Looking in people's windows

Like the Jimmy Stewart character in "Rear Window," I spend a fair amount of time looking in other people's windows. Not to catch a crook, or even to see what's going on inside, but to take a peek at the decor.

Unlike Hitchcock's hero, I do my looking from the sidewalk, at a discreet distance, and without the aid of a telephoto lens. It's a habit I developed some years ago when I first moved to Boston.

Living in a spare, cheap studio apartment, I took frequent walks through such high-rent neighborhoods as Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. The grand architecture, fancy moldings, carved columns, and unique doorways captured my beggared imagination. But it was the interiors I longed to see.

On wintry evenings, windows glimmered with a come-hither glow that was irresistible. I was astonished at how many people left drapes open; it was as if they welcomed the gaze of passersby.

I did not disappoint them.

Like a refugee starved for beauty, I took in the gilt-framed portraits, the floor-to-ceiling bookcases, a grand piano or two, fancy lamps, and polished furniture.

In the suburbs where I live now, window-gazing is more of a challenge: People are more private. They don't leave drapes open with quite such abandon. But a number of homes around town do, so I look in as I drive by, paying attention to which houses look warm and inviting.

My own house, which sits below street level, feels like a fishbowl if I leave the blinds open. So I don't. While I have nothing to hide, my own decor has a ways to go before it's ready for sidewalk viewing.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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