What woman in her heart of hearts isn’t a secret voyeur?

It’s nighttime. You’re strolling down the street, past rows of homes, curtained window after window. Tell us, are you not drawn to the one room not entirely hidden from sight? To that one apartment where the curtains aren’t sealed, where a stream of light leaks out, revealing a fractured glimpse of the home within? Do you not slow your pace, crane your neck, try oh-so-casually to catch a glimpse of the life beyond the window? Don’t you pause, half-hidden by the shrubbery, to sneak a look at the art on the walls, the rumpled sofa…  and, oh, is that Marimekko fabric on the side chair? What paint color is that amazing accent wall? And what on earth is that odd assemblage on top on the bookshelf? A collection of birds’ nests? Or just crumpled tissues?

People are fascinating. Their stuff is too. Other people’s collections and clutter and curiosities excite us. We love how a home reflects the spirit and soul of its inhabits— whether the inhabitants are aware of it or not.

Nope, we won’t lie: we love to spy.

But how? The homes in glossy magazines—so overstyled and trim and tidy—they don’t cut it. Fun, but they don’t send shivers. Too self-conscious. Design porn isn’t the real thing.

Problem is, we’re law-abiding citizens and, as a rule, don’t go traipsing through other people’s yards to peep in windows.

Enter Apartment Therapy. If you’ve been under a rock and somehow haven’t been there yet, you’ve got no idea what you’re missing. This is an amazingly comprehensive site for practical design ideas, community discussion, green solutions, and on and on. But our very favorite part? The part that gets our hidden voyeur’s heart pumping and knees week?

The house tours, naturally.

Real people who live in real homes (with real budgets!) invite you in to take a look. What’s more, these generous folks will tell you where they bought cool things, how they re-purposed ordinary things, what paint colors they used, how they handled challenging space issues, etc. These homes aren’t all sleek and perfect, but you’ll find thousands of design-minded bitches making their spaces distinctive and fun and often beautiful—with a sane, affordable, DIY spirit.

Visit Lisa & Clay’s place in San Francisco and you’ll leave feeling inspired to display your artsy collections in new ways. Drop by Angelique’s chlorophyll-soaked pad for a totally inspired—and refreshingly relaxed—approach to living with color and flora. And since we love water and Scandinavia and crafty people, we’re in awe of Julie & Soeren’s houseboat. Not quite for us, but we swing by to live vicariously through them now and then.

So before you splurge on the advice of a high-end glossy mags, order yet again from a blah catalogue, or hire a decorator to make big decisions for you, take a look around these homes. Note what you like. Bookmark your faves. Post comments and questions.

No sneaking, binoculars, or cat-woman costumes needed.

This is an updated version of an earlier post.