Looking inside people’s houses is the best part of quarantine
Stephanie Hayes | Mayor Rick Kriseman has a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon.
The quarantine coffee table of St. Petersburg's Brittany Volk.
The quarantine coffee table of St. Petersburg's Brittany Volk. [ Brittany Volk ]
Published Apr. 24, 2020

During the Spanish flu of 1918, folks kept busy by doing puzzles, reading newspapers, drinking onion juice and shooting livestock on other people’s farms.

Today, a great way to pass the time is by going on social media and looking inside other people’s houses. It is safer than offing cows that do not belong to you, and arguably more fun.

Interior design is already an amateur sport thanks to Instagram. Curated coffee tables convey intellect — say, a book from the Warhol museum below Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Atop them, a gilded candle and a single peony.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But the coronavirus has chipped a bit at our crop jobs. Yes, you can class up a Zoom meeting with a mood lamp and biography of Frederick Douglass positioned just so. But viewers get a small high when a reckless child bounces by, pants akimbo, Duplo blocks in teeth. It’s a victory for the messy masses to peep a 103-piece ratcheting screwdriver set next to a loaf of sourdough.

Jen Smith, a Tampa interior photographer and stylist who runs Honey Lake Studio, is an expert at curating spaces for portfolios. She can move a book one inch to the right and unlock visual magic.

In an otherwise pristine kitchen, she’ll pull out a knife, cut a lemon and leave it on the counter. Given a choice, the clients almost always want the lemon photo.

“They want to see a sign of life.”

Sign of life. This is why snooping feels so good right now. We need confirmation not that we are perfect, but that we are alive.

Show us your pile of computer cords! Let’s see the cherry Coke can from Tuesday! Come forward with the copy of Hollywood Husbands by Jackie Collins!

Twitter’s @ratemyskyperoom is reviewing famous houses as politicians, celebrities and reporters broadcast from home. Tedy Bruschi has many tabletop games. Ken Burns appears to work inside a barn. Gayle King has very yellow wallpaper. Journalists love placing an old typewriter in the shot. Do I have an old typewriter in this house? I will not be commenting at this time.

Let’s check in with our local mayors.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor posted a selfie with her partner, Ana Cruz, plus a pile of pups. There’s an empty glass. Was it wine? I hope it was wine. There is some kind of trash bag, which honestly makes me feel better about our “donation” pile in the dining room.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman showed up on the Southeastern Guide Dogs Instagram, working with a family guide dog trainee, Hannah. Spot the most ubiquitous object in these United States, a spire under which we can all unite — a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon.

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If that’s not a sign of life, nothing is.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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