No, not the tv doctor — an actual house that is bad. It’s not the only one of its kind either — these beasts are legion. I should know; I worked for a company that built them.
I guess I don’t understand people. They want houses like these. (My ex-employer insisted we call them “homes,” but nothing will make these dreadful boxes homes for people — only for their precious vehicles, which get the lion’s share of the square footage devoted to them, I will now point out. Your SUV and your Lexus graciously allow you to attach some extra drywall to their home so you can be available to give them their weekly rubdown with Turtle Wax and Armor-all. No I don’t know if that is how you spell the products and I don’t care.)
Anyway, if you watch HGTV and that Fine Living channel, as I do because I have no life, you will be presented with the sort of people who want houses like these. According to House Hunters, this is what Americans want: big closets, for all the clothing they don’t wear and to stash the suitcases for those trips they can no longer afford to go on because all their money goes into paying the mortgage off of their huge swollen residence. Oh wait — the closets are for the wife’s clothing and gear. Dad is lucky if he gets the hall coat closet. Also: Americans want nice kitchen countertops made of something expensive. And they want vast, huge, gigantic kitchens for all those dinner parties for visiting dignitaries that they plan to throw. How my parents got by with a tiny, coffin-shaped galley kitchen tacked onto the side of their 1925 Florida “Boomer” home I’ll never know. Frankly the idea of traipsing across the acreage of the average modern kitchen today just to fix breakfast for the average American family of husband and 2.5 kids exhausts me, not to mention having to polish all that gleaming granite.
Americans also want that ugly bonus room, for one of three purposes: to give the kids yet another room besides their bedrooms (in my early childhood I didn’t even have my own bedroom, I had to share with my sister, but then again we didn’t have enough toys to fill a cruise ship either, and few of our toys needed an electric plug much less their own power plant like all the Wiis, Nintendos, computers, kiddie laptops, musical “instruments” that are just computerized guitar- and keyboard-shaped things, and so on); for a family “home theater” (in addition to all the other rooms including, these days, the kitchen and bathrooms, that also have their own television sets); or a den for Dad if the home has no basement.
No matter how many people are in the family, what is wanted now is twice as many bedrooms, because Mom needs a “craft” room, and they also need a guestroom for relatives, friends, and so on. Every single bedroom needs its own bathroom, and also there will be an extra “powder room” because God forbid anyone be further than five steps away from a toilet. Considering the amount of liquid people drink these days in just soda and water I’m not surprised. (On a side note, check out this old Pepsi commercial (via James Lileks). Look at the tinyness of the cups they are drinking the iceless Pepsi from. Those can’t be more than ten ounce glasses. People these days don’t give cups that small to anyone over the age of four. And we wonder why there are so many bladder-control commercials on tv?)
Anyway, people want all this stuff in their houses, but most of all they want that giant garage. I understand the need to protect today’s cars and trucks from the weather. Cars aren’t made of steel like they used to be, but fragile junk that costs a mint to fix or replace. Also cars are even more of a status symbol these days. It used to be that the average middle class family was expected to own one sober sedan or station wagon, until Junior came of age when he was expected to buy a pile of junk to practice on until he grew up, got married, got a job, and could afford a sober sedan or station wagon of his own. (Miss Junior was supposed to have a boyfriend to drive her around in his dad’s sedan or his own pile of junk, often referred to as a “jalopy.”) Nowadays everyone in the house of driving age is expected to have their own new or barely used car, and it will have a payment plan on it little less than the mortgage on the house, and the garage will have to be able to accomodate at least two or three cars.
The soulless, giant houses make the “cracker boxes” of Levittown look like hobbit cottages. They have no character — what sort of character can take root in drywall? They do have nice bathrooms, though, and the master bath will have a spa tub you could float the Bismarck in. At least the fashion for sunken living rooms seems to have disappeared sometime in the Eighties. I went to a Thanksgiving dinner at a house like that once. I fell into the sunken living room and nearly broke my kneecap.