Hadley Freeman's love-hate-love relationship with celebrity homes

I have a long obsession with articles about celebrity homes, partly because I am a thoughtful person who loves to learn about how other people live, and mainly because I am extremely shallow and love celebrities and fancy houses. So the joy was unconfined when Gwyneth Paltrow opened her doors to a US magazine and – for reasons I can’t fathom, but will never question – allowed us inside. 

Gwyneth is not just a celebrity, but the ultra celebrity, one who encapsulates everything that people hate-love-hate about celebrities. She looks like she’d bully the hell out of you if you went to school with her, she has dated pretty much every handsome famous man her age (Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, Chris, er, Martin) and she has made an enormous amount of money from talking absolute nonsense via her website Goop. And so, predictably, her tour of her house is the ultimate tour of a celebrity’s house, encapsulating everything that I love-hate-LOVE about these articles. Is there an architect saying things like ‘A home should reflect the physicality and the ethos of its owner, and this house takes its cues from Gwyneth’s height, beauty and focus on distillation’? Does Gwyneth describe her $45,500 chandelier as ‘punk rock jewellery’? And does it include a $62,000 hammock? Yes, yes and yes.

(Image credit: Future)

But here’s the real joy of looking around celebrity homes: they’re often terrible. Oh sure, I wouldn’t die of misery if someone gave me Gwyneth’s massive California house. But would I redecorate it? Damn right. Because as much as these articles always bang on about how much the house reflects the owner (her beauty! Her height!), they don’t, because they were entirely done by the architects and decorators. As a result, they all have the safe blandness that anyone who has been in a corporate high-end hotel will recognise. And so it is with Gwyneth’s: oh sure, she might have a $30,795 shower system in her home spa, but so do plenty of fancy hotel spas, which is exactly what her home spa looks like. The rooms are all beige and white, because what else would they be? ‘When I embarked on this project, I was ideating for a future self that didn’t exist yet,’ says Gwyneth, speaking her usual Gwyneth-ese. Well, bravo, Gwyneth. Your future self has been ideated and it is someone who lives in a Four Seasons hotel.  

See also  What does home really mean to journalist Hadley Freeman?