Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Elderly Pixels Being Viewed By Agoraphobic Misanthropes For Some Reason, Example 23

(From 2008: Please  note that only four years later blue and brown is in complete remission)

Ten Dreadful Things That Have Become Housing Standards

I've been watching all the "Let's have a housing makeover" shows. It's interesting how many of them there are. Everyone seems to be interested in the design process now. There's very little of what used to be the norm in home-improvement shows -- pointing the camera at the people doing the hammer and nail work. Now it's point a camera at the realtor, or the curtain guy, or the designer for the most part. They have elves do the work while the camera crew is at lunch, I guess.

Most people get their ideas about what to do in fashion by looking at what other people are wearing. Essentially, all the home rehab programs are fashion shows at this point; centered around the soft goods. I'm in the furniture business now, so it's sort of my game, but I used to be more heavily into the building of the actual house, so there's some things about the whole megillah that bug me.

They bug me because everyone is doing them because everyone is doing them. They are ugly; or nonsensical; or counterproductive; or wasteful; or mostly an ephemeral fad being written into concrete -- always a bad idea. The decorative stuff is going to be painted over shortly or thrown in the dumpster too quickly, and the permanent installations are going to make the owners miserable for generations because they're too expensive to get rid of.

So here's my counsel. STOP DOING THIS:

1. Snout houses.
Stop nailing your house onto the ass end of your garage. I'm not going to explain myself. I shouldn't have to. You are building a house for your car and living in a shack out back. Never ever ever do it.

2. Putting a flatscreen TV over your fireplace mantel.
Profoundly dumb. It's tiring to look at screens above eye level when you are seated. Designers have given up doing their job integrating two things to look at in the same room, and so have stacked them. They're not washer/dryers in a condo, people. You're slouching in your chair and getting headaches and backaches trying to look at the thing. There's a reason no one sits in the first row at the theater. Look down slightly at entertainers, and the entertainment, too.

3. Putting the microwave over the stove.
Reaching over a hot stove to remove dishes sometimes filled with superheated items, above eye level for most women and all children is profoundly dumb. It's the greasiest place in the world, too. Put it in the island and your five year old can make their own popcorn.

4. Cooktops in islands with seating.
I love to have hot grease spatters launched at me while I'm seated across an island from the cook. The boiling cauldrons of water give a nice netherworldly effect as well.

5. Open plan in a big house.
Open plan is for little houses, so rooms can share some space with one another and counterfeit roominess. A big house with undifferentiated space is a airport lobby. Last time I checked, having doors doesn't preclude a plan from being "open." You just leave them open. Not having them does preclude you from closing off the rooms when you want to, though. Even small houses are better with rooms that can be closed,if you ask me.

6. Very high ceilings in a family room.
You're trying to watch TV in there, or talk to one another, and the sound bangs around like an airport hangar. You've got an open plan so you get to listen to the dishwasher and refrigerator run, too. A two story bedroom is pretty dumb, too, but I don't want to make a Top Eleven list.

7. Plastic everything.
Vinyl sided, rubber windows, plastic decking... Man, everybody's living in a big rubber box nailed on the back of a garage. Wood, stone, masonry, glass, paint, people.

8. Ceiling fans everywhere.
Do you all really think you live in Casablanca? If I go into another ranch house with a ceiling fan hanging down from a 7 foot 6 inch ceiling, I'm going to go postal. If I can't stand up in the middle of the room without getting a bruise or a haircut, you're doing it wrong. There is no stratification of air in a house. Doesn't happen. You're screwing a window boxfan sideways to your ceiling. Stop it. Your house has AC anyway. And you live in Wisconsin. Cut it out.

9. Enormous jacuzzi tubs.
You can ooh and aah all you want when you go in the bathroom and see a big jetted tub with a window over it, and a skylight above, but I've got news for you: You will patronize your undertaker more often than you use that tub; 99% of humans will not bathe in front of a window; and the skylight will rain condensation every time you take a shower, forevermore. Strike three.

10. Blue and Brown.
I've lived through this three times now. I've ripped all this stuff out twice with customers muttering "What were they thinking?" Powder Blue and Cocoa Brown DO NOT go together under any circumstances, anywhere. Except of course in every room on every show on television.


Expat(ish) said...


We laughed at the late 80's jacuzzi tub in our wonderful 1963 ranch - then we started using it. Did you know you can put three kids in there and wash them all at once? And if you have a separate 50G water heater you can boil your wife in there? Well, not actually boil her, but get her in a steaming hot tub and get her a glass of wine (insulated plastic glass, natch), and just enjoy the peace and happiness.

We use it less now - probably once a week on average. I use it after races to get hot epson salts water where needed.


leelu said...

Powder blue and cocoa brown were the colors my girlfriend used for eyeshadow during the 80's. May explain a lot...

T.K. Tortch said...

Around here (in-town Atlanta) lots of houses suffered from the scourge of witless flippers. Absurd decor schemes, ugly What's-Cheapest-At-Home Depot fixtures, stupid, stupid kitchens; and: the giant jacuzzi in a tiny wooden house, complete with acres of ocher tile.

When I was looking for a house they seemed to come two ways: at the right price but with a stupid, stupid kitchen, or a perfect kitchen and too expensive.

Stupid Kitchens: A free standing stove with no overhead vent, but one of those integrated fans level with the stove top. Have yet to see one of those that worked well. Good for boiling hot dogs, I guess.

Stove vents - if you've got four free standing walls don't install one of those overhead vents that just filters and recirculates. Vent it to the outside!! You don't live in a Manhattan shoebox!!

Microwave over stove: Stupid, stupid. Does anybody use a microwave for much more than reheating and popcorn, anyway?

Anyway. Finally I settled for a circa 1910 wood frame house with a pretty much new roof and new plumbing & electric. Kitchen ugly and old but functional and unmolested by renovators. That way I don't have to rip out something new to make the kitchen right.

Sam L. said...

Must be a busy work time, recycling the old stuff. Good stuff still. Always will be. Just looking for NEW! and SHINY! and Improved, non-Stick Surface!

(Not much Spam today.)

Ken said...

Okay, but I've stripped and reglazed and repainted wood-framed windows, and I hate it with the intensity of a thousand furious suns that all just finished reglazing their wood-framed windows.

Thud said...

We need you on tv or at least youtube, keep it up!

amanda said...

Thank you and please keep posting these house critiques! my husband and I are cautiously venturing out to purchase house/home/property. Your writing helps me clarify what I want and don't want, identify what can be changed and how, and what is really important. (and all the more reason to avoid the realtors)

Anonymous said...

"very little of what used to be the norm in home-improvement shows"

yep. i miss norm

Bram said...

It was said on the last post - the challenges of building comfortable houses were solved centuries ago.

The builders here in NJ seem obsessed with building houses that are all the same. When I lived in Nevada, I saw a lot of strange model houses that I didn't like (and a few I really liked) - but at least they were trying.

Anonymous said...

Our house breaks several of your rules: great room, vaulted ceiling, lots of ceiling fans, but then again we live in Florida. Because of the vaulted ceiling our air conditioning bill is about 1/2 what everyone else's is.

Sam L. said...

I was out driving around in a newer development--and what I saw was snout-houses. Except one.

phil g said...

How can you stop at just 10. In addition to all the dreadful things you listed I'd like to add unnecessary multiple roof peaks. They look silly, add complexity and expense to re-roof. You're house is not the Biltmore mansion, it is just a 3-4 bed house with a garage. You don't need more than two peaks not including dormers.

phil g said...

While I'm at it, another peave of mine is the obsession with granite. Granite sucks! Every glass item placed a bit to hard breaks. I've seen a red wine bottle explode when set on the edge of its bottom and not even very hard. Solid surface is the perfect solution. It can look like stone but soft and forgiving.

Also I bet very few people actually maintain their granite properly.

But the oohs and ahhs on all of the stupid TV home shows for granite. You could put granite in an otherwise condemmed house and a stupid buyer will choose that over a great house with perfectly fine formica counter tops.


jed said...

Well, I must be at the .25 percentile, because I want an outdoor shower. Window? Doesn't bother me. Presumably, also wouldn't bother someone who'd bathe in this tub.

Your comment re. the snout house, 'building a house for your car and living in a shack out back' makes me wonder whether you're opposed to all or most attached garages. Yeah I know, you didn't say that. Just wondering.

Bram said...

I think most people are opposed to houses with the garages in the front. To the side is better. If the lot is large enough, in the rear or detached is better still.

I certainly appreciate my garage and both cars are always in it when at home. I'm amused by my neighbors who have filled their 3-car garages with so much crap, they have to clean snow off the cars after a storm.