High Life

These days, Denver homebuyers fall into two categories: the rich, and the filthy rich. Everyone else has to buy a home in Aurora, or Arkansas, or Englewood -- like me, for instance. Last December my family moved into a modest brick Tudor, circa 1931, that came with all the quirks common to houses of that vintage, though the previous owner had remodeled it -- or, more precisely, doctored it -- with all of the cheapest stuff Home Base has to offer. For the first six months we lived there, my husband was convinced that the original owner, who presumably died there, was lurking in the house's dust-rimed ventilation system, determined to keep us from getting too comfy. We didn't.

Right before Memorial Day, a demo crew showed up to tear out the dark, painfully small, cut-and-pasted kitchen with its four layers of linoleum, mix-and-match cabinets and leaky plumbing. Bye-bye. The bathroom, slathered with sheets of vinyl faux tile and sporting a sink cabinet the size of a barn, would soon follow. The painters would arrive at the end of June. We were going to fight back, and it was going to take three weeks, tops. Or maybe that was five weeks. Whatever. Labor Day approaches, and we're still sweeping up. We were even getting used to the mess -- until we visited the Parade of Homes last week.

As it turns out, Tallyn's Reach, the site of this year's benefit home showcase, is actually in Aurora, though not the Aurora of crackerbox tract homes and drug-war shootings that we all know and love. It's in the part of Aurora that, in point of fact, lies in Kansas, gracefully affixed to the very stretch of pure, rolling prairie where a homestead once stood for a hundred years or so. Perhaps that's why the showhomes -- stinking of ersatz arts and crafts and Frank Lloyd Wright styling -- carry such evocative monikers as "Prairie Sol" and "Sundance." As one woman we overheard surmised, "Twenty years ago, there were antelope out here." But we suspect the antelope may have roamed Tallyn's Reach more recently than that.


Parade of Homes

Tallyn's Reach, E-470 and Smoky Hill Road

10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through September 4

$8-$12 (children 12 and under free)


Conversely, "faux" is the catchword at this Parade of Little Homes on the Prairie. There are faux-finished walls and faux Modiglianis and faux eclecticism and faux charm and faux livability: There'll be hell to pay for whoever dares to lean against a single brocaded, gilded, fringed and embroidered throw pillow casually slung across the arm of a $5,000 armchair. Do not sit here. Do not touch this counter. Do not use the sleek black toilet. It's for show.

My Marxist husband grouses nonstop about the working class as we bump elbows with the well-heeled and the wannabes. "This is obscene," he says. "These homes were designed for one person -- a rich guy who happens to have a family." True, true. Who else would have a football-field TV built into the two-story flagstone fireplace? But even hubby knows that a Marxist with a credit card is really just another petit bourgeois consumer.

Never mind their built-in hammered- copper prep sinks with adjacent pasta cookers; the kitchen islands alone are each the size of my entire scullery, even post-remodel. All of my maple cabinets and butcher-block counters and Mexican tile would fit neatly into the wine room of one of these babies. The his-and-her marble showers and walk-in closets and private commodes could easily ramble through my whole main floor, though we'd probably have to build an addition for the tub with fireplace. There is no microwave oven, sink or coffeemaker in my master suite, and my two-year-old's room looks like a child's room, complete with mess. My distressed-wood floors got that way the old-fashioned way. And that, I presume, isn't the way the other half lives; it's more like the other 99 percent.

But, hey, could I please have one of those spanking-new Volvos parked in front of each showhome? My '88 is getting a little long in the grill.


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