Bad House

Seeds of Our Demise Add comments

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.

13 Responses to “Bad House”

  1. McGehee Says:

    If the garage fits on the front of the house, it’s too small. I want a garage that looks like a barn, not one that looks like a stable, with paddocks for horses as wide as elephants.

    And I want a front yard I only have to do something with when it doesn’t snow.

  2. Andrea Harris Says:

    Well at least you’re honest. Most people babble about the “curb appeal” and stuff and the big living room, but I really know all they want is a castle for the army of vehicles. Soon the Time of the Machines will be here, and mankind will be no more…

  3. McGehee Says:

    Best thing about a barn is, it goes BEHIND the house.

  4. Andrea Harris Says:

    If I had horses, I’d put them in the front yard. No wait — that’s what I’d do if I had dragons. Fire-breathing ones.

  5. Andrea Harris Says:

    The water dragons go behind the house in the pond!

  6. Skubie Says:

    My house is on a slope, and I had it designed so that the lower level, which would be a “daylight basement” otherwise, is the garage. Up in the Great Northwest it seemed reasonable to be able to drive right under the house and load and unload out of the occasional precipitation (which contrary to popular belief does happen infrequently). Plus, I can get into the car without having to fight off the damn bears and cougars, who can get really pushy at times. It’s an idea I got from watching The Omega Man.

    Then the second floor is really the first, and with the deck across the width of the house the garage in not really an obvious feature.

    Of course, I didn’t have to consider curb appeal, because there are no curbs. And with all the trees, it’d be hard to see the house form the curb even if we had them.

  7. Andrea Harris Says:

    You aren’t giving the bears and the cougars a fair chance at you. Speciesist!

  8. kc (prairiecat) Says:

    We rented a little house here in ‘89 that had TWO of the features we preferred in a house - the ol man didn’t have to cross any bridges to get to work & I insisted on central air conditioning. We never sold it, & when we transferred back to this side of the country, we moved back into a pink & white painted 1955 bungalow with no character. It DID, however, have wood floors, plaster walls & a decent-sized mortgage, in close proximity to commissary & exchange. All those years away, we’d moved into gradually larger places. I’d dreamed - & the ol man had actually drawn up plans - to double the size of the house, extending “master” bedroom, bath & kitchen into the very large back yard, putting in french doors & deck & such. And no more white walls.

    In the meantime, I refinished the wood floors, knocked down popcorn ceiling in LR, DR & kitchen, & repainted everything a decent color, including the ceilings, with the tiny window wall in the kitchen being bright red. Put on a metal roof in Hawai’ian blue.

    Then I took possession of our final pack-out & the entire house, carport & back room were stacked to the ceiling with boxes. I came to the conclusion that a house which could comfortably hold all that stuff was going to take a majority of my time to clean…& I’ve been injured 3 times since the ‘dream’ of expansion began. I’m arthritic, & I hurt all the time in various parts of my little being. Cleaning a bigger house lost its charm.

    We decided to go with making our lifestyle fit our house instead of the other way around. New appliances (no, I don’t have to polish ‘em), a new built-in in the dining room, new fixtures in the bathroom…the bedrooms are last on the list, but we’re slowly working our way through the main living spaces. Discovered we’re not happy AT ALL with what I wanted for kitchen floors, so that will change again. Painted the outside (what I call) Kaneohe Bay green. We tore down the wall to the small bedroom & now have an office alcove off the living room, making the room now look huge & cheerful with 4 south-facing windows.

    Shabby, lovable little concrete block house with a metal roof & bahama-type shutters we can remove in cooler weather. Theme is 1950’s bungalow.

    Next project will probably be a small deck out back of the newly-refurbished workroom/garage space.

    Work would be a lot quicker, but I’ve got the care of this toddler to take up time now, y’see, & I tire much quicker. But it’s fun. It’s a good life. Even if it is a city, there are compensations I couldn’t find anywhere else.

    No McMansion could mean as much to me. Anywhere. Ever.

  9. kc (prairiecat) Says:

    btw, the whole thing, with back room/shop/workroom in back is about 1090 square feet. And we could build 2 more just like it in the back yard & one in front.

  10. McGehee Says:

    If we had the funds to completely remodel this house, the present garage would become a sun room (sort of; it gets morning sun) and we’d either turn the big unfinished portion of our daylight basement into a garage, with doors in the backyard, or we’d build a detached.

    We’d also finish our upstairs “bonus” room, and then we’d build on to the part of the back of the house that wouldn’t be over garage doors.

    ‘Cause all of the above will eliminate space we’re using for storage.

  11. Andrea Harris Says:

    I like those little 50s homes, the ones with the carports and the little porches with those thin metal poles. Kind of like this one.

  12. Andrea Harris Says:

    I would change out the floors for hardwood, though, with a proper retro vinyl for the kitchen. And I’d change out those bland cabinets for maybe open shelving or frosted glass doors, and I’d look for that boomerang-patterned laminate countertops.

    I need to stop watching HGTV.

  13. Skubie Says:

    You aren’t giving the bears and the cougars a fair chance at you. Speciesist!

    Did Heston give the zombies a chance? Huh? And I’ll take the bears and cougars over zombies any day. Yeah, they move a lot faster but bits of them don’t keep falling off. And they smell way better.

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