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Do granite countertops mask our emptiness?

My hunch is that we're fixated on perfecting our home interiors because we don't want to work on ourselves.

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Like tens of thousands of other Americans, my husband and I are in the rather uncomfortable position of owning two houses. And not because we have a weekend house, either. Rather, my husband took a new job and we're moving – specifically from Baton Rouge, La., to Montclair, N.J. – and though our home in Baton Rouge is historic, old, and airy, with a perennially blooming flower garden and two giant live oak trees out back, 80-year-old wooden floors, and high ceilings and two staircases and an enormous eat-in kitchen, it hasn't sold.

Our real estate agent tells us that the problem is two-fold. First, the bathrooms haven't been updated since the '90s. Second, the kitchen doesn't have slate counters.

She also concedes that the economy isn't as robust as it could be – and even if it were, she says, young people want all the latest.

But, really, do counters matter that much to people? Could this obsession with home improvement represent some deeper emptiness within us?

I am not, of course, unbiased in all this, as I happen to think that our Baton Rouge home is about as to-die-for as they come. But our agent is right about the kitchen and the baths. They do not sport any of the kind of up-to-date ultra-in interior accoutrements now in high demand. Things like marble countertops and glassed-in cabinets; Sub-Zero refrigerators and built-in wine coolers; "Tuscan farmhouse" distressed-wood built-ins and antiqued pressed-tin ceilings and restored cast-iron claw-footed bathtubs and Tiffany-inspired wall sconces and recessed lighting and ecofriendly designer closets and natural stone toilets and kitchen drawers outfitted with built-in molded cutlery holders.

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