Some things are generally understood to be wonderful. Antique clawfoot bathtubs, vintage mid-century recliners, infinity pools. We see them and we salivate at what they offer: the promise of luxury, style, and comfort; of expansive dining rooms with glass doors that open onto a secluded cobblestone patio.
These delicious signifiers of immense wealth are the main draw of Architectural Digest's hit video series Open Door, in which the most famous people in the world — Kendall Jenner, Kerry Washington, Lenny Kravitz, Hilary Duff, Jessica Alba, Tyler Perry, the list goes on — bashfully take us on a tour of their highly staged palaces. They gesture at their favorite ultra-rare furniture and their custom pieces of world-class art. The episodes end up being more than just a pretend-intimate invitation into fabulous homes — they’re about the thrill of watching celebrities try to artfully explain why they’ve made each of their unfathomable purchases.
But as straightforward and alluring as Open Door’s premise is, what I find to be the true draw is the opportunity to see the deranged interior design choices of the rich and famous: the macabre statues of birds in Aaron Paul’s Idaho mansion, the neon penis measurements in Kendall Jenner's bedroom, the Hereditary-style church Sheryl Crowe built and filled with haunted knick-knacks.
Without the flair of something weird and out of place, we run the risk of living in boring joyless homes, no matter how chic the furniture.
My favorite episodes are the unpolished ones, where we get a peek at who these celebrities are when no one is looking. While I and most people on Earth cannot afford the kind of homes we see on Open Door, there is an interior design lesson to be gleaned from the series: without the flair of something weird and out of place, we run the risk of living in boring joyless homes, no matter how chic the furniture.
Over the course of quarantine, I have grown very well acquainted with my Silverlake apartment. My boyfriend and I have decorated, redecorated, painted and thought long and hard about our possessions. I have discovered through the process that, if I’m being honest, my interior design style is much more elementary-schooler-with-a-budget than it is a grown woman with modern sensibilities.
When it comes time to decorate a new room, my impulse is to stuff it with bean bags and bulbous lamps and a Marie Antoinette-style fainting couch. My obsession with Open Door has provided a much needed reminder that interior design is not the time to be self-serious. It is the time to indulge in the silly things. The chicken-shaped pitcher I got as a birthday gift that looks like it's puking when you pour water out of its beak? Now proudly displayed on my counter. The photo of my grandmother bowling in a sweater vest? Propped up on my desk where I can see it always (taking a tip from Dakota Johnson, who also has a photo of her legendary grandmother Tippi Hedren in her office). If Vanessa Carlton can put up shelves she found in a dumpster, I can hang up the mirror our neighbors were getting rid of.
Open Door is a celebration of beautiful things just as much as it is a celebration of the bizarre. You get to see Kendall Jenner motion to the original James Terrell that sits off to the side of her living room like an after-thought and mention that it's good for meditating. You get to watch David Harbour from Stranger Things laugh nervously as he admits that he never gets around to using the full chef’s kitchen in his New York City loft. You get a rundown on all of the taxidermy hanging around Dita Von Teese’s house, Liv Tyler’s collection of old cookie jars, and the crystals Hilary Duff likes best. It is lawless. But it is real. Or at least, more real than an infinity pool.