Books: Dan Ho – Rescue from House Gorgeous (2004)

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by Mark Saleski

Dan Ho wants to liberate you from your own house. From the many unnecessary items, chores and other stuff that in theory makes your life “better.”

And just how would he know anything about this? Oh believe me, he knows. Dan and his wife were, as they say (or maybe they used to say) livin’ large. They owned and operated a successful Chicago-area restaurant (Jenny’s) and lived in a house of their own design.

But the thing is, that lifestyle, that “success” … almost killed Dan. One day, as they were leaving the restaurant, Dan had a seizure.

I won’t get into the particulars of this part of the story because I’d hate to spoil a good read. What I will say is that, after a fashion, both Dan and Jenny decided that maybe they needed to make a few changes. One big change was selling the restaurant. The other was (you guessed it) setting the “dream” house free.

So Dan & Jenny end up in, of all places, Portland Maine. Dan starts a new magazine dedicated to home design (Rescue) that is subtitled “Rescue from House, Food & Garden Perfection”. See, he does have a point. The well-mannered home, stuffed to the gills with “shabby chic”, is actually a high maintenance, time-sucking nightmare:

There are chores, and then there are chores. The first set involves the usual cleaning, errands such as shopping for food, getting a quick oil change, perhaps going to the post office. The second set, the “styling” chores are those that we’ve all heaped on our schedules in the pursuit of house beautiful. I hate this new set of chores – arranging endless pillows, refreshing windowsill vases, dusting wreaths, replacing votive candles, wiping bath and olive oil rings, refilling individual salt bowls. Individually these are simple tasks, but en masse and on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis, they are insidious.
Rescue from House Gorgeous is one of the funniest sorta-memoirs I’ve read in quite a while. Ho constructs a life narrative interwoven with his plan for the de-crapification of your house. Fans of Martha Stewart may be shocked to discover that there’s another way.

And speaking of Martha … in a bit of house design synchronicity, I just happened to purchase this book at Longfellow’s in Portland, Maine on the very same day that our domestic diva was sentenced to five months in prison.

It’s a beautiful thing.

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