Display of Wealth in Poor Taste?

violetwestApril 25, 2014

I've been thinking pretty hard about this one, in connection with the super-decorated apartments recently posted and discussed on the other side. Is it just the display of wealth that made me not like those apartments? Am I really that petty and envious? This is not something I want to be.

I have to say, that I didn't like those apartments because they're over-decorated and too cluttered. I'm a medium-clutter person, and have a strong dislike of obviously "decorated" spaces. These particular spaces almost smack of hoarding to me -- the uncontrollable impulse to buy, and buy, and buy, and keep everything forever.

I grew up comfortably wealthy and around families far richer than me, and while everybody had nice stuff, and often had collections of art, cars, and other items, it was nothing like what was pictured. Maybe it's a New York thing.

My personal opinion is that the ostentatious display of wealth solely for the purpose of impressing others is always crass and in poor taste. Giant houses for two people, gold flecked countertops, etc. This does not mean I'm envious of wealthier people -- much. Maybe a little. I have to own to that.I guess I'm still struggling with this.

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Speaking for myself, it is not what the super rich own that I envy, it is the freedom to do whatever they please.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:13PM
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Well, I certainly envy the ability to hire people to dust.

I am not sure that the wealthy have the ability to do whatever they please. That's like saying, when I grow up, I can do whatever I want -- that's an illusion. Most of the very wealthy people work extremely hard - harder than me, that's for sure. And those who don't do anything . . . have problems. Like uncontrollable shopping addictions.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:17PM
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I used to clean for a living. Most of my customers were very wealthy. Two ladies cleaned before I came and one loved to clean with me. Go figure.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:21PM
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When I visited the Breakers at Newport last summer I was prepared to be repulsed by the ostentatious decor. Instead, I loved it: it's art, and should be appreciated as such. I could never live that way myself, but if one had the money, I can understand wanting to create a small world filled with beauty as a private retreat for family and friends. To each his own.

Don't forget many owners of these ornate homes contribute a lot in charitable donations. To assume they greedily spend their wealth only on frivolous gew gaws for themselves without regard for the less fortunate is a noxious stereotype. Also, home fashions come and go, and some of the photos I think you're referring to looked like they were from the 80s when English Country House decorating was It On a Stick.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:33PM
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I think so much of it is cultural and regional that it is hard to pinpoint. What may seem ostentatious to me could be completely the norm for your social group or culture. Everyone is free to like or dislike certain displays of possessions or decorating styles or whatever.

Conflict occurs when people are rude because of their beliefs. Looking down on others because of what they have or don't have is never appropriate.

This post was edited by deee on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 13:40

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:37PM
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I absolutely do not want to be rude or stereotype people, so I definitely agree with the very good points made above.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:51PM
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I agree some of it is cultural/social, but sometimes the whole idea of impressing people is built into that. You can not like an aspect of a culture; that's OK, too. I certainly don't like some aspects of my own!

The funny thing is, I guess displaying wealth is all very relative, now that I think of it. I don't think I display my "wealth," but compared to someone who has very little, I do.

More to say but kids need me!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:13PM
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Two years ago before we began our modest kitchen remodel getting rid of almost 30 year old cheap builder cabinets, formica counters, etc..my very altruistic son turned to me and said "Mom, do you know how many people in the world would love to have this kitchen?" It gave me pause.

Everyone is entitled to spend their money as they choose, but at what point does it become "wretched excess?" No one "needs" a 10,000 sf house or a Lamborghini.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:01PM
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Violet I totally get what you're saying and feel similarly alt times, although the specific decorating/collecting you mention bothers me less than some others types. You're closing comment about struggling with feelings of envy is very honest and I admire that honesty. At times I can swing from a bit of envy to full on judgement depending on my personal value meter on that day. That's not where I want to be at all so am continually working on that. It's obviously more about me than the target and I don't know why certain people or situations can make me feel so "less than" when I normally I have a pretty good sense of self. Interesting conversation.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:30PM
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I tend to think that much of the decor in those “overdecorated” apartments is inherited and the owners can not bear to part with Grandmother's and Great Aunt Sally's tchotchkes. It may not always be the case but I also think it's likely that people who live with all that 'stuff' may be accustomed to that style from childhood so are comfortable with it and find it 'normal' in their economic situation.

While I do not have an extremely high level of wealth I am aware of my appearance, especially while traveling, and often downplay things I may normally display. For instance I leave my diamond ring at home when traveling.

Displays of wealth are so subjective. I've had workmen at my house who were extremely impressed with it while I do not consider it to be ostentatious or even overly high-end. Obviously they are looking at things from a different socio-economic viewpoint.

I think that on a home decor forum there are so many styles, viewpoints, and economic situations that it's necessary for all of us to keep an open-mind about what may be 'normal' for others.

Violet, would you feel the same way about a home decorated with extremely high-end items that was more your style? Perhaps it's more about the style of the items than the cost that turns you off.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:44PM
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Oh, it's definitely the style of those apartments that I have a problem with, but the question was asked whether it was just the display of wealth, so I had to think about it.

I can't discount that I have some envy of wealthier people--I mean I'd love to have a pool and a fancy car and whatever, but I don't need it. On the whole character matters a lot more to me than the size of someone's bank account. And part of character is how you represent yourself and your values to the world.

If you can't be honest with yourself, you can't grow as a person, eh?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:58PM
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What's to envy, Violet? Wealth has its own set of problems. I live in an upscale community and see all the time how money doesn't buy happiness. Divorce (extra nasty when $$$ is involved), drugs, alcohol, debt, huge business pressures, questionable judgment, and sometimes down-right cluelessness -- yep, it's all there behind all those pretty facades. I know a gal who use to rent a house in the French countryside every summer for her family. She was surprised when her husband told her they were bankrupt. She never paid attention to their finances before. Duhhh....

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:38PM
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Of course it's in poor taste. Everyone wants to display their wealth here and have everyone 'ooh and ahhhhhhhhh" over their fancy homes so they can feel good about themselves. I see it all the time, beautiful kitchens torn out to make way for a kitchen that looks like it came from a magazine. Yes there are a lot of people that would LOVE to have the kitchen that was torn out. In fact, I just saw an ad in a services catalog for kitchen renovations and the kitchen they have in they photos of a NEW kitchen that represents their work looks almost exactly like a kitchen posted here that was TORN out and replaced with some probably $100,000 "modest kitchen renovation"....LMAO! I wish I had money to throw away!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:48PM
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Violet I felt the same way about that post. Not due to envy but due to the fact that I could not relate it to anything I or someone I know could do. In fact, I was not interested enough to even finish reading the thread.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:11PM
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arkansas_girl - the difficulty is that it is ALL relative. My house is middle of the road for my town but someplace else we would be the fancy neighbors with the palm trees and the tabby driveway.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:36PM
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well, if it comes to that, I always remind myself how truly wealthy we are, in this country, and in this time, compared to our ancestresses -- running water that you don't have to carry from the well or heat over a fire! Snug houses that aren't made out of sticks! Grocery stores where we could (potentially) buy any thing our heart desires. Healthy babies living to adulthood! Flush toilets!

Nothing to do with good or bad taste, of course, but yeah, all wealth is relative.

This post was edited by Violet.West on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:06

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:05PM
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I had to go look at the thread on the other side since I hadn't seen it. I didn't read the whole thing, mostly just looked at the pictures and read a few responses. Gad, for me personally the gawdy apartments about made me crawl out of my skin. Just too much ornateness and clutter for my taste and certainly nothing that would cause envy to surface for me.

As far as displaying wealth or obtaining and displaying one's stuff to impress others being in poor taste? Taste is a matter of personal opinion I guess. While I don't get stuff to impress others or intentionally display whatever wealth I may have, my philosophy is "live and let live". I don't pass judgment on anyone. There have always been super rich people with lots of stuff and there always will be. Not for me to judge how they live or what they do.

Fortunately I've reached the point in life where I don't aspire to have any more stuff and I don't care how much or what kind of stuff other people have. I actually spend more time now thinking about people who don't even have enough to get by. I don't begrudge those who have lots nor do I think it should be confiscated to redistribute to those who have little. I think a lot of wealthy people give a lot to the less fortunate and even buying a lot of stuff creates work/jobs for the less well to do.

That's my two cents - very interesting discussion.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:08PM
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Who's to say that all that *carp* didn't come from Home Sense?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Sometimes what you see as a display of wealth is not reality. I know many people who want to put up an appearance of having attained a certain level of "wealth", but in reality are in debt or do not have the funds for college or retirement.

Growing up in a traditional old New England Yankee family (frugal to the nth degree!), I learned early on that true wealth is not often displayed. There is comfort that comes from knowing that you could afford ......fill in the blanks...but that instead you gave to a charity and saved your money.

Ego is a big part of the buying decisons people often make. Does what we drive define who we are? Do we let our address and our homes define us?

I always tell our children: appearances can be deceiving. It's not what you show, it's what you owe (or don't owe) that is important to me. That is a family value for us and one that both DH and I learned from our parents.

The statistics on what the "average" American has saved for retirement is shocking. Most of us here are probably not "average" ....however, living within your means and not letting the green-eyed monster (my late mother's saying re: greed/envy) is harder for some than for others.

Wealth does not always mean giving $$$ to help others. What do you do with you time? How much can you volunteer and how do you pass those values to your children? We lead by example.

Great topic.

This post was edited by bonnieann925 on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:40

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:35PM
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I once picked up some clothes from a tailor with a friend of mine. The tailor had altered some brand new clothes for a soon-to-be-relative of hers and she was nearby and offered to pick them up.

She said "Wow, this is a really well made blouse for $90, even I would come up with $90 for a blouse like this"
(This was 20 years ago.)

The blouse was $900. The entire outfit was close to $5000, (we had to add it up after we noticed the tag on the blouse).

To her it *was like someone else spending $90. She could, so she does. Her spending is in line with her income.

I don't think that a lot of people spend money to ostentatiously show wealth, I think they spend it because they can afford to.

I think some things are in poor taste. I think celebrities owning commercial jets or people having enormous speedboat that burn fuel with impunity is in poor taste because it takes resources that could be used for practical purposes and these are resources that can't be replaced. Waste is in poor taste. Burning dollar bills in front of poor people would be in poor taste. Having a house full of expensive antiques isn't necessarily in poor taste in and of itself.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:13PM
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I live in an upscale community by our regions standards. Our house is older and modest compared to the mcmansions in the neighborhood. Four of my daughters friends who live in the area have mothers who have mental issues and/or are drug addicts/alcoholics. Two are being raised by their fathers in homes I could never even dream of living in (very expensive). I was shocked to hear all this as these people appear very professional and are definitely out of our league. I'm glad to have much less money and have a healthy family intact.

As for at least that one apartment that was posted....I didn't want to say it but I thought it was the ugliest place I've ever seen. I thought it looked very "dated" and you know I don't like that word! I imagined an older woman who had decorated it years ago, but could not longer see very well.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Wealth really doesn't equal happiness although it can seem to at times.
Contentment at what ever level you are at still has to be practiced and no matter how much you have, you can't take it with you. But you can make a difference in this world with it and the people I admire most are those who make the greatest proportional sacrifices of their income for others. They choose not to buy something, although they could, for a bigger picture.
The dynamics of this forum have changed over the years, there are bigger houses and more vacations than ever and I still love decorating and seeing them. The love of decorating, transforming a space, is not only for the wealthy.

For those who have been here a long time, they probably have noticed and either dealt with the change or moved on.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:46PM
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joanie said:
"No one "needs" a 10,000 sf house or a Lamborghini."

But who has the right to judge what someone else needs? Where should the limit of "needs" be set at ... should it be a 1,500 sq.ft house and a Ford or a 2,500 sq.ft house and an Acura or a 4,000 sq.ft house and a BMW?

Arkansas girl said:
"Everyone wants to display their wealth here and have everyone 'ooh and ahhhhhhhhh" over their fancy homes so they can feel good about themselves. I see it all the time, beautiful kitchens torn out to make way for a kitchen that looks like it came from a magazine. "

Are you saying that posters on the kitchen forum only post to display their wealth and fancy homes and have other members praise their kitchens, so they can feel good about themselves? Wow ... I'm sure that attitude will make future members real eager to continue sharing their projects.

Someone will always have more or less than you do, be it intelligence, education, money, health, beauty, etc. Be the best person you can be and don't waste your time judging others.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:27AM
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There's a lot of great info here.

As for the kitchen forum, over the years I've noticed it has a very different vibe than here. To be quite honest, I don't like posting there. I've noticed a tone of "if you can't do everything 100% right, don't bother." Not everyone can or wants to go whole hog with their kitchen. Perhaps it's just the posts I open to read.

It really is what's inside that counts - your motives. There are people that will buy and buy and buy to fill a void inside. It's a temporary happiness and one that will never last. When I get really focused on something decorating related to the point where I'm allowing myself to be unhappy (this doesn't happen often) I remind myself of what really matters in this life.

This post was edited by sheesharee on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 1:13

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 1:12AM
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"no one needs a Lamborghini"

Okay, I agree. I'll go one further. I don't have a car. I work up to 25 miles from home and I manage to get there. I think almost no one really needs a car. Maybe there should be a government agency who decides whether some needs a car at all.

With regards to those who have no trouble deciding how much others should have for needs and happiness, I have another idea: when you win the Powerball come back and tell us how you gave every last bit of it away by setting up foundations reserving only a small portion that would generate a "modest" income identical to whatever it is you live on now.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:49AM
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"Are you saying that posters on the kitchen forum only post to display their wealth and fancy homes and have other members praise their kitchens, so they can feel good about themselves? Wow ... I'm sure that attitude will make future members real eager to continue sharing their projects."

I say that happens on both the kitchen and home decorating forums. But is it the ONLY reason people post? No. I believe another reason is that there are folks whose self-worth is validated with the compliments given by other like-minded folks who have the same need for validation. If my room looks good, then I must be an ok person.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 6:52AM
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I just saw this thread, from over on the right side of the page. Hi. :-)

I think there's "old wealth" and "new wealth". When people have had it all their lives, or have made it, themselves many years ago, they show it quietly. New wealth.....whether from a sudden stock market growth or a lottery, yell it from the roof-tops. Right away they're buying the biggest of anything they want, just because they can. Those are gawdy and ostentatious, oftentimes.

There is a show in Canada called Dragon's Den, the original show that Shark Tank was an off shoot of. 2 of the venture capitalists on Shark Tank are Canadians, and are on Dragon's Den.

Anyway, one of the guys lives just outside my city, and he has the most modest home 1300 square feet on several acres. Everything is original; oak cabinets and white appliances, and he's the first one to say that he doesn't cook, so the stove is practically brand new.
He loves his home, and the views.

Of course, he has another home in Costa Rica, and travels extensively and stays in upscale hotels.

You could literally see him at a local restaurant, and you wouldn't know him from the other diners, unless you know who he is.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:08AM
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"Someone will always have more or less than you do, be it intelligence, education, money, health, beauty, etc. Be the best person you can be and don't waste your time judging others."

That bit of wisdom made my morning. Thank you, chispa.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:59AM
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So two of the big reasons that people post finished kitchens or rooms are to 1) show off or 2) be part of a mutual admiration society whose fragile egos are bolstered by each other.

And all along I thought people posted finished projects so that the people who gave them design advice could see it. Boy am I naïve.

I really wonder why the people who notice all this showing off and neediness bother to read the Design or Kitchen forums at all. Why not just stay away and avoid the pathologic environment?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:04AM
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Chispa.....I'd certainly like to meet the person who "needs" a Lamborghini to get around town!

I used the big house and fancy car merely to illustrate that "need" and "want" are two different things and we might all do well to examine why we buy what we buy. As I said, people are entitled to spend their money however they choose....no judgement here.

And yes Pal...I know lots of people who would happily give away most of any lottery win.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

That's great, Chispa. We can so easily exchange houses for plastic surgery in the same thought. Contentment, certainly brings peace.

I play mind games of pick 2: Money, Happiness, Health to see what I really believe. Of course I wouldn't know unless it really happened!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:59AM
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I don't think the layered apt. is a display of wealth. Or showing what's in our homes.

It's how we present our pictures. I didn't read the article of the layered apt., if there was one, but if the owner said, "I paid $10,00 for that lamp," then yeah, that is a display of wealth.

Throwing out the price of an item when not asked is an in-your-face display of wealth and extremely tacky. Unless the item was literally a bargain, like the new upholstered, well-made, $80 chair I bought. lol.

But showing our decorated homes isn't a display of wealth. Telling you what it cost is. I also agree it's a need for validation and the person really wants to be liked.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:05AM
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I like the Kitchens forum because it did help me with some layout changes. There seem to be very few that do the work on their own though. I thought a while back there were several threads with people's progress and updates (the most interesting part IMO) but not so much anymore.

And yes, there will someday be a reveal thread. As a searcher it's annoying to see the before pictures but never the after. Hopefully it will come out looking like a magazine. I've worked hard and built a couple now, but this one is where we're staying and it's for us.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:36AM
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Wow I am a bit sad to think so many think GW kitchen and décor forums are just a brag fest. I have always felt it to be a helpful community of people with a similar interest in design, albeit differing budgets, preferences and style. Most people answer questions, offer support, and encourage others far more than post pictures of their own homes. And when they post pics of their finished projects, I think it is a way of thanking others and yes a bit of pride and happiness. I would never begrudge anyone's happiness of their finished projects no matter the budget.

I think some of the nicest members on this forum have fortunate decorating budgets and yet they are the most helpful and kindest posters who answer almost all other posters' inquiries and compliment many finished project pictures.

I generally find myself thankful, and never envious to have the haves as well as the have nots and the in-betweens all living in harmony on this site. However, today I feel sad that many do not see this site as such.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:41AM
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Yes, and I Know someone who Has given away most of their money. But if you start out on the foot where you are jealous of people that have it, I am not so sure you would.

Look at all the people who end up on talk shows who've won lotteries, and a few years have nothing to show for it, least of all charitable contributions.

I think there are contented people in all walks of life and there are people who are bitter, self absorbed and jealous of others no matter how much they have. I don't think money causes that, I think you are the way you are whether you have money or not. Money may change the way you express personal attributes , but the personality is already there at the core.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:06AM
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pal, I agree, core personality has more influence over behavior than money or lack of money.

I also think if we live only according to meeting our needs, what a dreary life that would be. We're hard-wired to enjoy color, sparkle, music, good flavors, pretty things -- things that are pleasing to the senses. That's why you'll find jewelry and artfully designed pottery or basketry or ceremonial items even in so-called primitive cultures. People like pretty stuff (and music and good food).

Many of us here have art in our houses. Is that something we truly need? Is it useful? No to both questions. Art objects are a want, not a need. Yet what brings more joy, a colorful painting or a can opener? Why are people willing to pay lots of money for color on a canvas? Because color, texture, pattern, & sheen trigger something within us and make us happy.

Timely article in the Saturday WSJ today about envy: link below

Here is a link that might be useful: Put Your Envy to Good Use

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:01AM
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Ironically, STRICTLY in terms of visual mass, 'Collected and Layered' and 'A Cluttered Life' have similarities...


    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:13AM
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I disagree, billygoatjoe. There's a difference between a deliberate massing of related pattern, color, & texture artfully arranged to produce a pleasing effect, and mindless accumulation of random, mundane stuff with little or no organization behind it.

Some people like clutter. Or at least don't mind it. So what?

This is the darkroom of one of the greatest photographers that ever lived. Reconcile this with W. Eugene Smith's artistry & mastery of powerful, poignant photography:

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:46AM
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I don't see anywhere here where people have expressed jealousy or envy of people wealthier than themselves.....just pondering and posing questions to provoke thought and discussion.

I don't think of these forums as brag fests.....all income levels are represented and I think we are all just as happy to see and give advice/opinions on a $1,000 kitchen update as a $100,000 remodel. A shared interest in design fuels these forums whether the budget is Baker or Target.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:00PM
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It doesn’t bother me, if I like it. Not to say I like the clutter part but may like individual pieces. It makes no difference to me how much money is behind it.

I have to say that stark minimalism void of color makes me just as uncomfortable as too much overindulgence clutter. The same with full blown monochromatic rooms regardless of style, I just don’t feel comfortable.

However, I agree with the comments above about how glorious it would be to be able to buy most anything you wanted. I see endless things I would buy for my interiors if I had the money. It would be sooo much easier to decorate if I didn’t have to buy a portion of used stuff that needed hours or weeks of tweaking/refurbishing. I think that’s why I enjoy the decorating posts from those here who have plenty of money. It’s nice to be able to travel through that journey for a change. Even if my ideas are never picked by the GW people in that bracket it’s so much fun looking for things in a much higher price range.

If I could I would spend but a lot would be in gifts for others. I'm not so good at shopping or spending money for myself but love buying gifts.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:29PM
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When it comes to finished kitchen projects (where I sometimes hang out) and home decorating projects, the ones I am constantly in awe of are the DIY projects. Those people may be wealthy, I don't know, but the fact that they take the time, and have the interest to learn DIY skills and then put them to use to improve their homes is very cool.

I own a hammer and a couple of screwdrivers - just in case.

When we were redoing our kitchen I looked at the real estate listings of high-end homes and went to open houses of the same just to see what the newest materials were or what the trends were at the time. What I discovered was that money does not necessarily buy good taste or good function. And what I've also learned through my 60 years of living is that money does not necessarily buy happiness.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:53PM
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Joanie, I think we had this discussion before!! :-)

My point is that no one should be deciding or judging what others "need". Where do you draw the line? If someone has money to cover all their main responsibilities (taxes, kids education, retirement, charity, etc.), shouldn't they be able to spend the remainder of their hard earned money on whatever they want?

Awm03, interesting article/study on envy.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 2:57PM
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robo (z6a)

I had 2 reasons for posting a reveal: 1. I think it is part of the deal - people spend their time trying to help you and in return you invite them into your space to see their ideas come to life (or in my case, mangled by stubbornness ;) 2. Of course I want to hear nice things about my house. You work hard on your space and you want to hear praise in return for that. I have to think it's the rare person who doesn't like praise. Especially if family/friends aren't into interior design, it's nice to hear from people who share your interests. I think the unofficial forum policy of only saying nice things about reveals is a good one.

I grew up navigating class and continue to do so, from poverty (relatives living in buses and shacks in the woods) to upper middle (vacation homes, Mercedes, sailboats). I think wealth does inspire envy. Certainly it does in me. I like toys as much as the next lady. I always thought I was ideally suited to a life of leisure but haven't gotten the right benefactor yet. Money doesn't provide happiness but compared to poverty it can provide health and less stress, which are good proxies for it.

I am comfortably middle class (perhaps a disappearing class) mostly thanks to rich, generous and nice parents in law. They don't finance our life (we both work full time) but take us travelling and keep the wolf from the door. I'm grateful and do feel beholden to them, but also can easily become accustomed to gifts. I try to watch myself carefully for unattractive behaviours like greed and taking things for granted. I'm quite materialistic (more so than anyone in my family growing up) and I know it's something my parents dislike in me so I try to keep a lid on it. Honestly I'd have a house stuffed with beautiful objets d'art if I could, à la Yves St. Laurent (did anyone else see l'Amour Fou?)

My husband grew up alongside ambitious upper-middle class immigrant families and because of his upper class friends, I've had ample opportunity to observe people comfortable with wealth and people desperate to keep up appearances. The latter are definitely suffering from low self esteem and couldn't be more unattractive. You know there's old money, there's new money, and there are people who grew up with money who no longer have it. It's the last group that I find often give me cringes. They often make such impractical life choices, as if working for a living is beneath them. Give me a tacky nouveau riche street fighter any day.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:23PM
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robo (z6a)

I also think at the end of the day, some people are 'collectors' and some aren't. Maybe it's a genetic thing. Some people want to own beautiful stuff and some can look and leave. Some care more about exposing the 'decor' and architecture and some look at a bare piece of floor and think it's a good opportunity to get that bronze they had their eye on last week. Some are minimalists and some are maximalists. Minimalism is in style now but the pendulum will swing in the other direction.

I think the distinction between a collector and a hoarder is the ability to discern and the management of the collection. Not that one can't turn into the other, but every 'cluttered' space isn't a sign of hoarding!


As someone who likes old junk, I'm grateful to the non purgers out there. It's the keepers who keep nice and interesting stuff for future generations to enjoy.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 16:37

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:34PM
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"Give me a tacky nouveau riche street fighter any day. "

Robotropolis, I love that!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:16PM
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Lots of wonderfully expressed opinions here.

The relativity of circumstance is difficult to grasp. To use two examples offered here---spending $80 on a chair, regardless of how good a deal, is as unthinkable to a starving family as a Lamborghini purchase is to a family of comfortable means. In fact, since $80 would be life saving in the first circumstance one could argue that that in that narrow instance, the smaller dollar amount difference is more profound.

One of my favorite examples of the relativity of money is a psychology study that included questions on people's behaviors. A majority of people said they would drive a half hour to save $50 on groceries. The same people would not drive the same distance to save $50 on the purchase of a car. The amount saved was the exact same in both instances, but a smaller percentage of one purchase than the other. This is irrational behavior, but it is the norm precisely because our view of money--- and most everything else--- is relative.

I personally appreciate it when prices of items are mentioned, as is valuable info--- as a shopping guide as well as in evaluating a design's utility for me. Many years ago hgtv had a remodeling show on hgtv that listed the budgets and the actual amounts spent once a job was completed. I found this to be far more interesting and useful than any of their other shows.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:29AM
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KSWL, I understand what you're saying but it doesn't fit in the context of this topic. It's about displaying wealth possibly being in poor taste.

The HGTV show is also not in context with this topic. Of course they're going to mention the price, it's part of the show so they can let the viewers know how much it would cost if they wanted the same remodel.

There is absolutely no reason to mention price on an expensive item unless someone asked you what it cost. Volunteering the price of an expensive item is in poor taste. It would be considered declasse'. Miss Manners would not like that. lol

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:50AM
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Sorry oak, but you are,wrong on both counts. The relativity of money is very much at the core of this discussion. And although it seems inconceivable to you that someone might mention the cost of an item for a reason other than a vulgar display of wealth, you volunteered the cost of your $80 chair because you considered it a bargain, right? So there are reasons....pride of acquisition, reverse snobbery, etc. I would never impute either of those to you, as I believe you were merely sharing your incredible bargain. To both of us, your reason was valid.

Further, this is NOT real life, even though it may function as such for some members. We know a great deal about each others' homes, and some share more on the conversations side. But generally we are looking at a room, a house, a landscape, etc., and part of that package is the cost. Some tell the cost of things, others do not... it is all just information. And what one person thinks is an expensive item might be in the low range for someone else, so again we are back to relative standards and lifestyles. Besides, when people name the manufacturer of their goods, whether Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware of JC Penneys or Target, that is tantamount to stating the price anyway.

In real life--- yes, one doesn't volunteer the cost of something unless asked, and not automatically even then. I have pretended not to remember when asked by someone whose question was merely rude or nosy. Garden web is a forum strictly about decorating, and the cost of buying paint, furniture, art and everything else is just part of the process.

This post was edited by kswl on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 9:14

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:13AM
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So often I think that "Ostentatiousness" in not much more than spending a certain amount of money on something that the person who is calling you ostentatious wouldn't think of spending on it.

I grew up in a very small town in the pre-designer-label period, and the very idea that a lot of my clothes came from a Department Store in a Big City instead of the Sears catalog or the local GC Murphy was a source of comment in school. You could tell mine weren't from the same place because they weren't exactly the same, not because there were labels on them.

The fact that a Lot of people gave their kids cars when they turned 16, (not nice cars, just cars) was "practical" so that sort of gift was not considered any sort of display. I walked, or borrowed my mother's car. They considered That practical.

There are also many regional variations that people fail to grasp, (sometimes refuse to grasp, I think) when how much something costs is brought up. A "ridiculously high" labor cost for one area may be right on target somewhere else. Same with real estate prices of course, and people still bicker about that. I don't think that many people in low cost real estate areas grasp that people who live in high cost areas are a captive audience. Of course it may be ridiculous to pay a certain price for a house, but if you want to live there that's what you pay.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:16AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I would be appalled if anyone ever asked me what something cost in my real life, nor would I ask or share such information.

Here, maybe not so appalled as it does help someone to know if they are considering buying something similar, but even here, I notice most people ask for a source rather than how much something costs. That way, the item can be priced just by checking the source.

I do enjoy hearing about deals people find. My only complaint there is that I seem unable to secure such great finds! :)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:40AM
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I did not respond to this post sooner as I was trying to get my thoughts in order. I in no way think this is a gross display of wealth or in poor taste (the quantity). I think for any of us to presume that it is is just as pretentious or judgmental.

I don't know the exact address of either of those apartments, but I think it goes without saying that if you live at a certain address in Manhattan (The Dakota, The San Remo, 15 CPW, or 740 Park Avenue, just to name a few) your wealth has already been declared. So to assume or believe that once inside these apartments it should look as if the owners have taken a vow of poverty is being judgmental and a bit naive. If the two apartments shown had a minimalist design influence and contained Rothkos, Pollocks, de Koonigs, a Poggenpohl kitchen, Wassily chairs, etc. and if we follow the belief of the question at hand, shouldn't that too be considered a gross display of wealth but just with less stuff? For me at a certain level of wealth, it becomes more about design choices and not the stuff itself.

As an aside to the conversation above regarding wealth and charitable donations, I heard an interview a couple of weeks ago on NPR involving a study of people's wealth relative to their charitable donations. The gist of it was that it was found that as the wealth of people increased (both as individuals and the population as a whole) that their charitable donations decreased. So that poorer or less fortunate people gave the larger percentage of their incomes away to others in need relative to those with great wealth. I didn't hear the entire interview or remember who did the study. Just reporting what I heard.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:56AM
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I don't think there's a person among us who hasn't felt envy of someone at some time. I'll certainly raise my hand as one who has experienced envy. :-)

And Violet, I admire you for your questions and honesty and for starting an interesting discussion. These threads come up periodically and are usually handled, like this one, with the civility and good manners for which GWers are known.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:08PM
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This is true KSWL. I too have envied others. I think it is part of being human. I have very immediate family members who are extremely fortunate (considerably wealthy), and while I don't consideryself jealous of their wealth I do get aggravated at times about how the money is spent. Of course it is easy for me to decide how it should be spent being on the outside. So it's truly no different than the original question. I do relate the original question though to homes around my area. There are certain streets just within my my small area with grand homes which have a layered design and/or the owners have taken the design more minimalist but still most likely at the same expense. Because of the homes themselves and where they are located, I would actually be disappointed if they were not done at such costs. It's relative to the home itself.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:49PM
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re the percentage of wealth given to charity decreasing as wealth grows, that can lead to a very deceptive conclusion. When you think of it, very wealthy people also have to employ staff: accountants, attorneys, financial advisers, perhaps personal assistants, cleaning staff, landscaping staff, & chauffers. Very wealthy people have very big maintenance fees. And think of the taxes on multiple properties, possessions, & all their investments. It's expensive to be rich. Oh, the irony...

Re charitable donations, perhaps as a percentage of their wealth, the numbers go down. But the amount of dollars given is still significant, certainly much higher relative to donations from middle class or upper middle class people.

Ron Perelman just gave $50 million to NYU Medical Center for a state of the art emergency treatment center. Should he be chastised because perhaps it's only a smidgeon of his total worth? I don't think so.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:17PM
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awm, I wasn't arguing the point and in no way think Mr. Perelman's donation is any less significant. I prefaced my statement by saying I didn't hear the entire interview and don't recall who performed the study therefore I don't even know if their research methods were legit. I just found if interesting and threw it out there for anyone who might like to look it up and listen for themselves.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:42PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I apologize if I mess up as I haven't read the entire thread yet, but I did want to comment.

I confess to posting pictures here in the hopes that other people will enjoy my house as much as I do. Not that I feel that my house is overly expensive or I'm trying to show off wealth (certainly it is larger and more expensive than many, but also smaller and more cheaply furnished than many) but that it feeds my ego, I confess, if other people like the same things that I do. It brings me satisfaction, approval, acceptance, appreciation and gratification. If people find useful ideas in my house to imitate, mores the better.

I actually get as much of a boost...if nor more... out of people admiring my bargain finds (like my guest room headboards for $25 each) than anything expensive in the house.

So to me, it's not wealth on display but taste, love of environment, decor, and gratitude for the things I find special and hope others will too.

On some of those over-collected spaces, to me it is a matter of taste. Nothing wrong with liking lots of stuff and being willing to put it on display, but it's not to my taste. Perhaps if I wasn't the one to dust it all...but then again, perhaps not. It just rings too busy to be comfortable... and every space I see, an automatic reflex is, "do I want to live here?" If the answer is no, the cost of the space is irrelevant.

On ostentatious displays of wealth, I actually feel sorry for the person that they should lack such authentic self esteem that they need to define themselves by name brands or expensive things. They are worth so much more than the stuff they can collect. They certainly can't take it with them....OTOH, a tasteful display of very expensive stuff can be as attractive to me as a tasteful array of less expensive stuff...it's all in the taste level (satisfying my taste, again with the 'can I live here'). Of course, if the stuff is too precious, it would prevent me from living there at all (like all white upholstery) so less attractive.

At times I can be envious of people who are able to spend more money than I, but it is short-lived. I know that even if I had Sam Walton's billions, like Sam Walton, I'd still be doing my version of driving around in a pick-up truck and living in Arkansas. You see, it's not about how much money I have to spend, but about the cost/benefit I receive from the item. Frankly, I'm never going to get $3k worth of satisfaction out of Christian Louboutin shoes whether I'm worth $10k or $10B....

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:06PM
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I have a friend (actually I've moved her into the acquaintance category because of this topic) who doesn't have a whole lot of money but pretends that she does and is envious of those who do.

She was going to France a couple of years ago and wanted some new clothes for the trip. When we went into clothing stores she was quite loud about "Well, when I'm in PARIS I'll need a couple of scarves to wear with..." And yes, she shouted Paris.

Now, we happen to live next to the suburb that is extremely rich (unlike us middle class folks) and honestly Paris is nothing to the people who live there. I was rather embarrassed for her.

She then bought a townhouse that happened to have granite counters which she had never had before and same thing. Looking for some new dishes and going into places and basically shouting the word granite around people who probably have kitchens the size of her townhouse.

It was the shouting and trying to show off wealth that doesn't really exist - and believe me, it doesn't exist that was in poor taste.

Pal has a good point about real estate prices. I was watching a show last night on (Dateline?) about real estate buying and values. They showed an agent who was having a big fancy cocktail party to entice high-end buyers to a home valued at $1.3 million (a suburb of Boston - maybe). I'm thinking what - huh? I must have heard that wrong. You see where I live - $1.3 buys you a fixer-upper on a small lot. That's a stupid real estate market. (We could never buy our house now)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:12PM
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Gosh, louisianapurchase, I hope I didn't make you feel like you were in the hot seat. Apologies if so. I was just debating the point, not picking on you :)

(Are you in Louisiana? We lived in NOLA for 8 happy years. My youngest moved back there.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:21PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I think the problem is that one has to know someone personally to know if what is happening is a display of wealth or just a personal style, so an article in a magazine is an insufficient resource to know what is going on in this siutation.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 7:53PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Even if other people display wealth in ways you don't like, what difference does it make? Ultimately, no one can control your responses to their behavior but you. And you can't change anyone. Nor do you have to surround yourself with those people if it is a trigger for judgmental thinking. So choose the best ways of thinking and behaving....

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:17PM
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No need to apologize awm though at first I did think I was being put on the hot seat! I know you had no intention of that. My mind just immediately went into defense mode as I was already beating myself up about my first post and took what you said personally. My first post was extremely judgmental in and of itself which I had tried to avoid but failed miserably. That is one reason I waited so long to post on the topic. I was trying to get my thoughts in order and still didn't get my point across without sounding like a beeoch. It's been a long week.

As far as my own style in relation to those apartments is that I am a less is more kind of gal. However, I love many many of the individual pieces in those places, especially the second. For me to live there however, a couple of layers (more actually) would have to be peeled off even though I think the owner should be able to display them any way he/she likes.

Oh yeah awm, I am in Monroe actually. How long ago were you in NOLA?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:07PM
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"I really wonder why the people who notice all this showing off and neediness bother to read the Design or Kitchen forums at all. Why not just stay away and avoid the pathologic environment?"

Pal, it's because there is a very very slim chance that there might again be a useful post on one particular topic. And you are one of two people that might put up the post. Have a nice evening.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:46PM
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robo (z6a)

First of all, I wanted to say that I don't think rich people are default evil, in fact, I hope to become rich some day by hook or by crook. But I do think there are far fewer incentives to be helpful when you have a lot of resources to protect as opposed to when you yourself might benefit from someone else's help.

I definitely see this in myself as I've ascended a few rungs on the wealth ladder. I am more selfish and less likely to give of my time and resources than my very poor relatives. One reason being more demands on my time, but another because I don't need a helping hand, so why give a helping hand? It's not vital to my survival. I also think part of being rich is insulating yourself from suffering and stress (gated communities anyone?). You use your freedom of choice to live in better neighborhoods, avoid social problems, drive around in a big car with the windows rolled up, etc. You tend to hang out with people who live close to you, so your friends tend to be your social class. You are faced with true emergencies less often - when's the last time you ran out of gas with no cell phone in the middle of nowhere? Or couldn't get home at midnight after a 12 hour shift because you're a quarter short for the bus and have no one to call?

I also make selfish choices every day. Every time I order a rug from o.co instead of giving to the food bank, it's selfish. I don't need a rug and I need it a lot less than people need fresh veggies. How do I live with myself? I have to either humanize myself (everyone needs a hobby), dehumanize poor people (if they weren't so lazy, they wouldn't need a food bank). Or give to the food bank. It's difficult! No one likes a martyr, either, especially a preachy one.

When a social problem is not in your face or affecting your friends, it's harder to care. In fact it's probably adaptive not to care - we can't be devastated any time someone far from us suffers. We couldn't function.

There's been quite a bit of (perhaps envious, perhaps trivial) research lately (post Occupy Wall Street, of course) on how wealth reduces compassion , handling money decreases helpful behavior, higher social class predicts unethical behavior, and the richest give less than half as much to charity as the very poorest americans, even though the poorest don't get typically get tax breaks for charitable donations. Of course, 1% vs.3% isn't doesn't exactly paint a portrait of a nation of givers. In my country, Canada, people give even less - half as much as Americans! One reason is likely because we are a nation of non-believers or at least non-attenders (myself included) and strongly religious people tend to give more. We also have a stronger social safety net so we might feel our government takes care of things for us.

In short, based on my experience and some research, I think having a bunch of money does tend to push you a bit in the direction of being a jerk. Of course there are many exceptions to the rule on either side. I also devoutly hope that I can test this theory out on myself someday.

It's also strange having grown up in a social democratic country (Canada) that's taken a big swing to the right in recent years. I'm a firm believer in the social contract and the Nordic model. I wish we could all agree to run things like Scandinavian countries and I think we'd be a lot happier overall even if individuals had to fork over more of their paycheques to the public sector to make it happen.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Mon, Apr 28, 14 at 8:54

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Just for fun,
5 br, 3 full bath, 3172 sq ft on .23 acres in Ft Wayne


5 br, 3 full bath, 1 half bath, 2775 sq ft on .17 acres in Scarsdale NY

$1 mil

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Living in expensive California, I'm in shock at the beautiful homes I could afford in other parts of the Country. Recently we (The Trust) sold a 1465 sq ft home that needed work for $825,000. to a private University who intends to use it for Professor housing. We opted out of staging it and watching the bidding war yet felt good about the price since it had suffered some Earthquake damage to the chimney and had a bit of Section one issues.

My cousin bought his small (vintage 1940s) home for $1.2 Million and had to gut the place. $500,000. homes don't qualify for bank loans. It's a crazy market in some places, especially in the Coastal States.

I noticed my BIL's old home is for sale again. $399,900. for a 2/1/0 (1043 sq ft) Miners shack. On street parking only.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:56AM
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My family has money- I don't. There is a difference between having money and a love for money. It's a whole diffrerent mindset.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Random thoughts,

Violet.West, My personal take is that the primary reason people did not care for the home posted is that is it not currently on trend. I link below to the current issue of AD, which I have only perused briefly, for comparison. I think of the layered look as very Mario Buatta, and befitting Park Avenue matrons. Most people would rather not be a matron, and not be on Park Ave anymore. (most)

I think the term "display of wealth" is an interesting one for decor, since relatively fewer people see your home (especially your entire home) than say, your car, or your watch. Especially, say, your MBA. So I am not always so sure you are looking at spaces created with the intent for "display", per se. Homes appear in AD primarily because the businesses involved in creating them want advertising; typically they pitch a home to the mag.

Also, even for rooms or situations where people do wish to "display" something, it may not be wealth they wish to convey. Are they conveying wealth or class or lineage or worldliness or good taste or hipness or sophistication or success or cleverness? Those are all good possibilities. Or, are they just "keeping up with the neighbors". OR, hey, maybe they are not conveying anything much at all, just making places they feel comfortable in and enjoy looking at.

I think we all agree that there is no good reason to mention the cost of anything, unless asked, and then one can always demur. Some people will ask the darndest things. The same people will ask to tour your home, which I used to find flattering but now I feel it is odd, other than close friends, and avoid it.

OTOH, I do think that on an anonymous forum, any thing that might be useful is fine. Cost is very germane to decor of course. It is part of the educational process. More than once I posted specifically to ask if the cost of something seemed reasonable. In a business so rife with high markups and unscrupulous behavior, it is nice to have an unbiased source on your side. It's also nice to see what other people spend, to help establish your own guidelines.

I am not sure there is any particular use to blanket statements about new wealth vs old, or about charitability by income bracket. I observe what I perceive as tackiness in all walks and lineage. I think a responsibility to give (and do) for others is a basic human obligation for all of us. One thing I greatly applaud is the integration of service learning into public school curricula, which I think is relatively new. It needs to be inculcated in everyone that service is just something that all citizens do.

As for reveals, the only reveals I find offputting are people who have never posted before. I really like reveals of rooms that people have posted on over time. I find it interesting and satisfying, as well as inspirational. I appreciate any information, including costs, that people share.

As for money and happiness. Money creates opportunities and helps to remove or lessen many of life's stresses. It is silly IMHO to claim otherwise. Does it mean the well to do never have a drinking problem or a broken family? Of course not.

But what makes people happy? Certainly not money per se. I think I have mentioned this before, but I will again because I think it is such a useful concept.

Most people spend a good deal of their energy and time on big goals. Say, for exampel, they want a newer, nicer, bigger, house. They will spend a lot of effort and time and money toward that big prize. However, research shows, that big changes, good OR bad, bring a spike of emotion, but then are rather quickly assimilated into your level of happiness, and become the new status quo. We've all probably BTDT.

Whereas, small things, experienced frequently, raise your overall level of happiness throughout time.

So,experts say, if you want to be happier, don't plan a 4 week vacation. Instead, go see a movie once a week.
Don't buy a new house. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers every Friday.


Here is a link that might be useful: May 2014 AD

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Well said, Mtn.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:09AM
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"I am not sure there is any particular use to blanket statements about new wealth vs old, or about charitability by income bracket."

Good point re blanket statements. A wise person once said something about judging others by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin -- or class status, if I may add.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 2:30PM
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