This summer, my friend Stéphane recommended me to a TV scout because he thought I would be the perfect candidate for a reality show that was being launched on the Quebec Home Decor cable network CASA. Ma Maison Bien-Aimée (My Beloved House) is a concept based on the British television show May The Best House Win. The American version is known as Four Houses and can be seen on the TLC network.
The premise is pretty simple. Four contestants visit each other’s homes and give a score out of ten based on different criteria like originality, style and livability. The highest score wins $1000. If I lived across the border, I would have had a chance to add a 0 to that $1000.
I was flattered that they showed interest so I decided to tempt faith and meet up with the exuberant Lili, the TV scout in question. Even if at first I approached the process with a healthy dose of caution, Lili was so enthusiastic and jovial that it was hard to say no to her. After a tour of the loft, a few photos and a quick interview, I asked her what my chances were to be chosen for the show. “Oh Pat! Not only are you in but you’re going to win!” (Her words. Not mine.)
Alright! So where do I sign? Here’s my chance to show how a 21st century Mod lives. Granted I am proud of where I live because I put so much time, money and effort into it. But I wasn’t overly cocky and confident, like so many reality TV show contestant act. My approach, attitude and “strategy” were certainly unconventional in that aspect. I went in with only two goals in mind: have fun and make people laugh. The money was a distant third. Without revealing right away if I won or not, I believe I accomplished my mission.
Let me introduce you to my competition. First visit was to Antoine’s condo. Antoine is a French ex-pat that decided to put up roots in Montreal. One of the ways he makes a living is by renovating, redecorating and renting out the condos in his building to students and business people from abroad.
He has a very European style that mixes modern design with antiques. Out of the three contestants, he was by far my favorite place to visit. I would also say that his taste is the most similar to mine. When you have a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a Breuer Wassily chair and a Le Corbusier Chaise Longue in the living room, you get thumbs up from me.
There were a few things I didn’t get: the black and whites glass tiles that are velcroed to the white carpet, the drum set at the end of the bed and the wood bench near the balcony. And can someone explain to me why it’s trendy to lean paintings and frames against the wall instead of hanging them? Aside from that, I really dug his place and actually felt guilty by the end of the show to have only given him a score of 7.
Next was Linda. She lives in Pincourt, a suburb that is a 45 minute drive from Montreal.
She completely gutted and renovated, with the help of her contractor boyfriend, an old cottage that they turned into a contemporary country home. She has a million dollar, breathtaking view overlooking a tranquil bay. I felt she had mass appeal and was probably my biggest competition. Again, something was off the mark. In the corner of her country living room, she had two oversized gloomy gothy paintings of scary cyborg babies. Can you say out of place?
Last but not least was Nicole. How can you not fall in love with Nicole? This young grandmother of 4 grandkids reminds me of my own dear mother.
Her small 50s bungalow reflects exactly who she is: a welcoming and family oriented woman. When I first saw her cosy little brick house, I was hoping to step into a time capsule.
Sadly, it is what it is, a cosy and warm home, filled with family pictures and a cat collection in the living room. I have nothing against that type of living arrangement but it’s a decor that I’ve seen hundreds of times.
Finally, I was the last one on the list. By then, we had all come to enjoy each other’s company and the other contestants started to size me up, with my witty humour (again, their words, not mine) and my charming ways. By the end of the second day of shooting, Nicole even asked me where I got my clothes. I believe that’s a good sign.
I was not present when the other contestants visited the loft so I had to wait until last week to see what they finally said in my absence. The show’s host/narrator started by introducing my place as a “Retro-Mod-kitsch-Vintage-Scandinavian” pad. In a nutshell, that’s what my loft is. The fact that I live in a 1906 cookie factory doesn't hurt my chances either.
When I welcomed the trio, I warned them that in order to pay the mortgage, I had a few things that they need to pay to use. For example, a dime will let you use the pay phone, a penny will let you have a gumball, a few nickels will feed the parking meter for a while, a quarter gives you one play at the pinball machine and the taxi meter besides the toilet needs to be activated when you use it.
If I wasn’t going to win the grand prize, at least I would finish with a pocket full of change. After viewing the show, I saw that the payphone and parking meter were fed. Perfect! My plan worked!
I know that one of the more popular surprises in the condo is my fifties chrome cash register on the kitchen counter. Linda’s reaction when she opened the cash drawer was priceless. When she realized that it was where I stored my cutlery, she burst out laughing.
But I wasn’t immune from criticism too. When Nicole, who is afraid of heights, had to access the mezzanine using a ladder, I knew that it was going to cost me a few points. And let’s be honest. A four foot high ceiling is not everyone’s ideal for a bedroom.
So? Did my wacky 60s inspired decor play in my favor or was I too "out there"? Maybe I simply was dismissed as being a second class ticket and seen as a tacky Austin Powers wannabe?
Well, my friends, it seems that Mods have proven yet again that we are trend setters and know about style and taste because… I won!
Here are the finals results. Out of a total possible score of 30:
1) Patrick: 24
2) Linda: 20
3) Nicole: 19
4) Antoine: 16
To add a cherry on top of the whole experience, I just learnt that I also won the public’s vote on the CASA website with a score of 4.8 stars out of five.
The reason why I can write this post is in part because I won the show. A few weeks ago, my Mac went kaput! Now I’m writing to you from a brand new Mac Book Pro. Rejoice! Parka Avenue lives on!
* Some of the photos are the property of TVA and Quebecor Media.
* Some of the photos are the property of TVA and Quebecor Media.