought on “Ready for Mr. DeMille

  1. Thanks for the tour of your house. I love it! All the details: the front door latch, the triangle skylight, etc. I really envy you to be able to live in such a beautiful creation. By the way, my sister has a floor lamp exactly the same as the lamp in the reading part of the bedroom. First time I have ever seen another one. And it has been 50 years since my house looked that neat, and never staged!


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