Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Amusing Story of an "Accidental Mansion Owner"

Good morning, Happy Mansion Lovers!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so. I know that I am!

Do you find mansions fascinating?

Have you ever considered living in a mansion?

Can you imagine how a mansion might change your life?

Are you intrigued about stories with unexpected twists in them?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, this blog post may make your day.

Less than one percent of the people in the world have ever lived in a mansion.

Even fewer have gone from living in an apartment to a mansion.

I was recently invited to attend a collaborative innovation summit in Providence, Rhode Island hosted by the Business Innovation Factory. I was intrigued by the idea when I saw that the program would be hosted by John Seely Brown and Richard Saul Wurman, both of whom I admire but neither of whom I had met.

John Seely Brown mildly chose to be part of the audience except for comments at the end of each day. Richard Saul Wurman (RSW was he likes to refer to himself) was a distinct presence on the stage by employing wit, wisdom and great timing.

Richard Saul Wurman is a Renaissance man. Trained as an architect who apprenticed under Louis Kahn, RSW soon shifted his focus to the ways that understanding is retarded by the way that writers, designers and publishers convey information. He shared a Zen thought with us: "You have to understand what it's like not to understand."

True to his word, RSW has written widely about communication, publishes books that take new approaches, runs conferences and generally uses his energy to prod us into a more positive future.

If you would like to read about him, go to

Naturally, I was surprised when he launched off on a story about how he had come to live in a Newport mansion. During a break, I approached him on your behalf knowing that you would want to know more. Here is what he told me and graciously offered to let me share with you.

RSW had lived in a loft in New York City for most of his life. Although he loved his loft and NYC, he had a frustration. No one ever visited him there. As a break from the city, he also owned a "falling down" summer place in the mansions.

He began to realize that it was probably going to be cheaper and easier to buy a new summer place and sell the old one rather than to rebuild the old heap.

As nice as the Hamptons are, other people had figured out that point also. Everything RSW and his wife looked at was way too expensive.

His wife just happened across an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Neither had ever been to Newport, but they decided to take a look on a lark.

More significantly, neither one had ever wanted to go to Newport. As RSW told me, "Those aren't our kind of people."

But the mansion blew them away. It was in terrible shape, but "the bones" were there. The home had more than 10 fireplaces, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, and 7 gorgeous acres.

The best part: All this came for less than the cost of an ordinary 3/4 acre place in the Hamptons.

They have been building ever since. They've added three swimming pools and have three full-time gardeners for the ever expanding landscaping.

How do they like it?

They love it!

Here's why.

1. Everyone visits them at their "outrageously pretentious home".

2. Living there is a great gag.
When their son first saw the house, he came into the kitchen and said, "Mumsie and Popsie, Biff is here." This cracked RSW and his wife up. They responded by buying vanity Rhode Island license plates that say (you guessed it), "Mumsie" and "Popsie".

3. They love having a "F___ You House". They don't have to get along with the neighbors or the people in town they don't care for. The house speaks for itself.

4. Oh, and by the way, the house has gone up tremendously in value and they've made their money back many times.

So that's how RSW and his wife became "accidental mansion owners".

There's some good food for thought there.

1. If you buy a fixer upper mansion
at the right time, you can save a lot of money over a "normal" home. (P.S. Now isn't one of those times.)

2. Mansion living will transform your life in many more ways that you can imagine.

3. Mansions will draw visitors, friends and family like a bear seeks honey.

4. If you can afford the upkeep as you go, your appreciation will more than pay for your mansion lifestyle.

This path can be made even more attractive if you cooperate with the programs that encourage historic homes to be made available to the public. Be sure to check with your local preservation society to find out about the many tax and cost-saving choices available to you during your lifetime while you inhabit your mansion.

Can any billionaire do better? I doubt it.

Billionaires aren't going to want to fix up an old mansion. They are more likely to push it over and build a bigger one. While that shows off how much money they have, it's hardly the most intelligent way to approach mansion living. After all, you will lose your mansion's charm in the process and replace it with modern nonsense. That's hardly progress!


N.B. As you can tell, I'm experimenting with color. Let me know what you like and what I should change about my use of color. Many thanks to Linda Grace for her suggestions which I am following!

<>Please let me know what else you would like to learn, and I'll do my best to help in future blog entries.

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May God bless you.

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell