June 9, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Stepping into the lifestyles of the rich and famous

Like thousands of other curious Hoosiers, my husband and I, along with a couple of friends, recently toured the Decorators Show House sponsored by St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild at the former Hilbert mansion in Carmel, Ind.

Believe me, it was an experience in trying hard to love one’s neighbor. One’s rich neighbor.

Not to be an envious member of the proletariat or anything, but who wouldn’t want to gape at a 25,000 square-foot house resting on 40 acres of some of the choicest property in central Indiana? Or, admittedly, a secret chance to think mean thoughts about the lives of the previous owners?

The basic house, hopefully named “Le Chateau Renaissance,” is not so much an illustration of a renaissance of beauty and taste as it is a sign of the power of money and the importance of public image. At least, that’s the impression we got.

Every inch of the building is constructed of the finest materials—rich woods, glass, marble, you name it. Some of the ceilings are painted with murals like those in old European churches, with mythical and quasi-religious figures. One bears the likeness of the former owner portrayed as a Roman centurion!

For such a large house, there are only five bedroom areas, but many are suites of rooms. The master suite boasts his and her dressing rooms. And just down the hall is a laundry room devoted entirely to master bedroom linens!

Off the man’s dressing room in the master suite is a half-Olympic-length lap pool tiled in sapphire-blue mosaic. The expensive silk-and-wool carpeting, left over from the owners, displays serious wear paths throughout the suite, especially in front of the lady’s dressing room mirror.

The library is on two levels, with a tiny circular staircase to reach the upper gallery. We loved this room, which has a faintly medieval atmosphere, although the books look as though they’d been bought by the yard—and not too many of them at that.

We went from room to room to room. There are several kitchens, more than there are bedrooms, but not as many as there are bathrooms. There’s a room for every purpose under the heavens, including a drawing room, a lady’s morning room and, near the front entrance, a tiny phone nook.

There’s a Florida room, a billiard room, a spa room, a mirrored fitness room, and a wine cellar and tasting room. The media room contains a giant television arrangement that allows watching several channels at once, and there’s a dance floor lit from beneath with swirling lights.

The house’s many windows reveal truly gorgeous landscaping from every angle. Outside the main house are a large swimming pool, a “petite chateau” pool house and a “sports palace” featuring full-size basketball and raquetball courts. Both these buildings contain bedrooms, “gathering” rooms and the ubiquitous kitchens.

The decorators did their best, but the house itself and its beautiful grounds eclipse their efforts. My friend said when she got home she looked around and was pleased to realize that she wasn’t one bit envious of the Carmel mansion.

Neither was I. But then, neither of us is rich, fit, in the glare of the public eye or maintained in luxury, either.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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