Good, Better, Best
Inspired by this month's House & Garden's article "The Most Beautiful House in the World" and our own "Best of" issue, my assignment this week was to find and write about the most beautiful house in Lexington.
The concept of "Best" scares me because the choice is daunting. How does one decide what is the most beautiful, tasteful, flavorful, sublime or quintessential? Does one, as Ace does in this issue, poll the populace? That simply tells us the most popular opinion and like picking a prom queen, we may just be voting for the girl who "knows" the most people.
Do we ask a panel of experts? If so, who picks the experts?
Am I to simply decide, by myself, the one house of all the houses that I have seen was the most beautiful? Certainly this concept is far too scary. One of my biggest fears is having someone mad at me. (Not a very inspiring fear for someone in my line of work, I know.)
Which brings me to the second thing I don't like about choosing a best: it leaves out everyone else. Anyone who is not the best is left out with the implication that they are just floating around out there in the miasma with the mediocre and the worst.
On the other hand, I am one of the more judgmental and opinionated people I know, and I know lots of other judgmental and opinionated people, so, at first, I felt pretty much up to the challenge.
After giving it some thought I decided that a panel of experts would be a reliable way to choose the contestants - then I would go see the top three or four choices and pick a winner. I asked caterers and florists, realtors and socialites. I asked anyone I knew who had been in many of Lexington's finest homes.
I assumed (mistakenly, it turns out) that there would be some sort of consensus.
I asked 15 different people and got 15 different answers.
One woman said, "I will tell you the second best house. I can't tell you where my favorite is because I am planning to buy it someday and I don't need the competition."
My friend Jimmy (who is the only person I know more judgmental and opinionated than myself) took an hour and a half talking to me on the telephone to decide, which is funny because I figured it would take him about a second to say the best is his own house. However, he just continued to waffle and at one point said if I could break it down in categories such as old, new, country, town, apartment and so on, then he might be able to work with me. He finally decided on a house where "the guest bedroom is so beautiful it'll hurt your feelings."
Several people mentioned houses on Hanover Avenue and Richmond Road (perhaps we should have a death match to decide the most beautiful street in Lexington next week).
My friend Jill recommended an apartment that "is unlike anything in Lexington; think Frasier's apartment, only nicer," but we agreed immediately that an apartment could not be the Most Beautiful HOUSE in Lexington.
Of all the people I asked, not one nominated his or her own house, which surprised me. I even suggested the idea to a few people; they all scoffed.
If one person would have just said, "My house is the most beautiful in Lexington," I would have put it down here in print. It seems that, like me, even the most house-proud cannot just come right out and say, "THIS is the 'Most Beautiful House.'" It is simply too difficult.
I read House & Garden from cover to cover trying to figure out how they determined what was "The Most Beautiful House in the World." They didn't say but I did find, on closer inspection, that they were not as ballsy as I originally thought; the smaller print of the headline says, "This 16th Century Villa near Venice may be The Most Beautiful House in the World."
I'm glad they hedged a little because houses can't easily be compared to one another. In every house, millions of intangible factors come together to make a living-space; everything from the color on the walls to the finish of the floors to the way dust motes look as they drift toward the ground in the afternoon light make a house unique.
Who am I to say what makes one mote better than the next?
If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org.