wow factor

WinecoolerMy mother bought the home where I grew up based on the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom. It was her deciding factor. The school district was one of the best, yes, but really, she loved the red wallpaper. I loved playing Barbies in that basement, on blue carpeting while the cleaning lady hung clothes to dry, pulling them in handfuls from the washer. There was a piano there, eventually, moved down from the living room when my mother had it re-done. Something in the house was always being re-done. Except for the wallpaper in my bathroom. That stayed, and after she moved out, many years later, when I was away in college, the wallpaper sagged and began to peel off the wall. It smelled like mildew. My father didn’t care. “Who’s looking?” He no longer lives there, either. I wish I had a photograph of the wallpaper. I’d track it down and have it installed in my new home, the one I’m searching for now.

“Wow factor.” It’s what The Suitor told the real estate agent via email. “Whatever you show us, there has to be a wow factor, something, the view, the state of the art kitchen (complete with bread-warmer, wine fridge, and espresso station), something that makes me say, ‘wow.'” For my mother it was wallpaper, which is absurd, but maybe it felt like a soft sign of comfort to her. For me, the musts are many. When my mother picked me up from a play-date, she’d remark on how beautiful the kitchen was. When we got in the car, just she and I, she’d exhale, “what a shame. The woman doesn’t even know how to cook! She’s got a kitchen like that and probably never uses it, aside from melting fat-free cheese on a hollowed out bagel in her microwave.” My mother cooked dinner every weekday evening. I grew up watching her. I want that life, too, except I want the commercial kitchen with the warming drawer and wok station. An indoor grille and a range big enough to accomodate a paella pan. I don’t just need to get a room; I need to get a kitchen.

OutdoorA commercial range (with restaurant-style top broiler) with a built-in ventilation system and an outdoor pool. I’m a water person, and while I pretty much hate all exercise, save for tennis and sex, I make room for anything on the water. I spent all the summers of my life swimming, and I feel happy there, with the ability to get wet in something other than humidity. I’d love an outdoor shower. Love. I’d never leave, unless it wasn’t kept properly. Big bugs, webs, random wings just won’t fly. Kitchens can be gutted, pools can be built, but I want no part of that yet. I want to start with something I can live with, as is. I want to be able to write by the pool, with a glass of wine. Shrimp and octopus salad marinating. The drawer in the fridge that keeps butter spreadable. These things seem luxurious to me. I don’t need a hot tub. I like the idea of a very spacious family room, very high ceilings. I want to walk in and feel like breathing, deeply. I also want a media room built like a movie theatre. But I can certainly live without all of this. As I have for the whole of my life. It’s just a dream of wow.



  1. Thanks for answering my question from your last post with such great detail. Ah, an expresso station…love it.

  2. I am very similar in that I want something that is finished. A lot of people get a lot of joy out of fixing things up. I want mine done when I get there…

  3. Stephanie? May I ask why you guys are not considering Florida? The house ideals sound awesome, good luck with the search! It sounds like a great time. I am a transplant, from Canada to Florida, and the adventure is one I would not trade for the world, even though it means a distance of almost three thousand miles from everyone I knew and loved. And besides, the weather rocks!

  4. My WOW:

    French doors with antique crystal doorknobs
    Terrace or balcony
    Remodeled kitchen – high end appliances
    Remodeled bathroom – rain spout showerhead
    Hardwood floors
    Crown molding

    I have everything right now except for the terrace and the rain spout showerhead – and YET i still want to move!

    I'm with you on the 'turn key' preference to moving – i don't want to buy/rent a place and still have much required to make it what i want it to be. I'm all for a place having good 'bones' but i want to walk in and feel like home – not live with construction workers or less than appealing fixtures and carpeting indefinitely. If i'm spending masses of money on a place – it needs to be done.

  5. My wow factor….potential. Someplace with 4 walls and a roof, I'll take care of the rest myself. I'll take care of the 2 person shower (6 will fit comfotably;)), The gourmet kitchen looking out over the dining room, the french doors opening off of the kitchen to the Garden. Media Distribution, light controls, guy stuff. And I'll be done within 6 months.

  6. for some of us a dream of wow is having a cleaning lady to do our laundry. maybe that's why the lady who babysat you didn't have time to cook. although my mother cooked us dinner every night too, she made time when she didn't have it. we all did our own laundry.

  7. Stephanie, as an older woman who's made mistakes, please take this into consideration: big kitchens with big ventilation systems, bread warmers, wine cellars, big theater rooms, and big pools…cost BIG money!

    The housing market in Austin is cheaper, but so are the salaries. Hell, everything in the South is cheaper than NYC! You're on a fixed income, and the Suitor may not make what he's making in NYC. Please don't start your new future saddled with debt. Many new couples make this mistake and buy more than they can afford in the begining. Your relationship does not need the additional stress.

    The #1 issue couples fight over and promotes divorce is money. Have you and the Suitor talked about money, spending styles, existing debts, and credit scores?

    Also, have you thought about the legal requirements/protection of buying a house together before you are married? Who is legally and financially responsible if you don't get married? Can he afford the mortgage on his own? Can you?

    Not pleasant to think about, I know, but it is necessary before you make such a big move physically and financially.

  8. your blog screams spoiled rich girl, from growing up with a mother who has the choice to choose a house for the wallpaper and than a cleaning lady as well…my mom was that cleaning lady (well not for you, but you know…). then to your current situation of pools and high tech kitchens, most people can't even afford to rent a decent apartment in a little town and here you are with your riches and still complaining about your weight! its disgusting the level of greed and consumerism

  9. Another anon,

    I NEVER respond but really needed to chime in at the audacity of some people. Stephanie should defend herself because her mother had the choice to choose wallpaper? And a cleaning lady? In NYC it is common for you to have someone come and clean once a week/every other week, etc. Even in a studio. Don't have to be rich and definitely not "spoiled". A house with a pool in Austin costs less than a studio apartment in NYC- 4 walls and a bathroom. "spoiled rich? "Most people can't afford to rent a decent apartment in a little town"? Is the economy really that bad? Is your attitude and judgemental self keeping you from getting a job that pays enough? You see greed and consumerism. I see and know a woman who works hard, is talented and provides for herself. Being able to make money doing something you love is not greed.

  10. Your dollar may not go much farther in CA than in NYC, but the San Francisco Bay Area is a beautiful place, and one of the only places you'll find culinary attractions to rival NYC.

  11. I agree with Phil. Sheesh! If you don't like it, don't read it. No need to make personal attacks on other people's dreams.

    BTW, we really do have great food and weather in the Bay Area. I hope you'll come on your book tour.

  12. Hi Stephanie. I wish you the best of luck on getting your house. It sounds very Sunset Magazine. Why Austin? Do you have a certain connection to the place? Why leave NYC? I suppose it's for the obvious reason that you couldn't have all of those features in a living space unless you were Trump. Won't you miss it? It seemed very much your muse in a way.

    Lisa, a fellow writer, liver of life and lover of food.

  13. My mother always taught me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.


  14. That kitchen is beautiful! Is that from an actual house you've toured? When I was home in Houston at the psycho-big Ikea, I lingered around the fake kitchen sets way too long. Long enough to know that I agree with your prioritizing a kitchen above everything else.

    Austin isn't a cheap place to live, but I'm guessing after NYC rent, food, shopping, etc. it will certainly feel like it is. You'll be able to have that gorgeous kitchen and the pool and everything else your dream house requires without wondering how you'll be able to retire.

    It's not some dusty cowboy town as some people have been implying; it's got its share of the well-to-do and style-conscious. It's also got vitality and good music and rich food and, best of all, warm air. You'll love it.

  15. maybe i am biased because we lived two blocks away from each other in EW, but why the hell should we apologize for the hard work our parents did in order to maintain a certain lifestyle for them and for their CHILDREN? i know you emulate their work ethic, as i emulate the work ethic of my parents. you have been through enough; you deserve every ounce of happiness. oh, and that includes a kickass kitchen. here is a figurative umbrella for you; the people trying to rain on this parade need to take a walk under a tree during some lightning.

  16. I`m sure you`ll have it all. You`ll live your dream. The wow factor makes it yours.
    Good luck!

  17. wow, seems my comment pissed some people off. however, i get the feeling that most people come from affluent backgrounds and feel their doing something good by hiring a cleaning lady…come on people, not everyone can go to college and get a good degree and make money but that doesn't mean that they deserve the shit jobs and it has nothing to do with working hard, some of the poorest people work harder than anyone i've seen. oh, and "industrywhore" your comment sickend me. however, this wasn't meant as a bash against stephanie, although it sounded that way, i just think that people need to be grateful for all they have. maybe i should have made it about society in general, not personal.

  18. I'm a regular reader of Stephanie's blog but the hyper sensitivity of Stephanie's fans to any comment that smacks of criticism is really getting old. This is a blog, not a support group. If the comment section is enabled, then feedback – both positive and sometimes negative – will ensue. Why chase the detractors away from the blog just for contributing feedback you don't like? Everyone has a right to read and react to the content.

  19. Glad to see you chime in, Phil. I don't know why the last two blog entries have comment sections filled with personal attacks — sun deprivation perhaps?

    Anyway, jealousy breeds contempt around here, among other things. Have fun on your trip to Austin….wishing you both the good things that you've worked hard for and deserve….Bobette in Vegas

  20. I'm looking for my WOW factor home too in a cheaper market. DC is no affordable town. My wow items- the house must be old, but beautifully and lovingly restored, have a porch and a decent view, come with its own patch of green, have a fireplace, have a bathroom I can move around in, and have two of the bedrooms big enough to serve as master bedrooms. Where can I afford this all on my meager "helping people" salary? Pittsburgh. The weather is crap (I lived there in undergrad), but the housing market is UNBELIEVABLE. Pittsburgh, here I come.

  21. if your mom was that cleaning lady, you should be thrilled that people with disposable income, such as stephanie, hire cleaning ladies so frequently. would you prefer they not, and your mother be out of work? fucking idiot.

  22. Obviously, those who find Stephanie's writing & lifestyle spoiled or otherwise offensive should simple close their browsers. No one is forcing them to read another's private journal. Those who suggest, however, that working hard affords most their dream lives should take a look a our national minimun wage & average family income as well as consider the sociological contributions to individuals' achievement. I find the fact that 10,000 NYC families with at least one full-time-working parent are homeless overwhelmingly humbling.

  23. "private journal" actually thats just what this blog is not since it is open to the public and comments allowed…and phil, if you took a look at the economy of the US you would find that it is THAT bad and i think you must have forgotten how the majority of the people live in the US

  24. To the anons: judging someone for how they grew up is unfair. It's tempting to criticize someone for not demonstrating that they appreciate their privilege, and while she didn't really do that here, I think Stephanie has said on numerous other occasions that she is indeed grateful for all the ways that she's been blessed.

    I happen to have a major aversion to greed and consumerism in general, too. I admit that I do pass judgment on people who buy enormous houses, blow money on the hottest new appliances just to keep up with the Joneses, and who are just generally wasteful and indifferent to the world outside of their crystal palaces. I just disagree that this post "screamed" any of that. This was a post about her *dream* house. And the fact that her parents could afford a cleaning lady is irrelevant. Both my parents worked and I did my own laundry. Does that make my dream of having a Sub-Zero fridge and a Japanese-style sunken bathtub more acceptable than hers?

    Upklhd: good advice! Debt is something I think people don't fully comprehend until they're knee-deep in it. Better to be careful early than try to fix a problem after the fact.

  25. comment to beau – see this isn't a private journal this is a blog that is posted on a very public thing called the "internet". in saying that i cannot for the life of me understand why someone is labeled "jealous" or a "hater" for not 100% agreeing, high fiving or doting on m(r)s. klein. if that's what she wants or has intended maybe then she should choose who is allowed to post comments and who is not. just a thought.

    ps toughen up stephanie — book reviews could be a HELL of a lot worse then blog comments and you won't be able to have "the suitor" or anyone else jump up and stick up for you. chin up

  26. Phil/Stephanie,

    Sounds like y'all will fit in just fine down here in the South. Congrats- and hurry up! It was 78 here in Houston today. I'm sure your freezing your buns off in NYC! No need for a coat this trip!

    PS- Steph- I got "that" kitchen- and I worked my buns off for it-!!! Dont let people make you feel guilty for wanting- and achieving. I've done it all my life! I was a 33 year old undergrad graduate- with twins at home! The drive for something more- made me want to achieve. I didnt just sit around blaming other people and making excuses that "I couldnt afford a college education" or couldnt achieve because society was holding me down. I did it- people do it every day-(people a lot less fortunate than me!) and those who dont- well I guess they just dont want the same things you and I do. So be it. I'll sit here with my cocktail on my front porch and enjoy my success- and I wont be made to feel guilty for it!

    Enjoy your trip down here!


  27. "I'm a regular reader of Stephanie's blog but the hyper sensitivity of Stephanie's fans to any comment that smacks of criticism is really getting old."

    I agree. I also get frustrated every time I read someone summarily dismiss anything negative here as stemming from jealousy. Not every person is interested in having the life that Stephanie has. Shocking, I know.

    Every single reader of this blog who doesn't know Stephanie personally has formed an impression of her based on her writing. We've all created personas in our heads of who we think she is. But somehow only the people whose made-up persona is less-than-fabulous are wrong? More than likely, we're ALL wrong.

    another anon: I did not see your second comment before I posted my first comment. I hear ya on the criticism of society in general. But your first comment did seem pretty personal.

  28. I'm one of those people who would love an amazing kitchen…but would probably never use it. I remember an episode of SATC where one of the girls said they used their oven for storage. That's so me. Non flammables of course.

  29. It is always fun to dream about the "wow" factor. For me, I think the ultimate dream would be to live in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It will never happen. But that is what dreams are for. They are the little mini vacation daydreams that we have. Stephanie, I applaud your blog…very open and honest. Comments are comments, nothing more. I hope you and the "Suitor" get to share a dream and build a future together. You deserve happiness, as does everyone else who writes here. So keep dreaming those dreams…maybe someone from Viking will let you get a good deal on one of their stoves…god. You could just stop doing everything and become a culinary artist.

  30. I too am a pretty regular reader who rarely comments butI have to agree with K and amanada b on this one. Much of what I think Stephanie writes is great but because she's a human who (big book deal or no big book deal) still puts her pants on one leg at a time, occasionally she will write something that steps on someones toes. It's inevitable. While I think that blatent disrespectful bashing is completely uncalled for, the "hyper-sensitivity" does quite often make feel a little nauseous. And if someone disagrees with something she says, so what? Like K says, this isn't a support group, it's a very public blog. If Ms Klein wanted to delete each of the negative comments everytime one popped up, she could but she doesn't. She seems more than able to fight her own battles, so why not leave that up to her?

  31. Is it wrong that I got turned on by the kitchen you described topped with the outdoor shower? You took the kitchen I just finished gutting and remodeling and my Fire Island summer house and made them my fantasy.. I really need to move to San Diego where I can have both outside all the time… Now if I could just get the wife to eat fish… Happy Cooking Stephanie!

  32. You also have to realize that if the book bombs, that source of income may be gone on a moment's notice. That TV series could very well be cancelled. That movie deal could go bust too. Stephanie's whole dream could easily go up in flames but the debt will always be there. I invest most of my disposable income into musical instruments. They're cheaper than fancy kitchens and easier to transport. But to each his own.

  33. finding the wow factor in the UK is easy, but my goodness do I miss the home market prices in Texas where I am from. To think my parents own a home they had build themselves, with 5 bedrooms and four bath for 1/3 of the price we would pay for a tiny home (probably attached) with a tiny back garden. It's depressing! I miss spacious kitchens, large bathrooms and bedroom larger than closets… But enough of my complaining!

    Best of luck to you both! I haven't read in a while, I had no idea you were moving to Texas? Or did I read that wrong. Nonetheless, I wish you lots of happiness!

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