HGTV's never ending fantasy loop
September 29, 2017 6:43 PM   Subscribe

 
HGTV shows are pretty much all the same. "Artisanal floral arrangement consultant and Baltic Languages graduate student seek fun and funky 5000 sq ft contemporary pad in downtown Vancouver with plenty of space for their growing family." Those who find this kind of stuff legitimately aspirational are bound for disappointment.
posted by killdevil at 6:52 PM on September 29 [19 favorites]


It makes me want to destroy the bourgeoisie
posted by Ferreous at 6:53 PM on September 29 [41 favorites]


Nothing bad could happen to a family who has a kitchen like that.

How often I find myself thinking like this: if only I had the right file cabinet or a bigger desk, *then* I could really write, or whatever.

But there it is. Wherever I go, there I am, noticing a lack.

Also, "greige" is the worst.
posted by allthinky at 6:55 PM on September 29 [11 favorites]


I actually learned quite a lot from early HGTV when they had some organizing shows. To this day I set up new spaces with theory I learned about keeping things where they are to be used, triangle workspaces, and pulling furniture away from the walls. The switch to House Hunters and the Flippety Flop shows just depresses me and reminds me of their culpability in the Great Recession.
posted by xyzzy at 7:05 PM on September 29 [20 favorites]


And what failure of character is revealed by my closed-plan kitchen?

What, you mean you don't want all your possessions to smell like every meal you've ever eaten?

(Open concept makes houses seem bigger, which sells them quicker. Unless you are a realtor, open concept has no benefit to you whatsoever.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:09 PM on September 29 [22 favorites]


Artisanal floral arrangement consultant and Baltic Languages graduate student seek fun and funky 5000 sq ft contemporary pad in downtown Vancouver with plenty of space for their growing family.

BUDGET: 950,000
posted by Karaage at 7:10 PM on September 29 [31 favorites]


wait, what's the advantage of furniture away from walls?
posted by Ferreous at 7:11 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Also, IT'S FUCKING CALLED TAUPE YOU MORONS AND GO FUCK IT
posted by Sys Rq at 7:15 PM on September 29 [20 favorites]


22 year olds with questionable wealth sources shopping for $2 million houses in Vancouver. What an inspiration.
posted by Yowser at 7:22 PM on September 29 [13 favorites]


I have never watched any of these shows, and I feel like I've totally internalized their aesthetic anyway. It's probably Pinterest.

I dunno. I recently bought what I think is a pretty modest house, and I'm having a good time decorating it. I feel like this is one of those things that gets mocked because it's associated with women, but it's ok to enjoy looking at house porn and fantasizing about fixing up your house.

I like my closed-plan kitchen, though.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:35 PM on September 29 [21 favorites]


wait, what's the advantage of furniture away from walls?
Mostly just using up more space and not lining everything up around the edges of a room.
posted by xyzzy at 7:36 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Not having your bed right up against the wall makes it way easier to change your sheets and make up the bed (if that's something you do.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:38 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]


Mallory Ortberg's most recent installment of the Shatner Chatner addresses HGTV in exactly the manner it deserves. Archival entry for those not on her mailing list here.
posted by mordax at 7:40 PM on September 29 [23 favorites]


(Open concept makes houses seem bigger, which sells them quicker. Unless you are a realtor, open concept has no benefit to you whatsoever.)

Tell that to my wife, who got terrible anxiety in the tiny closed-off kitchen of our first apartment. Since then she's insisted on open kitchens.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:40 PM on September 29 [5 favorites]


My favorite moment was when a house hunter pointed out how awkward it would be to have to turn his head to see his dinner guests while he was cooking.
posted by davebush at 7:43 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Here's a benefit open kitchens do have: when it's time to cook dinner, the cook doesn't have to be isolated from the rest of the household. All my childhood memories of meals involve people having fun in the living room or dining room while a woman of the family was laboring in the kitchen by herself (all our kitchens were too small to really be eat-in). Now, that can have its rewards, but at the same time, when I want to cook and still chat with people, or have folks working on stuff in the same space, it's awesome not to have to excuse myself and go rattle pans all alone.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on September 29 [92 favorites]


I CAN BE ON A MALLORY ORTBERG MAILING LIST?!
posted by Grandysaur at 7:47 PM on September 29 [48 favorites]


There's one other thing I want to say in HGTV's favor. Sure, it's shallow, sexist and consumerist. I'll grant that. But when you want to entertain yourself with some light storytelling and pleasant imagery that resolves in 30 minutes and doesn't involve anyone getting shot, any ranting talking heads, any women lying in a pool of blood while detectives trade curt statements over her, any crashing people being rushed into the ER on a gurney, and so on. There are objectionable things in its texts, but at the same time, it's got some decent "brain vacation" qualities that don't add to immediate stressors.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on September 29 [69 favorites]


The house my father built for us in 1975--literally with his own two hands except the plumbing--had an open floor plan. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were one huge square space. It had a vaulted cathedral ceiling held up by rough beams 8" x 8", and a loft over the kitchen/dining room half with a spiral staircase for access.

It was a horrible house. The beams were impossible to clean, especially the ones 26 feet up in the peak of the roof. The only thing separating the kitchen from the rest of the space were two islands, supposed to be a nice thing for entertaining--the hostess could talk to her guests while she cooked!--but which actually drove my mother nuts because there was no way to close the door on dirty dishes. They were in eyesight from almost anywhere in the room. Heating it was a nightmare, and the "big square" layout was really challenging to arrange--a bit less than 1/4 of the space was wasted because it was leftover after we'd set up a reasonably-sized living room in the non-kitchen half of the space. It was impossible to heat because, even with a ceiling fan in place, all the warm air ended up ten feet above your head.

Cathedral ceilings were an uncommon things back then, and it was the kind of house that made everyone coming into it go, "Ooh, wow!" but it was actually tremendously inconvenient to live in.

Oh, hey, here it is on Zillow. Notice how the 70s era wood panelling makes the space, which should be open and light, feel dark and creepy. In addition, although two of the bedrooms had two exterior walls (including mine), they each only got one window because it was the energy crisis and extra windows were wasteful. I never put together how irrational that was given the Main Domicile Cube.

My parents were so house proud. I grew up hearing the phrase "architecturally unique," as if living in a non-unique house was a dismal fate you'd never wish on your worst enemy. When I grew up and started living in other kinds of houses, I realized that our house was uniquely shitty. It was designed by my dad's cousin, who was an architect, and I grew to believe he must have been a terrible architect, because, for instance, there were no bathrooms on the main floor. You had to go either up or down a half-flight, or, from the loft, a flight-and-a-half, to pee. The two full bathrooms were accessible only from three out of four of the bedrooms, so if you wanted to use that room as a bedroom, the people in it would have to go through someone's bedroom to shower. I mean, that's shitty design.

They built it as part of an upward-mobility scheme, leaving behind the house we'd lived in the ten years before, a small three-bedroom, two-bath ranch in a working-class neighborhood. Ironically, that house is now worth more than the Monstrosity because of its location.

Also, until I had my own kids, I didn't realize that while I was a fourth-grader when we moved, my brother was already a teenager. I adapted easily, but I think being leaving behind school and neighborhood friends to move to a different town he would only live in as a child for 4 years or so was really hard on him. Also, I am a pragmatic person who now has teenagers of my own, and while our house is very small (3br, ONE bath ranch), when I think of moving to a bigger house now, I think, "Why bother? We're already past the worst of the overcrowding, which was when the kids had toys everywhere. Before you know it, we'll be empty-nesters and this house will be just the right size for us." My parents could, in my eyes, have spared the trouble and expense of a new house, stayed in the little house where the four of us were managing just fine, and not disrupted my poor brother's life at a key age.

I obviously have a lot of feelings about that stupid house. In part because being raised by my parents sucked, and in part because they made such a big deal about how amazing the stupid thing was and how special it made us that they invested it with all kinds of power, and that definitely affected me. It's one of those childhood things you're always sort of reacting to, in a way, even all these decades later. YOUR HOUSE DIDN'T MAKE YOU SPECIAL AND BETTER, I sort of want to scream at my parents (one dead, one who disowned me five years ago). IT'S A PERSON'S HUMANITY THAT MATTERS! But you can't reach people whose values are that twisted.

Hmph. That started out to be "hmm, yeah, I'm not that wild about open floor plans myself," but there you go.
posted by Orlop at 7:58 PM on September 29 [140 favorites]


I plan on turning the wall between our kitchen and dining room into a bar when we do our big kitchen redo because the kitchen isn't big enough for multiple people and I don't want the person cooking (which is not always me) to be cut-off from the rest of the life of the house. And I want a safe place for my kid to be able to observe cooking while, say, doing his homework or having a snack. My house is small. The whole place is going to smell like what's cooking regardless.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:59 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]


I want my closed off kitchen so that I can serve people dinner without having to stare at the pile of dirty pans on the counter. It's like breaking the fourth wall. If it weren't for the animals in the house I'd even install a double swing door to the kitchen, that's how much privacy I want.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:59 PM on September 29 [7 favorites]


I moved into a modest little house recently, narrowly avoiding possibly ending up homeless for a stretch, and I need it to be tidy and well organized to keep my ADHD reasonably under control and want my kids (one of whom was also recently dianosed with ADHD and both of whom have been going through deeply traumatic and abrupt life changes with their mother's divorce from me) to feel like they have a nice, clean, inspiring place to live, so I don't know about open plan houses. Seems too anarchic for what we need right now. Our place is nice and tidily organized into soothing functional compartments, like a bento box.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:02 PM on September 29 [9 favorites]


I used to watch HGTV occasionally. I liked Property Brothers because it seemed like a great scam. Take middle class buyers to see property they couldn't afford. Then steer them to a hopeless, difficult-to-sell wreck. Tell them they can make the wreck look just like the penthouse they visited earlier. Get the buyers' cash in both directions: sales commission and high remodelling fees. The completely untrustworthy appearances of the brothers really helped cement this story interpretation for me.

Mallory Ortberg's interpretation of HGTV is definitely worth reading.

And here's something relevant from Ask.Metafilter: Where do they get those people for House Hunters? The thread includes a second hand accounting of how the sausage is made.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:03 PM on September 29 [12 favorites]


Do they ever do a remodel of a 1978 Econoline Camper parked at the Wal-Mart

That seems in my budget range
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:18 PM on September 29 [18 favorites]


The thing that gets me, as mentioned in the essay is how modest and cheap these aspirational goals seem to be - flimsy renovations that kind of look slightly nicer then what you are used to but all but made to fall apart and rot away, cheap ass applicances with a life span of two years, the same vague Thai resteraunt in 2007 aesthetic for apartments or rambling McMansion Chic turned into Air BnBs filled with computer generated art bought off alibaba.

Like this is a cargo cult, a simulation of a simulation of luxury, divorced from anything that might contain real value in materials or craftsmanship or even utility. It’s algorithmic anti-taste. If this is the dream then What is the reality?
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 PM on September 29 [34 favorites]


And what's with those damn interlocking circles pattern drapes that they use in every fucking show?
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:30 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I don't think I can afford anything that you'd recognize as "real value in materials or craftsmanship," Whelk. and yet I still have to live somewhere. I don't think you or your fellow New York artists are the target audience for this stuff, and the target audience is aware of your contempt and manages to soldier on regardless.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:35 PM on September 29 [29 favorites]


they each only got one window because it was the energy crisis and extra windows were wasteful.

Wait what? Windows make a house warmer in the winter because greenhouse, and in the summer you open them. Plant trees outside by them and you've got a built in thermostat...more light/heat when the leaves fall off, less in the summer. Well designed windows (which existed for hundreds of years) are nearly non-existant these days and the purpose of them forgotten due to the proliferation of central air conditioning, which is insanely wasteful, bad for the environment, and rarely works properly. (You have two things (closed windows and AC) heating and cooling your house simultaneously! GRAR! Why?)

Also, 1,000,000x what the Whelk just said.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:35 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


...and I live like a hobo but...indoors. And I'm also a new york artist, so whatevs.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:38 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


aware of your contempt and manages to soldier on regardless.

Basic drawers that don't fall out when you pull on them? Places that feel like places you're supposed to live in them for more then 13 months? Less lowest bidder contractors?
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 PM on September 29 [11 favorites]


I like galley kitchens where the sink and stove are hidden but the prep area is more of a peninsula instead of an island into the main living area.

Galley kitchens are actually great if they're long enough!
posted by Ferreous at 8:47 PM on September 29


I CAN BE ON A MALLORY ORTBERG MAILING LIST?!

Ms. Ortberg,

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:48 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]




It's also not contempt it's shock. Things have to be really freaking bad if living in what is basically a drywall box guaranteed to fall to the ground in a few years is pivoted as pie in the sky dream then holy hell what have we let our nation's housing stock fall into? who is sitting on on the good stuff? is literally no one making buildings meant to last for more than this bubble cycle or made for human begins and not investors? Why isn't a basic house built better then a barbie dream house?

What kind a monster is a house flipper anyway. Jesus.
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 PM on September 29 [30 favorites]


I grew up in a house with an open floor plan and had a mother with really poor boundaries and I tell you what, that is a bad combination.

I only had ever seen HGTV in urgent care clinic waiting rooms until recently. It's just bland and mid-range enough that it won't really offend anybody waiting to see the doctor, I guess. I did see it on at a Thai restaurant a few weeks ago, and they were renovating a house that had a cockroach problem. That was really not good dinner TV.
posted by sockermom at 8:59 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


I spent a lot of 2016 in hospitals and was pretty glad they had HGTV as the default and not one of the news channels that's the default most other places I go. The only thing I absolutely cannot watch is Flip or Flop, because of how obvious it is that couple hates each other combined with the gross mercenary nature of flipping houses generally. Every once in a while, you'd get the best thing on HGTV, the genial Canadian home inspector who just wants to help people find the best house they can and who teaches you to identify common signs of poor drainage or hidden mold.
posted by Copronymus at 9:20 PM on September 29 [22 favorites]


Odd that the article doesn't cover the face that the whole trend originated in Canada. Mike Holmes and shows like The Big Flip were around years before they took up US HGTV 24/7. Flip or Flop started in 2013 vs 2007 for The Big Flip. Love it or List it is still Canadian with the serial numbers filed off.

Anyway I don't know what the deeper meaning is that the trend is an import to the US, but it is.
posted by GuyZero at 9:22 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]


the genial Canadian home inspector who just wants to help people find the best house they can and who teaches you to identify common signs of poor drainage or hidden mold.

That's Mike Holmes. Started in 2003 on HGTV Canada. Apparently so popular at one point that Holmes on Homes was on 20 hours a week.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 PM on September 29 [21 favorites]


My husband has been actively agitating for an open floor plan for a while now. I think it's because he grew up in small apartments with small rooms and too many people and a mother who was on the hoarder spectrum. Meanwhile I grew up in a small house with a relatively open floor plan and I hated it because you could never get away from other people unless you wanted to shut yourself in the bedroom. When hubby and I are irritated with each other I want to walk away and do dishes while I cool off, I don't want to do them while still being huffed and puffed at from across the room, and as I am an adult and not a sullen teenager I do not want to go shut myself in the bedroom.

Last week I was seriously considering the idea that we should buy a duplex so that he can live next door to me instead of being in my immediate space all the time. But truthfully that idea is also influenced by living with small children. In my tiny fantasy commune I would make the kids live in his side so I could get some peace and quiet.
posted by vignettist at 10:12 PM on September 29 [20 favorites]


I would love to have an open kitchen just to be able to talk to my wife and anyone here while I can, but I'm not knocking out any walls in my little 1925 Craftsman. Nope.. fairly certain every single one of these is holding up something important.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:22 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


I would love an open kitchen because I loathe cooking and find it extremely boring and have liked it far better when I've had open apartments where I could watch tv and/or chat with friends while cooking.

I thought the article brought up good points about the class/race/gender problems raised in the current shows... but dammit, I still find them soothing to watch. I bought a house recently and I do feel like my approximately 9,000 hours of HGTV watching made the process less scary, if only to confirm that I had a realistic budget, realistic expectations, and did not, in fact, want an obvious fixer-upper.

That said, I cannot believe any discussion of Fixer Upper can be complete without mentioning shiplap, the giant letters/clock JoJo will put on one wall, and the people who are now trying to see their fixed-up house for like $1million.
posted by TwoStride at 10:32 PM on September 29 [5 favorites]


who is sitting on on the good stuff?
I don't think that anyone is sitting on the good stuff in Waco, TX. I think there's probably a limited supply of houses that you would consider good stuff, and it's really expensive to build high-quality new houses.
What kind a monster is a house flipper anyway. Jesus.
Ok, see, I might just not get it, because I don't watch these shows, but I don't see house flipping as particularly sinister. I bought a house that was built in 1930, and it's been very unevenly updated. I'm the third owner, and the previous two owners did a lot of work on it themselves, with their own hands, with varying degrees of skill and taste. I am willing to deal with its quirks, although I'll admit that I lose sleep over what the heck I have gotten myself into. Like, do you want to hear the saga of how no key company in town can copy the front door key, so I'm trying to replace the lock, but it's not a standard size, so I may have to replace the whole front door if I can't figure out how to 3-D print a key that looks like something from a steampunk store on Etsy? My house has a lot of potential, but not everyone is willing/ dumb enough to take on the task of fixing up an older house. If someone who does have the skills wants to buy a house like mine, put in all the work, and sell it for more money, that doesn't seem like a bad thing to me. It seems to me that fixing up a house takes skill and creativity, and it's ok for people who do it to get paid.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:45 PM on September 29 [13 favorites]


I do love semi-open floor plan kitchens. I like to cook and I've been through enough dinner parties where either I've been off on my own cooking while everyone else is being social or too many people are slowly crowding into the kitchen and underfoot in an effort to try to be where the action is. Moderate-sized kitchen with a bar-type barrier where people can help with prep across it but also be fenced off from getting underfoot is probably optimal.

This thread has pointed out the advantages of having the space from kitchen to bar to dining area be somewhat U-shaped though, to obscure the prep-mess from dining.
posted by JiBB at 10:57 PM on September 29


Man that's a whole lot of moral navel-gazing to pour onto some light and fluffy shows.

I mean, yeah, they're not Shakespeare or Mad Men or anything enlightening. They're perfect for watching at the gym or when I want something on but don't want to have to pay a lot of attention.

House Hunters International is uniquely infuriating. "Oh, sure, it's a 5 bedroom 4 bath mansion on a white sandy beach in the Caribbean for 25 grand BUT I WANTED A MUD ROOM." Go fuck yourself, lady. It's a wonderful hate watch.

On the other hand, Tiny House Hunters is pretty damn funny if you like watching semi-crazy well meaning white liberals try to talk themselves into it. My favorite episode had a dad, a mom, and 3 teenage daughters. Watching that man try and talk 4 women into a tiny house with only a single hole outhouse for a toilet, you had to wonder if HGTV was suddenly going to show a real murder.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:32 PM on September 29 [33 favorites]


housing is a right, give the homes back to people
posted by eustatic at 11:37 PM on September 29 [5 favorites]


The only thing separating the kitchen from the rest of the space were two islands, supposed to be a nice thing for entertaining--the hostess could talk to her guests while she cooked!--but which actually drove my mother nuts because there was no way to close the door on dirty dishes.

I want my closed off kitchen so that I can serve people dinner without having to stare at the pile of dirty pans on the counter.

When hubby and I are irritated with each other I want to walk away and do dishes while I cool off, I don't want to do them while still being huffed and puffed at from across the room, and as I am an adult and not a sullen teenager I do not want to go shut myself in the bedroom.

Time for a new trend: Open-plan cooking kitchen, closed-plan dishes kitchen.

Get me a sledgehammer!
posted by clawsoon at 12:04 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


Years of being stuck in closed off kitchens in the back of old houses made my excited for our current open plan apartment despite the earsatz luxury nature of it, but then our baby turned into a toddler and started loving being underfoot and pulling things out of cabinets and I'm looking forward to getting away from it. One problem with the universality of the HGTV concepts is that people sometimes need different things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:29 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


The part I found most interesting in the article was the comments on gender -- I wish the author had gone into more depth on that aspect of the shows, since it is a commonality across so many of them.

who is sitting on on the good stuff?

This discussion caused me to get on Zillow and look at the area around our house, and at least as shown on Zillow there is virtually nothing for sale for blocks and blocks. Each city is different, but in areas with low inventories, there just aren't a lot of choices for someone who is shopping, and very, very little of what exists is accessible on a modest budget. In a lot of places, you aren't going to get something that isn't a sheetrock box with cheap appliances unless you are well above the median income, and you may be lucky to get even that.

A lot of flippers are basically predatory, doing low-quality cosmetic upgrades while ignoring or causing structural issues (open plan is great, but casually removing load-bearing walls is not) and extracting the profit from people who (completely legitimately) want to live in a house that looks nice and who will have no recourse when the shoddy work starts falling apart down the road.

When I was last house shopping, the flipper houses were instantly recognizable because they all have the same aesthetic, partly because they imitate the shows the article is making fun of, and partly because all the flooring, cabinets, lights, etc., come from the cheaper product ranges at Home Depot and Lowes. (Of course, a lot of the non-flipper houses are also instantly recognizable by their mix of outdated design and layers of poorly done DIY work by past owners, so it's not like it's an easy process either way.)
posted by Dip Flash at 3:34 AM on September 30 [6 favorites]


Artisanal floral arrangement consultant and Baltic Languages graduate student seek fun and funky 5000 sq ft contemporary pad in downtown Vancouver with plenty of space for their growing family.

BUDGET: 950,000


There's a bot for that.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


This is such ridiculous click bait. I'm still not sure what the "ugliness" behind HGTV is? The property brothers are cheesy and wanted to be actors? (I still like them) it's boring to watch a show about buying houses? (Not to me and millions of viewers). In this age of real ugliness in the world I would like my refuge of eye candy house decorating and Pinterest ideas, thank you.

Also, the most infuriating part of this think piece is that there's no evidence HGTV is "pushing social conservatism" except the religion of Joanna and Chip Gaines (which is nearly never discussed in the show, and certainly never in any detail that would offend). House Hunters is full of people, families and couples of every kind, color, sexual orientation and marital status, and they all do the same thing - look at three houses and pick one. In the same article the writer describes a stay-at-home dad, is that "social conservatism"? I think she likely means the inherent veneration of consumer culture, but that's a different thing.

Personally I love real estate and houses and I actually go to open houses for fun. In a TV landscape of dull comedies and gory dramas sometimes you just want a relaxing show that shows you a new town and a bunch of houses. It's entertaining in the purest way, which is why HGTV is so popular. I don't get the hate.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:19 AM on September 30 [6 favorites]


I always wanted a kitchen like Mary Tyler Moore where there was a large window between the kitchen and dining area that had shutters you could close when needed. The best of both worlds. She also had a chic two levels in the main living space that I've never seen in a real apartment that small.

I am hesitant to open up my kitchen since how else can I drink so much wine while cooking without raising eyebrows. The best part of cooking for a lot of people is drinking and cooking.
posted by waving at 4:35 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


holy hell what have we let our nation's housing stock fall into?

Yeah, I think a lot of this disconnect is to do with the difference between living in older East Coast settlements where a fair amount of housing stock is pre-WWII and well-ish built (because what wasn't decent was razed or collapsed) and other parts of the country where the stock is newer and made of materials that had gotten cheaper and processes that were faster. I know I'm really spoiled from living in almost all pre-WWII buildings in New England and NJ, a bunch of them pre-1900. They're strong and solid. Whenever I'm in a newer building (by newer I mean post-WWII) I'm struck by the feeling of lightness and flimsiness - no plaster walls, fewer studs, hollow core doors, badly tracked built-in drawers and doors, wavy floors, plywood panels for box making, etc. It's a question of what was happening in a local historical moment. There are neighborhoods all across the Northeast built from this kind of house, but you also don't have to work too hard to find older, better built houses; in some regions of the country that mostly developed after the turn of the 20th century, an "old" house is rarer.
posted by Miko at 4:48 AM on September 30 [18 favorites]


Eventually all houses will be 3d printed but I bet there will still be rehab shows. They're soothing. As for people living in flimsy houses, well, historically most human dwellings have been flimsy. The crime is that people have to pay so much for something that deteriorates by the end of the mortgage. If I had the means, I'd build sturdily and energy efficiently from scratch.
posted by emjaybee at 5:31 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


When I'm visiting relatives that have TV I used to love to watch HGTV, but I can't quite get into the latest crop of show. Years and years ago, at the height of the housing bubble, on House Hunters I think it was, a nurse and a fireman were looking for an apartment in San Francisco. After looking at a few luxury condos the nurse finally said they could not realistically afford any of them, and the show ended by saying that buying was not always right for everyone! I will swear on a stack of holy bibles that I actually saw this!

If you are looking for a more highbrow version of the Fixer Upper idea, my current obsession is the website Remodelista (although they have had posts about shiplap).

I also recommend looking up some BBC gardening fixer upper shows on youtube for real escapism. This show about a couple on houseboat was one of the most poignant things I've watched in ages. Ymmv of course.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:54 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


ARGH. I read this the other day and then went on a fruitless mission to find out if that scene they describe in the intro with the guy yelling "I am all that is man" and the woman screaming at the cockroach is real. Is that real?

I don't have cable anymore, but when I did, I couldn't stand most of HGTV. It got really annoying in the way that things get annoying when you notice the formula (next is the part where they introduce a conflict). Besides, most of the aesthetic just didn't appeal to me at all.

I cannot stand open floor plans. I love big, solid, closeable doors and privacy and I especially love not having to see and hear every damn thing going on in the whole house all at once. I have a pretty big house, and I cook a lot, but my kitchen is about the size of the kitchen on a houseboat. It probably affects the resale value, that's probably one reason that I was able to afford it, but I like it. I like cooking, but I can't do it well if people are talking to me, so I like having a kitchen small enough that I can kick people out without being a jerk. (Once, I completely fucked up macaroni and cheese because I had two people watching over my shoulder talking about how great my macaroni and cheese was and making me narrate everything I was doing.)

One thing that bugs me, though, is that that HGTV aesthetic is so widespread that every now and again, people give me helpful advice about what walls I should knock down and what variously ugly things I should buy or do to my house. I mean, I know there's a kind of generic aesthetic you want to go for when you put a house on the market, but I hope I don't have to do that for a while. Houses are supposed to be places where people live and have things the way they want. The big gaping chasm of taupe isn't the platonic ideal.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:57 AM on September 30 [6 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about the well-documented phenomenon of sex addicts soothing their porn withdrawal symptoms by watching aspirational real-estate/home-renovation shows, sublimating their lusts for human bodies into lusts for decor and market value, like in some kind of nightmarish Ballardian dystopia.
posted by acb at 6:04 AM on September 30 [26 favorites]


It makes me want to destroy the bourgeoisie

It makes me just want to remodel the bourgeoisie; put up a few walls, block the sightlines, degrade some appliances, lower ceilings, halve the square footage and put in doors.
posted by srboisvert at 6:05 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


No open plan kitchen for us. There's a second staircase between the dining room and the kitchen and removing that would be a gigantic engineering feat and would result in making it a major pain to get to the back bedroom. Also, our 1869 townhouse is so solidly built that one of HGTV's ubiquitous sledgehammers would just bounce if you swung it at one of our walls.
posted by octothorpe at 6:07 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


"Why isn't a basic house built better then a barbie dream house?"

My husband and I are both immigrants in the US, from South America and Europe. We were both really weirded out that your average house in the US is apparently made of extremely flimsy materials. Lots of refugees I worked with called them" paper houses" (that was my impression when I arrived as well, I had never seen drywall and I was in my early 20s)

Now that we're doing a little better financially we have bought a 150 year old brick fixer upper. Even with the few pending repairs, this house gives you the feeling that it will still be here in the year 2150.

I'm not sure at what point the quality of housing declined here, but in our house shopping season last year we saw some abhorrent shit made with the cheapest everything, only dressed up with Pinterest /ikea aesthetic and people were charging waaaay more than what we paid for our nontrendy, solid as fuck house (which still has a couple of windows with handmade glass panes from 1870, so I consider it a treasure).
posted by Tarumba at 6:08 AM on September 30 [13 favorites]


I would love to have an open kitchen just to be able to talk to my wife and anyone here while I can, but I'm not knocking out any walls in my little 1925 Craftsman. Nope.. fairly certain every single one of these is holding up something important.

Open kitchens also mean that cooking anything with oil or grease will coat your entire ground floor.
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


I wrote this article back in February. Maybe not as well, but with 5000 less words.

Key graf from my blog post

Every show on that network is basically selling the idea that your life is not good enough as is, and that you can make it better with a larger mortgage.
posted by COD at 6:12 AM on September 30 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure at what point the quality of housing declined here ...

Post World War II was when wood platform-framed construction with sheetrock walls really took off due to suburbanization and the overwhelming demand for new construction.
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


For folks happily forgiving these shows as distractions, TFA charts a clear path from well intentioned light information to cynical advertising factory pretty clearly, hinging on the fake drama and class signaling while simultaneously becoming the fake news of high dollar personal investment. Why can't we all just relax it's harmless? It isn't harmless, it's creating suffering and doing it with cheap built-to-fail illusions.
posted by abulafa at 6:27 AM on September 30 [13 favorites]


Windows make a house warmer in the winter because greenhouse, and in the summer you open them.

Anytime people say stuff like this, I want to sentence them to a summer in D/FW without a/c.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:53 AM on September 30 [20 favorites]


HGTV is to actual home renovation as The Bachelorette is to actual relationships. They are equally realistic, and if you use either one to build expectations about your life, you are in for a rude shock. When I worked for a renovator we used to ask people to stop watching it during the period when their house was being redone. We had a few clients who would keep it on a loop in their living room (or whatever part of their house was serving as a makeshift living room while their actual living room was being ripped apart and put back together) and they were all memorably difficult clients to manage.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:01 AM on September 30 [12 favorites]


I have wondered about that, AoaNLA; my family actually did home renovation/flipping before it was called that when I was a kid, so I am amused by all the selective editing/use of contractors that takes out the real, grinding work of things like peeling ancient wallpaper off a 70s era bathroom with crazy angles. If I had a real renovation going on, I would not expect it to be like one of these shows, but that's only because of that life experience.
posted by emjaybee at 7:09 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Where I grew up, nobody had a dining room. We had kitchen tables, which were in our kitchens. It was space-efficient. It was fine. My current city apartment would be roomier if the designers had made the same decision, instead of insisting that this tiny area here is the kitchen and this tiny area next to it is the dining area.

If you ever find yourself thinking about getting stools for your kitchen island, you might just be realizing that a kitchen table is right for you.
posted by clawsoon at 7:16 AM on September 30 [5 favorites]


My family always ate around the kitchen table, except on special occasions when we had company and needed to use the larger table in the dining room. That kitchen table belonged to my great grandmother. It's solid white oak, the real stuff from back when they were clear-cutting local old growth rather than growing the trees on farms as fast (and flimsy) as possible. I grew up at that table. It's still there, right where it always was. I love that table.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:31 AM on September 30 [5 favorites]


Oh Jesus Orlop I thought you were being dramatic til I clicked on the link. What a horrible house.

And Mike Holmes got me through my divorce. Make it right Mike!
posted by SyraCarol at 7:34 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


It makes me just want to remodel the bourgeoisie; put up a few walls, block the sightlines

...in a niche, in the basement, with heavy, scream-proof bricks, after tricking them down there with the promise of a cask of really good wine...
posted by sexyrobot at 7:37 AM on September 30 [4 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: My family always ate around the kitchen table, except on special occasions when we had company and needed to use the larger table in the dining room.

That's what the removable inserts in the kitchen table is for. (Two inserts, in our case.) Pull out the ends, pop in the inserts, and ta-da.

(That became moot when my mother realized that she could embrace her inner introvert and didn't have to be a stereotypical church lady.)
posted by clawsoon at 7:40 AM on September 30


I know of some people who dug a big hole in their basement because something they saw on HGTV made them think installing a new sewer line was a weekend do-it-yourself job.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:31 AM on September 30 [13 favorites]



I always wanted a kitchen like Mary Tyler Moore where there was a large window between the kitchen and dining area that had shutters you could close when needed. The best of both worlds. She also had a chic two levels in the main living space that I've never seen in a real apartment that small.


Both of these things are fairly common in older mid-rises here in Chicago, although not as the same time. The bi-level floor usually goes with a wide-open floor plan.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:36 AM on September 30


Wait what? Windows make a house warmer in the winter because greenhouse, and in the summer you open them. Plant trees outside by them and you've got a built in thermostat...more light/heat when the leaves fall off, less in the summer. Well designed windows (which existed for hundreds of years) are nearly non-existant these days and the purpose of them forgotten due to the proliferation of central air conditioning, which is insanely wasteful, bad for the environment, and rarely works properly. (You have two things (closed windows and AC) heating and cooling your house simultaneously! GRAR! Why?)

What about awnings? Awnings used to be a huge thing. There was an industry built around taking them down for the winter, storing them, and then putting them back up in the spring. AC supposedly killed awnings, but one could still have AC and awnings - and have to use much less AC.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:45 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


To expand the author's porn<>HGTV comparison, based on comments in this thread:
  • They both distort your ideas about what will make you happy.
  • They both promise maximal pleasure for minimal effort.
  • They both promote exaggerated gender roles.
  • They are both produced as cheaply as possible. Sometimes the performers get paid, and sometimes they get ripped off.

posted by clawsoon at 8:53 AM on September 30 [6 favorites]


If these shows where actually about quality rehabbing and renovation that would be one thing, but as mentioned it’s all predatory flipping and cheap “upgrades” and further distancing from the idea that shelter is something you need to live not a commodity.

You know what, I want a show all about muck and hurting houses after hurricanes or how to repair storm damage cause that’s going to be way more relevant and necessary in the upcoming years.
posted by The Whelk at 9:20 AM on September 30 [10 favorites]


(Also I’m still mad I was talked into an open plan kitchen cause yu ca see the kitchen from everywhere so the kitchen has to be in good condition or EVERYTHING looks messy ugh my life for a door)
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


I like cooking, but I can't do it well if people are talking to me

THANK YOU! I was starting to think I was the only one! Every time I hear somebody on House Hunters Renovation (which we basically hate watch) blather on about open concept and socializing while cooking, it makes me wonder how any of these people manage to get food cooked without it taking 5 hours or losing a finger. Also, I'm a messy cook, and other people really don't need to see that.

#walls4ever
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:54 AM on September 30 [5 favorites]


Her husband, an at-home parent and susceptible to the whims that can accompany that calling, announces that he wants “all top-of-the-line appliances.”

This line killed me - I can relate so much. What a delightful read! Ms. Flanagan summed up everything I simultaneously adore and hate about HGTV - it's my opportunity to shout sanctimonious comments at the TV set, and yearn for a sledgehammer, without an actual plan...
posted by NorthernAutumn at 10:02 AM on September 30


I've seen these shows from time to time, and I was always more puzzled by how deindividuated the results were than anything else. Did these people not have any personal preferences, other than greige? (Although as someone currently co-existing with three gray cats, I have to admit that grey is looking awfully appealing as an interior decoration choice...primarily for camouflage.)

The layout of my own current house was altered by the original owners to accommodate their antique grandfather clock (at least I'm not the only eccentric to own this place, I suppose), which resulted not only in an open-plan kitchen, but, more saliently, an open-plan kitchen with ceilings twelve feet high. The cabinets go up to the ceiling. I am 5'3''. I cannot reach the uppermost cabinets, even with a stepladder.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:03 AM on September 30


(Actually, every single line of this piece is divine -what a writer!)
posted by NorthernAutumn at 10:04 AM on September 30


wait, what's the advantage of furniture away from walls?

To make room for that $1,200 sideboard from Crate & Barrel, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:17 AM on September 30


I miss ild, Bib Vila-era"This Old House."

Two years ago we tore down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and the half-wall between the kitchen and the family room, and we couldn't be happier. Family events used to be chopped up into three too-quiet niches but now it's a wonderful mess of all ages.

This is a 1985 house and it makes me SHOUT in frustration at stuff like the thin subfloors that humped and sagged and blew out the kitchen's tile floor. Gaaaaaaah.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:36 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


I have a question about House Hunters International. Not serious enough for an Ask topic, but here goes:

From time to time I see people that quit their job and move to Europe "to start a travel blog" or something borderline not-a-job-really.

I can understand that most of them have saved up money to afford the rent and whatnot, but how do they arrange the visas to do this? I'm guessing you can't just show up at the border and declare that you're "self-employed" and headed into the country to buy/rent a property.

If you can do that, are these people leaving every so often to comply with the tourist visa requirements?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:40 AM on September 30


lso I’m still mad I was talked into an open plan kitchen cause yu ca see the kitchen from everywhere so the kitchen has to be in good condition or EVERYTHING looks messy ugh my life for a door

The thing that bothers me most about NYC apartments isn't the tininess, etc., it's the conception that "kitchen" = "wall of appliances in the living room." Even new "luxury" apartments are like this. It just feels completely wrong.
My current place is flawed in many ways, but at least the kitchen is in a sort of offset tiny niche.
posted by praemunire at 10:45 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


With open concept set ups, besides the smell and the grease (very true) there are some style and space limitations I think.

I have dreamed for years of having a kitchen set up like the Burrow from Harry Potter (nothing fancy but very homey, with cured meat and garlic braids hanging from the ceiling, and a tough table that would double as a prep counter when needed). Imagine welcoming guests into your living room and having a cured pork leg waving at you in the distance! You'd have to keep a kitchen looking living room worthy.

Also, the open concept kitchens I've seen tend to be a little limited on work space. We turned our dining room into a library/office, (I didn't want to keep a room just so I can use it four times a year), and we moved the dining/cooking table to the kitchen. I use this table to knead and to cut my pasta or make dumplings (I love dumplings). I'm kind of messy when I cook and islands are a little small for me. Plus I like to sit down and watch three episodes of doctor who while I make empanadas or something.
posted by Tarumba at 11:22 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Why are american houses so poorly built: big cheap low quality food, houses, possesions to conceal declining standard of living. You can't afford your grandfather wooden table or your grandmothers dresser... heck the flat-pack particleboard warpped bookcase is bought on lay-away on credit.

this is what has struck me about tiny house hunters: just admit you can't afford the american dream and buy a mobile home or trailer. Tiny houses are like genital waxing: sure early adopters enjoy a leg up, but when it gets popular and the market expectations adjust everyone is doing all the sacrifice with none of the reward.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 11:49 AM on September 30 [5 favorites]


Also windows even with high shg values are net heat losers in winter except in the south. Make all the insulated baffle curtains you want.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 11:51 AM on September 30


I once spent 5 days in a McMansion with my eldest brother (with whom I had a... complicated... relationship) during what turned out to be his last few days of coherence before cancer killed him. While he was conscious, we talked and argued about the usual family bullshit, and while he slept I sat in his open-plan first floor with cathedral ceilings and binge-watched HGTV. This is probably a good part of why I respond to HGTV and home fixing/flipping programs in general with uneasy disgust and mild panic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:49 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]


Anchorite_of_Palgrave: Tiny houses are like genital waxing: sure early adopters enjoy a leg up, but when it gets popular and the market expectations adjust everyone is doing all the sacrifice with none of the reward.

[adds to porn<>HGTV list]
posted by clawsoon at 1:09 PM on September 30


North American houses aren't that bad, really. And in cold or hot and humid climates, you need good insulation and good windows; since good windows aren't cheap, and even the best windows don't have the thermal resistance of a wall, reasonably small windows are the economical choice. They can still be reasonable large, but wall-to-wall windows are just not a great idea.

Light wood frame construction, with studs spaced at regular interval in the walls serving as the vertical load-bearing element, is cheap, requires relatively little specialized labour, and can actually be pretty sturdy, especially if you compare its seismic performance to that of masonry walls. It's also fairly easy to expand and modify compared to masonry or concrete.

It's often not so good for sound insulation, but it doesn't have to be -- it's just that the code values are quite low and that builders can't really sell low sound transmission like they can countertops or windows.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:10 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Tiny houses are like genital waxing: sure early adopters enjoy a leg up, but when it gets popular and the market expectations adjust everyone is doing all the sacrifice with none of the reward.

This is one of those sentences where I completely understand each word individually, but have no idea at all what the overall meaning is supposed to be.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:14 PM on September 30 [15 favorites]


I miss ild, Bib Vila-era"This Old House."
Is This Old House bad in the same way that the HGTV shows are bad? I've found their website to be super helpful for things like figuring out how to paint my walls or wash my windows. And my sense is that the This Old House magazine has some stuff on remodeling, but it also has articles on lawn care and how to keep leaves out of your gutters and five things you can do right now to save energy in the winter. I've thought about subscribing to it, because I'm planning to do most of my home maintenance myself and am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:16 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


The thing that bothers me most about NYC apartments isn't the tininess, etc., it's the conception that "kitchen" = "wall of appliances in the living room."

OMG, yes. One of the things that sold me on my current pre-war flat was that it has discrete rooms. I have a living room AND a kitchen. They are separate spaces. There is a solid plaster WALL (and a bit of hallway) between these two areas. I saw so many apartments, old and new, where the main room was huge, but was open plan with a kitchen lined up against one wall, and it was so ugly. I've seen two "Classic Six" apartments since I've lived here (2-bedroom, kitchen, living room, formal dining room, bathroom), one in Inwood and one in Harlem, and those were really nice. No way I could afford them, though.

I wish I had a separate dining room. I hate that people have to eat in the living room when I throw a dinner party. The kitchen is too small for more than three to eat in comfortably, but I think my place was meant to be a "starter" flat for a new couple to live in for a couple years before leaving to buy a house in Westchester.

I could never get into HGTV shows. I saw a few minutes of one that was to re-do one of those McMansions, and just seeing the flimsiness of the house and cheap materials they wanted to use ground my gears enough that I had to change the channel.
posted by droplet at 1:26 PM on September 30


Her husband, an at-home parent and susceptible to the whims that can accompany that calling, announces that he wants “all top-of-the-line appliances.”

Did they tell him that this can double the price of a renovation? I'm under the impression that Molteni (et al) start at tens of thousands of dollars.
posted by rhizome at 1:30 PM on September 30


I think that "top of the line appliances" may mean different things to different people. To a lot of people, that's going to mean the most expensive thing at Lowe's, rather than the most expensive thing that exists.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:35 PM on September 30 [9 favorites]


To a lot of people, that's going to mean the most expensive thing at Lowe's, rather than the most expensive thing that exists.

“Made of brushed chrome in Germany” probably also suffices as a working definition.
posted by acb at 2:00 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]


There's a downward cycle on the sturdiness/cheapness front too. In the past, when more sturdy construction was the cheapest/best available practice, economies of scale helped keep the cost of it down. These also tended to be more labor intensive than current practices, but labor was cheaper then.

Now, those styles of building have lost their economies of scale, and effects like Baumol's disease have raised the price of labor. If you want to build in the older styles, they're more expensive then the current styles, which is expected. But they're also more expensive than building that way was back when it was mainstream.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:06 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Did they tell him that this can double the price of a renovation? I'm under the impression that Molteni (et al) start at tens of thousands of dollars.

I am often struck by how we don't really have a word for the phenomenon of a person thinking they are being very exclusive, refined, demanding, snobbish by insisting on a particular thing, but the fact that they think that particular thing is "high end" reveals that they haven't got a clue as to what genuinely qualifies as "high end."

I'm no longer the elitist snot I was when I was younger, but this still presses my buttons. Humble or mid-range stuff has its purposes. If it's what you can afford, it's what you can afford; no shame in that. And you may value things for other reasons that don't really intersect with value/quality/aesthetics (like sentimental reasons), and who can argue with that? But the layer of faux aspiration slapped on mediocrity, the attempt at counterfeiting sophistication...you're attempting to feel superior by evoking a standard by which you're actually quite average. Neither a person successfully living with what they have or a person with genuinely high standards.
posted by praemunire at 3:18 PM on September 30 [7 favorites]


praemunire: I'm no longer the elitist snot I was when I was younger,

Are you sure? :-)

but this still presses my buttons. Humble or mid-range stuff has its purposes. If it's what you can afford, it's what you can afford; no shame in that. And you may value things for other reasons that don't really intersect with value/quality/aesthetics (like sentimental reasons), and who can argue with that? But the layer of faux aspiration slapped on mediocrity, the attempt at counterfeiting sophistication...you're attempting to feel superior by evoking a standard by which you're actually quite average.

We compare ourselves to our neighbours. What billionaires think of when they're jealously comparing their top-of-the-line stuff to other billionaires' top-of-the-line stuff doesn't have to be what trailer park residents think of when they're doing the same neighbourly jealousy. Why should they? Why do you so want the poor to be humble?
posted by clawsoon at 3:26 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]


"What about awnings? Awnings used to be a huge thing. There was an industry built around taking them down for the winter, storing them, and then putting them back up in the spring."

There are still two or three awning companies in Peoria that do this, with enough people with older housing stock who still do the awnings. My house didn't come with them, but the brackets for them were still there; two or three of my neighbors were still having their awnings up and down twice a year.

So my parents actually got solicited to have their house on HGTV! It was a House Hunters type show but for people buying "mountain houses." They had recently bought theirs, and the show wanted to use it as if it was still on the market, I guess, for the couple looking at houses to come look at, and the reason they wanted to was that my parents' house has A COMPLETE 1950s DINER IN THE BASEMENT. The guy who built the house loved diners so he had a 3-table, 8-barstool diner built into the basement and kitted it out with vintage jukebox, milkshake machine, etc. It's amazing. Anyway, when he retired, he decided the only problem with his house was that the diner wasn't big enough so he sold it (to my parents) and built a new house with a bigger diner. My parents were initially going to tear it out because, yo, it's super-weird, but then they started living there and throwing parties and having grandchildren visit and everyone adores the diner and it's a super-fun room for parties (and small children).

Anyway, if it'd been on HGTV, the couple would have mimed being shocked and amazed by the diner and everyone would have been like, OMG, what kind of weirdo has a full 1950s diner? NOW YOU KNOW.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:47 PM on September 30 [32 favorites]


So, uh, Eyebrows, area all your Mefi friends invited to stop by for a malt?
posted by COD at 4:06 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]


This is one of those sentences where I completely understand each word individually, but have no idea at all what the overall meaning is supposed to be.

Open concept plans are hell on genitalia
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:03 PM on September 30 [7 favorites]


I'm no longer the elitist snot I was when I was younger, but this still presses my buttons.
Honestly, it sounds like you're still an elitist snot. (And to be honest, your elitist snottishness presses all my buttons.) But at least you're honest. I'd much rather people admit that they're outraged that trashy people don't know their place, rather than hiding their snobbery behind some bogus political or economic argument.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:26 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Is This Old House bad in the same way that the HGTV shows are bad?

TOH is bad in its own way. The project homes are invariably cost-is-no-object affairs. It's like they can't do anything other than take a house down to the studs and rebuild the whole thing. There's very little in the way of renovation or repair work that an average homeowner can relate to. Or afford.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


I blame This Old House for making me think that buying a beat up old house in the need of a huge amount of work was a good idea. And then, um, doing the exact same thing fifteen years later with a house 1.5 times older and twice as bad as the first one. So maybe it's not all Bob Vila's fault.
posted by octothorpe at 5:56 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]


Gotta second the Mike Holmes love upthread - Holmes on Homes is about the only show on HGTV I can stand for more than 20 minutes at a time. Even during the first bit of the episode where he's indignantly explaining all the sketchy stuff done by the previous contractor, you know by the end he's gonna Make It Right.

Not so much a design/renovation show, though. I think I remember one episode where they had the big "after" reveal with the couple, who were like, "OMG, this is great! It looks exactly the same as it did before, but now it's structurally sound! Oh, you even put a little plant in the corner!"
posted by btfreek at 6:03 PM on September 30 [8 favorites]


All the people extolling masonry and stone buildings need to run down to New Zealand and see what happens to them in a big earthquake. Stick built houses are practical a lot of places and in the US lumber is cheap and quarried rock or the raw materials for brick are not cheap or readily available a lot of places.

And try living in an old cottage from the 1800s. Ever heard of rising damp? We have come a long way with foundation technology since then, when really it was all down to where ou cited your house and the local geology if your walls were going to crumble from the bottom up.
posted by fshgrl at 6:06 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Every show on that network is basically selling the idea that your life is not good enough as is, and that you can make it better with a larger mortgage.

I think... different people get different things from it? Like, I get that real estate and home decor can certainly be vehicles for conspicuous consumption, and can evoke feelings of envy and inferiority.

But also... what if you're just a kind of anxious person who feels a lot better in some environments than others? What if you're excited to be in a situation (however humble it is) where you finally get to exert some control over how your surroundings are arranged, and what they look like? What if you think some kinds of furniture or paint choices or housing layouts are legitimately aesthetically pleasing? In the same way paintings are aesthetically pleasing? What if you're just kind of interested in seeing what other peoples houses look like, how they negotiate those kinds of things?

I feel like the only way to get a pass on being interested in clothes or houses is to be all DIY or "maker" about it, but not everybody has the talent, ability, or most importantly the incredible wealth of time and energy that you need to do that stuff.
posted by mrmurbles at 6:23 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


There are objectionable things in its texts, but at the same time, it's got some decent "brain vacation" qualities that don't add to immediate stressors.

The guy with the backwards baseball cap ripping all the charm and craft out of a bungalow to flip it made me so upset I had to leave the room. I hear what you are saying, but sometimes I like to know all the bad things are fictional.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:17 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]


A COMPLETE 1950s DINER IN THE BASEMENT.

My parents' house has a soda fountain in the basement. It's a 1940s custom-built prairie style house and the soda fountain is plumbed and everything, but they never use it because it also requires like CO2 tanks and whatnot.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:27 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Thorzdad: "TOH is bad in its own way. The project homes are invariably cost-is-no-object affairs. It's like they can't do anything other than take a house down to the studs and rebuild the whole thing. There's very little in the way of renovation or repair work that an average homeowner can relate to. Or afford."

The thing is, in the early years, it was all about the homeowner doing as much as possible themselves ("sweat equity"). It was a lot more interesting.

Also, the way you could tell that Bob and Norm couldn't stand each other.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:05 PM on September 30 [6 favorites]


I am often struck by how we don't really have a word for the phenomenon of a person thinking they are being very exclusive, refined, demanding, snobbish by insisting on a particular thing, but the fact that they think that particular thing is "high end" reveals that they haven't got a clue as to what genuinely qualifies as "high end."

Premium mediocre (previously). Although I guess that’s more a description of the thing than the person.
posted by jimw at 9:50 PM on September 30


I'm literally talking about people who are affecting superiority to others, but in a way that reveals that they have no idea of how modest their own place on the scale they themselves are choosing to invoke is. Not "I'd love to have a great stove that would heat quickly and evenly and do other cool stuff to make my baking easier," but (the actual example here from real life) "I only want top of the line appliances in my kitchen," and then not even knowing what, if one wanted to get fussy about having top of the line, that would actually mean. It's the equivalent of the dude who tells you at a high-school party that he only reads deep, obscure stuff you probably haven't heard of, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Who wouldn't prefer to hang out either with the actual nerd or the guy who reads and enjoys X-Men?

This has zero to do with the poor being humble and a lot to do with the middle class trying to position themselves as superior to the poor through consumption and comically bumbling it. Which these shows, at least the ones I've seen, have a fair amount of. As a life-long renter myself, I'd certainly like a nicer stove, starting with one that was more than about ten inches across and wasn't installed during the Reagan administration, but not as a status symbol--and I certainly wouldn't spend some disproportionate amount of money on an overpriced, underperforming appliance so that I could (mistakenly) brag that it was "top of the line." That would just be embarrassing. (Even if it were possible, I still wouldn't buy genuine "top of the line" without a damn good practical reason. It's possible to grasp a scale through observation without endorsing it.)

Basically, if you choose to be a snob, you'd better actually be a duchess; otherwise, you just look ridiculous.

("Premium mediocre," right, I remember that...)
posted by praemunire at 12:48 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]


praemunire: I'm literally talking about people who are affecting superiority to others, but in a way that reveals that they have no idea of how modest their own place on the scale they themselves are choosing to invoke is.

That was clear the first time. :-)

This has zero to do with the poor being humble and a lot to do with the middle class trying to position themselves as superior to the poor through consumption and comically bumbling it.

Same question, then: Why do you so want the middle class to be humble?

Basically, if you choose to be a snob, you'd better actually be a duchess; otherwise, you just look ridiculous.

Snobbish duchesses look ridiculous, too. The insecurity and jealousy and desire to feel superior revealed by snobbishness look silly on anyone, no matter how rich or old-money. But they're part of being human.
posted by clawsoon at 1:09 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Basically, if you choose to be a snob, you'd better actually be a duchess; otherwise, you just look ridiculous.

What if you're a snob about people having anything more than a hotplate? If you need more burners buy 2.

Yeah...I'll probably die alone. :(
posted by saysthis at 1:42 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I like DIY shows a lot, and given my location I watch more BBC 2 than HGTV. "Homes under the Hammer" is my go-to for lightweight DIY fare: it features people buying properties at auction and generally rehabbing them either to flip, rent, or to live in. (Sometimes you get oddities like people buying a vacant lot or a pub or something, which can also be fun to watch.) The hosts routinely trumpet the first holy law of buying at auction -- read the information packet before bidding -- and scold buyers for violating it, as they frequently do. Then they'll follow the house over the course of the renovation until it's done, and they faithfully report the timelines and budget adherence of the buyers. Many people, the non-flippers or non-landlords, take years to finish the work...after going in saying they're doing it all themselves and will be done in 4 months. It's kind of refreshingly realistic. But my absolute favorite is "The £100k House: Tricks of the Trade". This show features people trying to build or renovate their own homes on tight budgets, and then the show brings in the host architect who almost every time, in the nicest and kindest way, shreds their unrealistic plans and then helps the owner figure out the important problems and a way to fix them. My favorite "trick" was when a young couple with kids needed a new kitchen, and (among other things) he showed them how to get bespoke stainless steel worktops by ... them just taking their bog-standard ikea worktops to a local sheetmetal shop and having them cover the worktops with sheetmetal for £500. Another one had the owners covering their ugly cabinetry with brightly colored perspex where the homeowner had arranged to take whatever off-cuts the local perspex shop had on hand as a lot, and she got enough for her entire kitchen and island for something like £100. It's those genuinely creative budget-but-not-big-box ideas that I love. I would never have thought about just going to a sheetmetal or plexiglas shop! And now it makes me wonder what other shops I can just go to and what other things I could just make.

Anyways, my point is... not all home renovation shows actively push conspicuous consumption beyond one's means. Some of them are genuinely good at helping people fix their shitty 70s kitchen with the £5k that they have penny-pinched to scrape together. So if that's your jam, point your local tv-acquiring apparatus at BBC 2.
posted by sldownard at 3:14 AM on October 1 [14 favorites]


There's loads and loads of interior and renovation porn all over the place that is not HGTV. BBC does a great job, though I really stand in awe of their gardening shows. USians can find BBC shows on youtube.

I rewatched the video from a BBC gardening show I posted above, and it struck me how it was so much the opposite of what HGTV sells: a PoC host, an easy-to-please, down-to-earth couple, friends helping do the work, using up odds and ends found around the area, and an oddball site (a garden in front of a houseboat). Start at 1:26 to avoid the annoying intro.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:07 AM on October 1


Related: HGTV's new show, The Fliplets [SNL spoof].
posted by TwoStride at 8:15 AM on October 1


I am often struck by how we don't really have a word for the phenomenon of a person thinking they are being very exclusive, refined, demanding, snobbish by insisting on a particular thing, but the fact that they think that particular thing is "high end" reveals that they haven't got a clue as to what genuinely qualifies as "high end."

Middle Class.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:18 AM on October 1


This show features people trying to build or renovate their own homes on tight budgets, and then the show brings in the host architect who almost every time, in the nicest and kindest way, shreds their unrealistic plans and then helps the owner figure out the important problems and a way to fix them. My favorite "trick" was when a young couple with kids needed a new kitchen, and (among other things) he showed them how to get bespoke stainless steel worktops yt by ... them just taking their bog-standard ikea worktops to a local sheetmetal shop and having them cover the worktops with sheetmetal for £500.
This is the thing I want. I also want a frank discussion about what is realistic to do yourself and what you should leave to a professional.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:32 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]


I'm confused by the apparent consensus upthread that post-war housing is all flimsy and made to only last a few years. I live in a 1950s tract house, even one with some drywall, and there's some mold in the ducts but the structure of the house doesn't seem to be falling apart or anything. I mean, we just recently had a category two hurricane and the only houses I've seen around town with any damage other than lost shingles are the ones that had trees land on them, and very little of the housing stock here is pre war. Has there been any actual decline in the sturdiness of houses, or is it just percieved that way because modern building materials don't look as thick and heavy despite being basically just as strong?
posted by bracems at 8:59 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Has there been any actual decline in the sturdiness of houses, or is it just percieved that way because modern building materials don't look as thick and heavy despite being basically just as strong?

I think any perceived decline is probably based on post-70's housing and the rise of zero-lot-line, vinyl-clad developments. They really are as cheaply-made as possible, and as quickly as possible.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:54 AM on October 1


The project homes are invariably cost-is-no-object affairs. It's like they can't do anything other than take a house down to the studs and rebuild the whole thing.

I started signing off these shows when they became bald-faced advertising vehicles, which was around the time biscuit joiners became a thing. Everything requires some one-use Johnson Rod device for [impenetrable lingo] construction goals. Little did we know how fundamental Johnson Rods (invented 2014) were to owning a house!
posted by rhizome at 10:08 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I was into Johnson Rods when he was still doing porn
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:05 PM on October 1 [9 favorites]


Construction quality goes up and down as we think of a new cheaper way, and then many of those fail more or less predictably, and if we're lucky we change building standards and if we're less lucky the rich and cautious demand better housing and if we're really unlucky it's the new normal and the rich and cautious pay big money to maintenance (drying and pest control, usually).

Hurricane Andrew took apart a lot of houses; I have read builder's magazines with careful pictures of torn foundation-wall clamps, and spread trusses, and what all, talking about how the storm was different than expected but also real-life performance was different than modelled. Building standards changed, which probably helped for Irma.

But I think we're having a slow-ish, hard to isolate, building failure with dampness and airtight-for-energy-efficiency and building with less ground separation than we used to expect. Wherefore mold! (fshgirl, wood-frame houses with rising damp exist. Temporarily.) But you can usually blame mold on a lot of different people making half-mistakes, so it's less clear how to change building codes.
posted by clew at 1:44 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I wonder exactly how large the overlap is in the venn diagram of "people who can relate to a $1.8 million housing budget" and "people at home watching daytime reality TV".
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:15 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


For the opposite of what the article rails against, sorta, consider The Bronson Pinchot Project.
posted by brainwane at 10:06 AM on October 2


I'll say all of this with the caveat that Fixer Upper is my "I shouldn't have to feel guilty about this, screw all y'all" guilty pleasure and I adore it. I don't care how staged or formulaic or cheesy (or like, low-key Dominionist???) it is, it's just such a happy wholesome feel-good show and I think the houses are beautiful and I kind of want shiplap on every surface in my apartment now.

Anyway the thing I'm going to say is that this article really bothers me on a personal level. I am a renter, the thing I rent is a 400 square foot studio apartment, and I don't particularly want to have a large house where I have to vacuum and insect-proof and buy furniture for a mud room or a game room or an attic--much less purchase one where I waste five-figure sums a year paying shady contractors to fix the foundation and the plumbing and the doors. And the reason that I like home renovation and redecoration, and HGTV in particular? Is because improving my living setting measurably makes my life more comfortable and convenient. It's not some aspirational, keeping up with the Joneses bullshit. I do it because it's good for my physical and mental well-being. I have clever places to store everything so I don't leave mess everywhere, I use decorative lumbar pillows to avoid back pain, my house looks cozy and makes me feel happy when I come home on a stressful day.

This article sure felt like a lot of "the housing crisis is because middle-class people who watch stupid HGTV shows want nice things, how very dare they" because it's always easier to blame the middle class and Millennials in some vague way than blame the actual individuals and corporations intentionally trying to make life worse for the middle (and working) class and Millennials and oh by the way, those people make and fund the HGTV shows!
posted by capricorn at 11:00 AM on October 4 [3 favorites]


Er, and by middle class people, I mean middle class women very, very specifically.
posted by capricorn at 11:04 AM on October 4 [1 favorite]


« Older "Man Your PIPS! And may the force be with you!"   |   A table for one Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.