"House-positivity is seen as bizarre."
March 8, 2018 11:52 AM   Subscribe

 
Counterpoint - my porch needs re-painted.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:59 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]


I know not all homes are created equal, but by God, I spend so much time thinking about how to fix things and keep the character of my 1926 home instead of trying to erase every little bit of the original personality.
posted by redsparkler at 12:03 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Minus the lead paint, I should hope.
posted by ocschwar at 12:04 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I dunno. I find bad room/layouts are nails-on-a-chalk-board, eating soup with a fork wrong. In particular, kitchens w/ horrible flow (too tiny, can't open a cabinet while doing anything else, etc), but also dining rooms that are walled/doored off (isolated) etc.

Also consider how homes and room-use change. The formal sitting room is a dinosaur that should be exhumed and the space reclaimed for something functional. (And put those plastic furniture cover makers out of business.. )
posted by k5.user at 12:07 PM on March 8 [11 favorites]


Having worked for a renovator, I think that this piece is a little bit oversold. There is definitely a big cultural push for people to update their houses so that they follow whatever fad is currently prevalent (y'all are gonna regret those white cabinets in ten years, I promise) but most people aren't taking the bait.

The only people I saw who were doing major remodels just because they wanted to "make the house their own" or "bring it up to date" were wealthy couples with cash to burn. Middle-class folks were doing repairs (often updating in the course of those repairs, sure, but they were putting in new bathrooms because the old one was just plain worn out) or adding on to their houses as their families grew in lieu of moving to a new, larger place. Those were the broad trends I was seeing in my area anyway, and there seemed to be a general awareness that wealthy, high-end customers were becoming the bread and butter of the renovation industry.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:17 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


I thought remodeling shows were a stand-in for the actual thing. Like, people watch cooking shows instead of cooking, and they watch HGTV instead of remodeling their ugly-ass home. Maybe they also watch The Bachelor instead of dating, idk.

There‘s something deeply comforting in having someone else doing all the hard work - pick a flavor profile for your chicken thighs, pick a backsplash, pick a man - and then getting to be deliciously judgmental on all those choices - mustard-gochujang, really? Subway tiles, are you stuck in 2010? Nooooo, not that guy!!!.

I know it works that way for me.
posted by The Toad at 12:18 PM on March 8 [32 favorites]


I am on a train to my mate's place right now, where I will be spending my sixth night in a row crashing with friends. A massive leak in the attic and a busted stopcock on the middle of the night caused some serious flooding throughout the house. Dehumidifiers hip in tomorrow, but there is currently no real flooring, no heat or hot water, no water at all in the attic bathroom, no electric lights (but sockets now at least!), no wallpaper (thank god!) but bare plasterboard instead, and everything is damp or wet.

Needless to say, I reject the suggestion that my* house is fine.

The rest I pretty much agree with, to a point. Some things are functionally awful, and can benefit enormously from a sensible remodel. Most remodels are not that, though.

*Not actually mine, it belongs to a friend
posted by Dysk at 12:19 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Most of the stuff wrong with my 100 year old house are insults perpetrated by the bozos who remodeled it just before we bought it.
posted by exogenous at 12:22 PM on March 8 [39 favorites]


I think the point is not that all homes are already perfect but more like we have a cultural addiction to generating content and it’s killing us. Part of that is the endless stream of tv shows and images that repeat the message that you can never be comfortable enough. And as part of that homes are content too now, that you have to perfect so they can generate revenue, rather than what we need them to be and what is getting really hard to find in many cities: a place where people can just live. I’d love a house to live in but pretty much in my entire metro area no one can even have one anymore because they’re worth too much. This unhealthy obsession with how much houses are worth or could be worth is how they get to be too expensive for anyone to have.
posted by bleep at 12:23 PM on March 8 [28 favorites]


I am of the "if it ain't broken don't fix it" mindset, so over the past 10 years I have only renovated what absolutely needed renovating because it was falling apart, rotten, dangerous, or structurally unsound. In my 2-bedroom 1950's bungalow that has meant replacing the kitchen, a bathroom, the entire finished area of the basement, the front porch, all exterior stairs, the roof, all sorts of pipes and plumbing, and the electrical panel and other faulty electrical gubbins that wanted to kill us.

This year we finally gave into the non-necessary renovation craze and decided to expand our 9x10 master bedroom and 9x9 dining room and add a third bedroom for our 4-person family.

I know, I know, totally decadent and unnecessary. I will go flog myself with Romex NMD90 in penance.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:24 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


I'm just looking forward to HGTV in 2030 when the unfeeling undying androids they replaced the Property Brothers with present a couple with another open concept that they assure can be quickly renovated into the set of one dozen individual capsule cubicles that is quite clearly the objectively best way to lay out a living space.
posted by griphus at 12:25 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


This Seems relevant!

What I find strange is people doing up their houses then moving as soon as it's perfect, so they're always living in a state of flux, never in the home they live. People I know who do this don't seem to do it to make money from resale but from compulsion to improve
posted by KateViolet at 12:27 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


This Your house is fine.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:28 PM on March 8


We bought our (1922) house four years ago after looking at what felt like every house in the area. They were mostly postwar crackerjack boxes, some original and badly in need of work, some bafflingly renovated throughout the years that needed even more work to make them useful again.

The house we bought has a great deal of character and only a few baffling choices, some of which we have begun to correct. We're in the middle of an enormous renovation that began with the kitchen and pantry, but has grown to include all the flooring on the first story. We're tearing out a lot of plaster and studs in the kitchen, but restoring maybe 700sf of original narrow strip flooring (which has a character of its own and will either end up being great or costing us a fortune to repair as we re-finish; stay tuned for bad news from the floor guys next week).

To me, the HGTV Flip It Or Fuck It-style shows often feature homes that don't have a whole lot to recommend them in the first place; why not fantasize about remaking them in our own image?
posted by uncleozzy at 12:30 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Curbed obviously hasn't seen my house.
posted by octothorpe at 12:30 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


All we've done is finish the basement and put on solar panels. I am pretty sure these were both solid moves.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:32 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Not in every city, but in much of the US in the past, if you had the means (yes, that's a smaller subset, but still plenty of people) you didn't repair, you moved on. That means lots of existing houses are in generally terrible condition as they have built fewer, new ones have gotten more expensive, whatever. It created a huge market for renovations. HGTV may have rode the the endless cosmetic renovation wave, but the only reason they were able to ride is because it was already on its way to shore.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:37 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


...While on the one hand I can agree with the sentiment of the article (there are a lot of "redo-your-bedroom" shows, and a few shows that go for the "make over a a house and then sell it for cash" approach), on the other, all the people I know who have gone for making over a house, it was for things like, "the plaster is falling down", or "the house was a fixer-upper when I got it and that's the only way I could have afforded it". My brother did a good deal of work on our grandparents' house when he bought it, but that was largely because "my wife and I are not retirees and besides this place has no room for two children". They weren't even going to buy the house in the first place, they were staying there while they were looking for "the real house" but then decided the hell with it.

Like the shows they complain about, I think this article has a bit of a skewed perspective.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Even the show Fixer Upper, in which Chip and Joanna Gaines flip mostly postwar-era homes in their signature rustic modern style, is driven by the premise that the house in its original state is somehow wrong

This person has never been to Waco's downtown area where most of those houses are I see. Detroit or perhaps even Flint are less depressing.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:40 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Then again I may have a skewed perspective too because I rent, and the biggest repair work I've had done came about when I noticed the roof was about to start leaking directly over my face in my bedroom a couple storms ago. My super - who is basically the Guatemalan version of Schneider from the OG One Day At A Time - not only patched my ceiling, he patched the other bedroom ceiling, repainted both bedrooms, cleaned all the windows, lubed a sticky shower door and bought me breakfast the three days he was here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:41 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


I absolutely despise the trend of "opening the whole house up to create an open floor plan."

It's my firm belief that in 20 years, people are going to be building walls inside of their homes. I don't want to see all the way to the bathroom from the living room. I don't want to see the living room from the kitchen. I do not care.
posted by bradth27 at 12:42 PM on March 8 [34 favorites]


Our house was built in a boom suburb during the mid-90s and 20 years later, its age and the slapdash "build them as fast as you can and the buyers will come" attitude of the developers are showing.

The renovations we're doing aren't out of desire for luxury, but correcting poorly-built mistakes (e.g., the pressure-treated wood deck that was painted before we bought it -- likely so we couldn't see what bad shape it was actually in -- falling off the house, which is now a paver patio.) and cheap materials that have worn out probably right about on schedule for what they're made of (looking at you, cheap cabinets and horrible carpet).

Would we have loved an older, sturdier house that wouldn't require this kind of building and renovating and repair? Yep. But that wasn't going to happen with our budget in the Denver market of 2013, and it certainly isn't going to happen anytime soon.
posted by ThatSomething at 12:43 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I think the question is why the fantasy of keeping houses "up to date" is so powerful right now - because that's definitely a cultural fantasy. It's not that everyone is out there being all "I need a new sofa and a new stove and a totally different set of window treatments, my old ones are so 2014", it's that there is a cultural sense that "up to date" is particularly important in houses.

I don't really have an angle on the cultural appeal, but I bet that fast-furniture is part of it.

When I was growing up, well before Ikea, we had two sofas - one was the living room sofa that my parents bought around the time they married and that got replaced when I was fourteen, about twenty years later. The replacement sofa is over twenty years old now and my dad will probably keep it for the rest of his life. We also had a sofa that my dad's parents had bought probably in the sixties - that one was in the basement with a slipcover. None of these sofas were fancy, but they were expected to last and last. And they were structurally sound - the fabric and stuffing weren't luxurious, but at the "how are these hammered together" level they were well enough made, in the US, probably by unionized makers.

Everyone in my age cohort who doesn't have a monster behemoth vintage sofa has an Ikea sofa, and everyone I know always seems to be in the market for a newer one. And they're cheap junk - you can want to keep them for twenty years as much as you like, but you're going to be in the market for a new one pretty damn quick because the one you have is going to deteriorate appallingly.

So everyone always seems to have new furniture, but it's lousy furniture. When I was growing up, new furniture was an event, and if you ended up regretting the color or the style you'd be regretting it for the next couple of decades. (Which was totally a thing that happened -the basement sofa was emerald green nubbly-scratchy polyester underneath the slipcover.)

And of course, if you are stuck in a crummy-furniture economy, it seems pretty natural to seek out an "up to date" sofa, right? You're buying a new one because the one you bought five years ago is a greasy-looking wreck, might as well try something different and on-trend.
posted by Frowner at 12:43 PM on March 8 [16 favorites]


We have kept all the walls in our tiny 50's house as otherwise it would be like living in one room. I don't want to see everyone all the time. I don't want to see the kitchen mess from my dining room or living room. Our neighbours with the same model house as us their place open concept last year and it ended up feeling even smaller than it started off.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:45 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


It's my firm belief that in 20 years, people are going to be building walls inside of their homes.

That's a fine sentiment to have, but any old schmoe who can swing a hammer can build a non-load bearing interior wall. Taking one down is like 10X the cost plus the engineering fees.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:45 PM on March 8


I have warm feelings whenever I see a house that somebody expanded in random directions because they liked it, and just needed another room. It seems to have been the fashion in the region my mother grew up.

On the other hand, I live in a place that came with some of the sorts of things the "retro renovation" types love to ululate over, even though that wasn't the big draw. For instance, St. Charles steel cabinets are nice, but they eventually rust. So you either send them out to be repainted for $$$, replace the whole lot for $$$, or decide that since there are no $$$ kind of rusty cabinets are just fine.
posted by lagomorphius at 12:46 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I absolutely despise the trend of "opening the whole house up to create an open floor plan."

We're house-hunting right now and it's really fascinating how every single recently renovated house looks exactly the same on the inside: Grey walls and cabinets, dark wood floors, stainless steel appliances, one big open floor plan, sliding barn-style closet doors. You can't tell at all from looking at interior pictures what the original style of the house was even supposed to be. I hate it! Who wants barn doors in their bedroom? And this is why the house that has caught my fancy the most so far has horrible old carpet and 1970s drapes and a green and pink kitchen. At least nobody has turned it into a Stepford house yet.
posted by something something at 12:48 PM on March 8 [14 favorites]


I agree with the sentiment and the vehemence of the article when it comes to flipped houses. At this point, I'm refusing to even glance at houses that have been renovated. I don't want your cheap diy "improvements", thanks! Give me a nice, solid, incredibly dated home.

something something: YES. DOWN WITH BARN DOORS.
posted by Baethan at 12:52 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Our house was not in actual living condition when we moved and even after ten years of renovations, we still have a few major projects to go. The previous family owned the house for over a hundred years and hadn't done anything for generations and the last son who was living there when we bought it hadn't cleaned in a decade or so. We we moved in, nothing worked and we've replaced the wiring, heating, plumbing, roofing, porch and front stoop over the last decade.

The one thing though we haven't done is change the 1869 floor plan. The house is semi-shotgun with the rooms stacked behind each other without internal hallways and I can see how you might want to open that up but I love the idea of living in the exact same space that people were living in 150 years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 12:55 PM on March 8 [10 favorites]


We've had this discussion regarding open-plan homes: people who are doing the majority of the work in the kitchen, for example, really like not being in a different room from the people they are entertaining. I would not enjoy having friends over to my home if there was a wall in between the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Counterpoint: cozy, quiet nooks.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:57 PM on March 8 [9 favorites]


I can see how you might want to open that up but I love the idea of living in the exact same space that people were living in 150 years ago.

If you buy a house that's old enough, you get a house that was designed for people by people. If you get a house from about 1945 to 1985, you get a house that was designed by and for the man of the house who only went there to sleep, left for 9 hours a day, didn't cook, and didn't care about the daily running of the house which is why there is a huge 2 car garage and the living room grows ever more palatial but no place for the vacuum cleaner.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:58 PM on March 8 [46 favorites]


My home is a very modest, 1100 s.f. three and two built in 1959/1960. I firmly believe there was more than a dash of sexism involved in the terrible kitchen design. This is where the woman of the house makes dinner for the family. It's fine that it is so small that only one person can work in it, because only the little lady will ever be cooking in here. It's fine that it is inconveniently laid out with zero counter space because who cares! It's a good thing that it is walled off from the rest of the house and can be closed off with a sliding door because who wants to interact with the little lady who is cooking while we watch television in the living room or wait for our supper to be served in the dining room.

We blew out the walls and opened that baby up and I have been so. much. happier with our home ever since. After the remodel, I would come home from work and just stand in the middle of the kitchen to bask in the open-ness. There was something wrong with our house, and now it's better.
posted by rekrap at 12:59 PM on March 8 [32 favorites]


I dunno. I do most of the cooking in our family and I like my kitchen walls. They keep people out of my way as I'm getting things ready, and hide my kitchen mess. I can hear and talk through the dining room and living room doorways just fine.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:00 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


I house hunted (and bought) three years ago, and it was quite an experience. I like old houses, I like houses with character, but it seemed that 80% of what we saw was renovated to blandness and other 19% was dilapidated to the point of disaster (we bought the one house that we liked, natch).

Not gonna lie, I could happily space out to HGTV shows (House Hunters International is my jam) but man, none of that HGTV Brand Bland in my house, please.

My dad and I had a spirited argument about my house. I mentioned that I am going to be painting Tibetan-style clouds on the ceiling of the kitchen this summer. He said that I should keep the house as neutral as possible so that the next people who own it will like it. Well, if the next people who live in the house (which won't be happening for many many years) don't like clouds, then they can deal with it. I'm not going to decorate my house - which I LIVE IN - for these mysterious "next people" who don't even exist yet. Whatever, dad.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:04 PM on March 8 [56 favorites]


And open floor plans make me feel like I'm living in a pole barn.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:05 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Most of the stuff wrong with my 100 year old house are insults perpetrated by the bozos who remodeled it just before we bought it.

Yeah, so I've owned

a) a brand-new townhouse
b) a 100+ year old Victorian semi
c) a generic mid-century rear split in suburban Anywheresville, USA

and per exogenous's comment above, the old Victorian suffered not just from age but from bad renovations done before us. It was, mostly, a perfectly livable house. But we did things:

1 - we painted pretty much every room eventually because paint don't last forever
2 - we opened up a wall between two rooms that was a large doorway that was walled-in previously when the house was divided up for multiple tenants. I'm not sure if this counts as renovating or un-renovating
3 - we put in a lot of insulation in the attic and installed a bunch of ceiling lights in multiple rooms because no one had really caught this house up to the notion of electricity 100%. We could have lived without ceiling lights, yes, but... who owns whom here?
4 - we did indeed renovate the kitchen. Some kitchen renos are purely cosmetic, our kitchen was very old and, again, suffered under previous owners. There was a drop ceiling installed to lower the lovely 9-ish foot ceilings for no reason I can understand. The cabinets were hand-built... of low-grade plywood and badly painted.
5 - we repointed external mortar... the house wasn't falling down YET but I'm not sure how much mortar the author of this pieces wants to let dissolve before it is worth fixing.

I could go on. The house was an archaeology dig. And upgrading energy efficiency is no joke in Toronto - I had little desire to pay several hundred dollars a month for heat and hot water. Oh also there was indeed the time our furnace died. So you know, that seemed kind of important.

Now yes, per the article, some of these shows are fixing stuff that's not literally broken. But poorly maintained houses, at some point, aren't fixable without starting over. There's just no cleaning some of those flip or flop places. The drywalls and floors have to come up. Unless there's a way to mandate people work a lot harder at housecleaning.

As for my current home... we could have not renovated the kitchen. But how long do I really want to suffer with a kitchen that wasn't designed well in the first place? Not to mention that with rising real estate prices houses simply can't be sold for their full value without renovations in some cases (I live in crazy real estate price central) So why should I live with a terrible kitchen for a decade and then renovate it only when I want to sell? I can do a decent renovation now, maintain it well, enjoy my life and then also have a decent kitchen when I sell the house in the future.

While houses are technically a lifetime investment they're really a lot like cars - they just don't last forever. You need to maintain them. And like cars sometimes maintenance becomes more expensive than just getting a new car and starting over. (the analogy breaks down a bit - a house reno is equivalent to buying a new car here).

These shows are formulaic and trite and yes they are just punching out the same tired layouts and colour palettes and bookshelves without books over and over again. Let me channel my inner curmudgeon and say HGTV should run This Old House on repeat. A far better show. These shows are just TV cotton candy designed to be easy, effortless viewing that gives the impression of having participated in something while not actually being anything at all. And they have nothing to do with how or why people actually renovate their homes.

(OK they do in the sense that sure, lots of people do dumb renos for dumb reasons but that doesn't make every house flawless)
posted by GuyZero at 1:06 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Detroit or perhaps even Flint are less depressing.

Are you kidding me, Detroit is stuffed with gorgeous old Queen Annes and Victorians and, uh, "eclectic" homes that would sell for several million if they were cleaned up and airlifted to Brooklyn. Detroit had money in the absolute golden age of American architecture.
posted by praemunire at 1:08 PM on March 8 [19 favorites]


I like this take, because when we were home shopping we also saw houses that were eerily identical and in a town with a lot of architectural diversity, it seems like people were trying to sand off all the interesting edges towards conformity. Once we realized what our price point was (very low!) we stopped seeing these things, probably because people just lived with the quirks due to a lack of money or interest.

I'd have loved to take on a big project house but I figured out quickly that my dreams were bigger than my fortitude! The house we bought is from 1910 and while it's had some updating, that's been long in the past. The bathroom really should be completely redone because it's awkward and not working well as it is, but I feel like I don't know how to take the first steps towards getting an estimate, let alone starting the actual work. I love my lumpy little house, but I am worrying a bit about taking care of it properly.
posted by PussKillian at 1:09 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


He said that I should keep the house as neutral as possible so that the next people who own it will like it. Well, if the next people who live in the house (which won't be happening for many many years) don't like clouds, then they can deal with it.

Our kitchen in Toronto was easily the biggest room in the house - like 20x20x9 or so. Maybe 12' ceilings? I forget. But it was so vast so we painted it a deep rich red. Because it made the space smaller and warmer. In a small room it would have been oppressive. But it worked.

I peeked in through the back down when I was back visiting our former neighbours a few years after moving out. The new residents had indeed painted the kitchen beige. Their loss.
posted by GuyZero at 1:09 PM on March 8


I don't understand is people who renovate a house they are living in with the idea that it has to be neutral or appeal to the housing market or whatever. All our renovations have been exactly what we want. Which is a lot more colour and quirk than is trotted out on home renovation shows. And no stupid pot lights.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:11 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


painting Tibetan-style clouds on the ceiling of the kitchen

Oh man, we need to replace a few feet of siding where we removed two cruddy windows and replaced them with one good one, but my wife doesn't want to spend the money on real siding right now since it doesn't face the street. We might wind up with a bit of plywood around the window for a year or so that I suggested we paint with flowers and vines, but she doesn't share my artistic vision for it.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:12 PM on March 8


Are you kidding me, Detroit is stuffed with gorgeous old Queen Annes and Victorians and, uh, "eclectic" homes that would sell for several million if they were cleaned up and airlifted to Brooklyn.

That's exactly what I'm saying. Waco doesn't compare.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:12 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]


At this point, I'm refusing to even glance at houses that have been renovated.

In addition to being bland, the trouble with flip reno materials is that they're often cheap. I've bought houses that needed the TLC because I'd rather get what I want rather than a cheap home depot cherry-and-granite flip-of-the-month kitchen.

And no stupid pot lights.

SHUT UP I LOVE POT LIGHTS.

Also I discovered that Americans call them "can lights" and if you tell an electrician you want "pot lights" installed they look at you funny.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on March 8 [15 favorites]


if you had the means (yes, that's a smaller subset, but still plenty of people) you didn't repair, you moved on.

These days it's foreclosures. People can't afford their houses any longer and they're forced out. I'm pretty sure the majority of Flip or Flop houses are forced sales/foreclosures.
posted by GuyZero at 1:15 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


These days it's foreclosures. People can't afford their houses any longer and they're forced out.

Possibly, but the foreclosure rate is actually pretty low. Foreclosure rate since 2000 from CBS Marketwatch
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:17 PM on March 8


I thought I was the only one! It seems like everyone in the world is now saying "and so I want to paint everything grey and knock out all of these walls, and then put in a big ass farmhouse sink." No thanks! I need some privacy when I am cooking. My closed in kitchen comforts me.
posted by bradth27 at 1:17 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


We bought a flipped house. It was the best pricepoint vs location for us. Sure, I had concerns - it looks like we'll have to replace the cheapass new windows they put in, eventually. But what sold me was they left one room seemingly untouched except for a cheap carpet - mint green wood panelling, built-in shelves, weirdly sized closet. I repainted that orange and it is The Midcentury Den and it is perfect.

Well, the carpet still has to go. Beige. Bleh.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:25 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


if you tell an electrician you want "pot lights" installed they look at you funny.

If they interpret pot lights as grow lights, that might be understandable ;)

We backtracked from homeowners to renters late last year while we figure out what to do without lives. So now I watch a lot of Beachfront Bargain Hunters and yell at the TV when people supposedly on a budget insist a perfectly fine beachfront condo is unacceptable because the appliances aren't stainless. I just don't get why anybody cares that much about the finish on a refrigerator.
posted by COD at 1:31 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


Weird premise here, and definitely overgeneralizing. I renovate my house *because* I view it as a space to live in, not a commodity. I want my kitchen to be light and airy, pleasant and convenient to cook in because I spend a lot of time there. So we bought the house we could afford and renovated the kitchen.

I want colorful walls, not flesh-tone-neutral ones. I want a patio I can chill out on in the summer. I want a new bedroom in the basement.

All of this stuff is because I want to live in the house, and these improvements make living there more pleasant.
posted by skullhead at 1:32 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


"TV shows push and dramatize the need for renovation"... The sponsors want to sell you stuff.

Some renovation is necessary, and some is just plain good to do. Old and somewhat dingy wall-to-wall carpeting got ripped out of my current place, the wood floors were sun-rotted in places and so that got redone. We have a small kitchen. But when we moved in... there was ONE drawer in the whole kitchen.So we expanded from a tiny kitchen to a small kitchen.

We repainted and didn't redo the bathrooms, which are generic-nice early 90s contractor style. We still use our 19 year old washer and dryer, and they do a perfectly good job. Had to replace a pump motor on the washer, but it was $350 instead of $1200+ for a new, similar model. Every place is different.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:34 PM on March 8


If possible its always better to avoid a house that's just been fixed up/updated prior to sale. The sellers are going to have cheaped out on everything and then insist that their $20,000 half-assed job somehow makes the property $50,000 more valuable. Plus they'll paper over things that need fixing, making the problem bigger by the time it's discovered by you, while introducing new things that'll need fixing in very short order.

I'm currently renting a house where the last people to live in it were the original owners who had been there for 60+ years. They were pretty handy so it was amazing to see all of the small changes they had made to make the house more livable for them. The whole house is super dated but I've never lived in a place that wasn't.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:37 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


We bought a 1925 home (Roger Ailes' home, in fact), and it has much of its original wood. Some interesting things obviously went on before we bought it, but damned if we can figure out what they were:

- The master bedroom has a closet that is less deep than a clothes hanger. Thus, you cannot hang any clothes in it. I do think I know what happened here: there was originally no closet and the bedroom had a pass-through directly to the bathroom, but you can't officially call it a bedroom unless it has an attached closet.

- There is a room in the hallway that we are using as a walk-in closet. There's a window in there, so obviously it wasn't originally a closet, but it's not big enough to be anything else. Also, part of the hardwood floor has been stained in one direction and part in the other, so I think it actually used to be 2 rooms; no idea what those rooms were.

- There's a built-in cupboard in the upstairs hallway with shelves in it. I took a look into the back of it with a flashlight and there are little nubbins along the back wall of it, which makes me think that the shelves were a later addition and it was a gun closet at one point. I am not sure why you would keep your guns in the upstairs hallway but oh well.

- The previous owners covered up the perfectly nice upstairs hardwood floors with the ugliest and most indestructible carpet ever. We ripped it up and are awaiting the floor guy to come at the end of the month to make it all pretty again.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:40 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


I've seen a lot of these shows lately because I've been sick in bed and there's nothing else on at that time of day, and it's just so freaking bizarre. Not the general desire to change your surroundings; I get that. It's the specificity. The houses all look alike when they're done, like some kind of freaky Stepford suburb. And they'll come into a house that has the style of cupboards and countertops that were de rigeur ten years ago, in perfect condition, and make barfing noises and poke at then gingerly like they're soiled diapers. "Bad enough she's got gray roots and a droopy ass, but she let her countertops slide, too!" An open plan is fine if that's what you want, but don't act like its necessity is on a par with a roof and indoor plumbing. (Personally, I'd rather be able to cook dinner and shut the door behind me while company's there so I don't have to worry about keeping the kitchen sparkly clean until after they've gone home, but that probably makes me a sociopath or something.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:42 PM on March 8 [11 favorites]


This was a fantastic and compelling essay. Particularly the point about how we've begun thinking less about houses as places for experiences, and more about them as consumable objects. I've definitely cooed over granite countertops or whatever trend I couldn't care less about and in fact find useless in daily life, just because it ups the nebulous idea of resell value and so I felt like it was how I should react. Huh.

I also wonder if one day we'll view this "gut it and flip it" renovation of older houses as akin to the old trend of tearing down historical buildings without any care. Renovations are necessary to some degree, of course, but there's certainly a sameness to a lot of the outcomes.
posted by Emily's Fist at 1:44 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


- The master bedroom has a closet that is less deep than a clothes hanger.

We have one like that. It has a rack attached to the back wall that extends just to the door. So you can hang about three shirts and one suit lengthwise. Before WWII people didn't own very many clothes and typically wore the same shirt three or for times in a week, just swapping out the collar.
posted by octothorpe at 1:47 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


You can't buy a house with an avocado bath and just say you could actually live with yourself, could you?

I definitely get irked by the number of articles that posit things as "you absolutely must completely redecorate before turning 30 and make your place look what we think of as grown-up or else you don't deserve to consume the same oxygen as the rest of society", like still having Ikea furniture or posters for stuff you like after some arbitrary age is the worst possible thing that could happen to you. Even when it's not about remodeling stuff, there's a lot of media out there that's really happy to judge you for not wanting to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for framing and new furniture and better shelving units and whatever as some arbitrary marker of adulthood.
posted by Sequence at 1:48 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


I've had comments about how doing this or that will affect the resale value. My next move will be my last, hopefully. I want to live in a place I enjoy, not flip it.

On the other hand, my wife and I looked at a 2 bedroom apartment several years ago that had a Jacuzzi in the living room. I imagine that's a hard sell. Another we saw was an old building that someone had Miami-Viced up with glass block and NEON around the fireplace.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:49 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Our house is 150 years old and most of our renovations are to undo hideous attempts at bringing it up to date with Ryan Homes standards of quality, or to complete actually needed structural and technological improvements. We try to preserve the original style (brick italianate but not super fancy) and since we are in a historic neighborhood we have to keep to a set of aesthetic rules. We did do away with the separation between two living rooms because that blocked a lot of light, and I'm not sure why we had two living rooms?

Then again I traced back the history of our house and it was built by the original family. If we had moved to a mass produced cookie cutter house I would not give a shit about preserving the style and would definitely be having fun with Pinterest trends.
posted by Tarumba at 1:53 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I love and appreciate my current excellent apartment, because I can compare it directly to the last four apartments I’ve lived in which have all been, objectively speaking, shitholes. Such is New York real estate.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:55 PM on March 8


I am not in the kitchen alone while guests frolic elsewhere because all guests hang out in the kitchen anyway. There is no reason in the world to open plan a kitchen. Other than the bathroom, the kitchen is where you most want walls because a kitchen is hot, greasy, and loud. Luckily the idiots that remodeled my house were cheap and couldn't afford "open plan" (spit on the ground), so they just tore the doors off the kitchen and put awful white cheapy 90s tile everywhere and called it a day. Slapping some doors back on should be easy enough. That'll be in about 20 years when I get done paying off the reroof and then fix the wiring and then fix the fence again five or six times.

What's fun is This Old House, the magazine. Not one house in it looks old. They all have subway tile, farmhouse sinks, and those weird faucets on the wall behind the stove so you can fill a spaghetti pot without the agony of trucking it to the sink. I mean, I guess that's what they're for. Maybe it's to tempt clueless people to try to put out grease fires with water? Like a kind of planned obsolescence for housing?

Every issue of This Old House has at least one article about how to paint something. And fourteen ads for paint. (Hint! people can't afford any of this shit we're talking about, but anybody can afford to buy paint!) Remember when every house had a tomato soup room? At least one room the color of ketchup or Campbells? And then there was the sky blue + chocolate phase. And now we're doing grey!
posted by Don Pepino at 1:58 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I have some friends who bought an Arts & Crafts house filled with lovely wood trim. Except the previous owner had painted every bit of it avocado green. They spent a couple years stripping and refinishing the woodwork. And then made the mistake of inviting the previous owner over to see their handiwork. She flipped out, screamed at them for "ruining" her house and never spoke to them again.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:00 PM on March 8 [17 favorites]


We've had this discussion regarding open-plan homes: people who are doing the majority of the work in the kitchen, for example, really like not being in a different room from the people they are entertaining. I would not enjoy having friends over to my home if there was a wall in between the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Counterpoint: cozy, quiet nooks.


Frank Lloyd Wright spent a good deal of time trying to solve this conundrum.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:04 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Ha, IF ONLY!
I'm renovating a boat. When I got it 5 years ago it was a bar. It didn't even have a kitchen. Or floors, or walls even.
It's 100 years old and has nazi bullet wounds. But no kitchen.
It's got a kitchen now though.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:05 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


you can hang about three shirts and one suit lengthwise.

!!!!! I didn't even consider that it was meant to be used lengthwise! Probably because there is a hanging rod across the length of the closet, not a rack in the back. The previous owners put a very narrow bookcase in there and used it for undershirts and things.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:07 PM on March 8


Man, we had to renovate our kitchen and master bath when we moved into our place because again, unusable--the kitchen cabinets were so greasy and cockroach infested that I genuinely was not sure they were safe, the laminated countertop was badly peeled and again not food safe, and the entire area was encrusted in horrible textures. The master bath was less unpleasant to wander through, but the place where the previous occupants had broken the soap dish off the wall by mistake and not replaced it gave us many concerns about the drywall, and we ended up not being able to just put in new tiles and refinish it. So... hey, we have a new master bath and a new kitchen and a whole hell of a lot of extra debt!

Currently we are redoing the vanities in our bathrooms because the sewage overflow incident from two months ago meant the old ones were no longer sanitary, and it is taking forever because the contractors we are dealing with cannot seem to understand the difference between "you didn't show up when you said you would, and I would like to know when someone is actually coming" and "finish the job at slapdash rate and do it very poorly." Last time the "installed, finished!" sink was balanced on a folded piece of cardboard stuck between it and the vanity and appeared to have been installed via gluing it haphazardly with silicone to the wall and mirrors, but not bothering to really do things like, say, level the silicone. I've done better jobs with aquarium cement working on PVC panels intended to be inhabited by singing mice.

We are on our third vanity in the master bathroom so far and awaiting a fourth, these bozos having destroyed two by not installing the plumbing correctly or, in fact, up to code--such that it leaked and warped the fucking vanity within 24 hours.

I cannot fathom anyone agreeing to do this sort of shit for fun. Or by choice. I am hoping that one day I will be able to move into one house and never leave it, which I will then slowly replace with purely quality upgrades and doing things right the first time. (My place was built in the 80s by people who were completely unconcerned with quality, such that there is not a straight wall in the damn place. The HVAC has less than five years to live, and we are slowly replacing essential systems like the plumbing as they break. Ahahahahaha.)
posted by sciatrix at 2:09 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Yes! But I have to say that the people who previously renovated my house did a nice job so NOW, the house is fine.
posted by Toddles at 2:09 PM on March 8


If you buy a house that's old enough, you get a house that was designed for people by people. If you get a house from about 1945 to 1985, you get a house that was designed by and for the man of the house who only went there to sleep, left for 9 hours a day, didn't cook, and didn't care about the daily running of the house which is why there is a huge 2 car garage and the living room grows ever more palatial but no place for the vacuum cleaner.

Oh my god, I finally understand the proportions of the house my grandfather built, in which I was raised, in which my parents still live.
posted by pemberkins at 2:10 PM on March 8 [12 favorites]


It is an interesting dynamic, all the remodeling that you see going on, when even Remodeling Magazine admits that renovations don't give you any return on your "investment". I've seen people redo their kitchens twice in 15 years, with the stated goal of keeping the house in condition for resale. If you're doing the work yourself, sure. Most of the cost is in the labor, especially for the truly cost-effective stuff like paint. If you want to spend 32 hours completely stripping and repainting your downstairs trim, which we just did, it's only going to cost like $150 out of pocket even for top-of-the-line paint and tape and brushes and sandpaper. And maybe if you have one dated room, bringing it up to the standard of the rest of the house is going to return more than the cost. But anything else, just admit to yourself that you're doing it to make the space more pleasant for you. There's nothing wrong with that. The person who buys your house is going to have decorating taste that you can't anticipate, anyway. I was surprised when shopping for Bay Area homes that there is almost no condition premium. There are so many people stretching their budgets past the breaking point just to afford something that can hold them and their kids and dogs that they don't care if the floors are lousy or the layout isn't quite right. In a buyer's market I can see the reverse happening, that there would be no reason to buy a house in less than perfect condition, but that's not what I'm seeing here.
posted by wnissen at 2:12 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I absolutely despise the trend of "opening the whole house up to create an open floor plan."

These floor plans are also fire hazards, in that fires spread much more quickly in them.
posted by kitcat at 2:14 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


A charming feature I've always liked in houses built before AC are gigantic sleeping porches. Often on the second floor. So on hot nights everyone moved en masse from their bedrooms to the porch.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:17 PM on March 8 [13 favorites]


A charming feature I've always liked in houses built before AC are gigantic sleeping porches

Maybe in Australia. In Canada the really old houses were made with double-layered load-bearing brick that have so much thermal mass that it takes a few months for the house to actually catch up with summer.
posted by GuyZero at 2:21 PM on March 8 [10 favorites]


I'm not going to decorate my house - which I LIVE IN - for these mysterious "next people" who don't even exist yet.
I'm the daughter of a real estate agent, and that's all she ever thought about when it came to the choices we made regarding the houses we lived in, choosing all "neutral" colors so that it would sell easily in some unknown future. I detested the beige carpet and white walls of our house.
Paint those clouds, Elly Vortex! I am behind you 100% in spirit. Make your heart sing with painted clouds!
posted by honey badger at 2:22 PM on March 8 [18 favorites]


" I would not enjoy having friends over to my home if there was a wall in between the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Counterpoint: cozy, quiet nooks."

My favorite style that I see a lot of around here is a kitchen/breakfast nook/family room across the back of the house, and separate rooms in the front (some combination of living room, dining room, and den/office). That way you can cook while hanging out with the family or while supervising the kids' homework or whatever, BUT ALSO have rooms that are separated from the kitchen and have doors that close and whatnot. My last house had a kitchen cut off from the rest of the house and I hated it. It made entertaining hard, it isolated me every day when I was cooking, it was SO ANNOYING to carry a billion plates to the dining room to serve dinner. I don't want the whole first floor open, but I'd like to be able to be with my children while I'm cooking, and serve dinner more efficiently!

We had to renovate our bathroom -- which was ass-ugly, it was yellow and brown, which are the worst bathroom colors possible -- after a plumbing issue, and it was like $3,000 to fix the plumbing or $9,000 to renovate the whole thing -- and it'd still be $9,000 later if we did the plumbing only, and then wanted to renovate. We knew we'd have to renovate the whole thing anyway to sell it in a few years, so we went ahead and did it and it was GREAT. It was lovely to live in a house with a pleasant-looking bathroom with modern fixtures (instead of cheap 80s fixtures), and I was able to have my personal quirks accommodated. Like, the faucet had had featureless knobs for hot and cold, which is BASICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for preschoolers to figure out, they can't turn it off. I got lever-style handles -- pointing forward is on, pointing sideways is off -- and instantly spent way less of my day going in the bathroom to turn off the water after hand-washing. I had the toe-kick of the vanity turned into a step that pulled out like a drawer, so the kids could reach the sink without me holding them up (or without a step stool they constantly took elsewhere and lost). I had a smaller vanity installed so I didn't have a constant bruise on my right hip from walking into the too-big-for-the-space one that had been there.

I would have liked to redo the kitchen (which was also yellow, but not a pretty yellow, just a dirty-teeth yellow so it never looked clean), but it was all functional, just weirdly laid out and ugly, so I could never justify it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:25 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


We bought an 112 year old house in 2014. The only major renos we did before moving were the bathrooms, which were, yes, dated, but also we discovered that the upstairs toilet was attached to a single beam below the flooring, and it was a tragedy waiting to happen. We also repainted the entire downstairs and three of the tiny bedrooms (seriously, these are wee old fashioned bedrooms) because the former colour scheme could be generously described as "gothic." It made the entire house look dark and cave-like.

The only major reno we want to do is the kitchen as it poorly laid out, the underfloor is the floor (I can see through the holes in it to the basement), the cabinets that reach all the way to the ceiling (the DROP ceiling, FFS) can't even store our dinner plates because the shelves are very shallow, etc.

I used to think about renovating stuff around here for future owners, but fuck it, this is my house, I am not planning on leaving it anytime soon, and I don't want oddball things done--except for the beer tap, I admit that that's weird to install when we eventually reno the kitchen, I just want to enjoy the only home I've ever owned.
posted by Kitteh at 2:25 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I have a townhouse, an interior unit in a 4-house set of row homes. It has 3 levels of finished living space, and an open floor plan on the main floor, which has the kitchen, living room, dining area and deck.

I like it because I get a ton of natural light and because it makes the space feel airy and, well, open even though the square footage itself isn’t large on each floor. The kitchen is quite large and has tons of counter space. I share opposing walls with my neighbors, but from the inside, it feels like any single-family home. A lot of multi-unit buildings suffer from a deficit of light and airflow, and I didn’t want that.

The layout of the house itself was absolutely perfect to me, so any renovating I do will be the usual replacing/upgrading of flooring, bathroom fixtures, cabinetry and other cosmetic things. It was built in 2008 or early 2009 and, while the builder cut a few corners, probably no worse than anyone else might have done (I’m cringing at the bathroom remodel story upthread).

I have kind of a Pottery Barn aesthetic so, yeah, my walls are variations on beige and taupe—but I also agree that you certainly don’t need to LIVE in a neutral house if you want to one day SELL a neutral house. Is it not known that you just paint the walls whatever color you want, and then just paint ‘em all white when you’re getting ready to put the place on the market? (Along with new carpet and new kitchen appliances.) As long as you provide a relatively move-in-ready house at closing that will readily accept some minor cosmetic tweaking, do whatever you like.

The problem I usually see is when people don’t maintain a house throughout the years. They wait until shit falls apart and then fix it “good enough” until the whole house is a complex system of bandaid solutions. That won’t work in the long term. I totally get why, God knows, I’m not made of money or PTO to spend on an optimum maintenance schedule, and I don’t know anyone who is. But if you need to fix something, do it right and with an eye for the long term, not just “for now”. I remember a friend of mine who wanted to replace the wood paneling in her house, and when we tore it off, we discovered the house was insulated with old newspaper. That made for some interesting reading, but for house repair it was a serious WTF.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:26 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


A charming feature I've always liked in houses built before AC are gigantic sleeping porches.

I miss having porches like we do back home down South. Canada does enclosed porches, but not many of the kind I grew up with.
posted by Kitteh at 2:26 PM on March 8


Up here in the Bold North the porch is what we refer to as “nature’s refrigerator”. We don’t sleep on them in the summer (too many bugs), but we do stash all our extra perishables on them in the winter. Having a party and need to chill 3 cases of beer? Porch. Made a big pot of chili and need to cool it down before you put it in the freezer? Porch. Cookies just came out of the oven? Porch.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:33 PM on March 8 [18 favorites]


There's a window in there, so obviously it wasn't originally a closet

Closets ought to have a window so they can be kept really aired out! In my damp, woolly climate, anyway. Also, when light was expensive and flammable windows were good safe light.

----

About the original essay -- I'm in a online group in which the first-time house-seekers talk a lot about how a kitchen is "dated", which makes a house less desirable, and it baffles me. Also worries me, debt to fix "dated". The only people renovating on a cash basis are artists who think of themselves as poor and have really irregular incomes, and they're the only ones who I expect to ever get their mortgage paid off. Interest is the devil!

Is it fair to say that the bulk of the HGTV shows are about aesthetic renovations, not maintenance? Big difference. What happened to Holmes on Homes?
posted by clew at 2:38 PM on March 8


I have a huge soft spot for home renovation shows, which I both enjoy on their own merits (Holmes), or enjoy hate watching (Fixer Upper). I think the article has a point about houses as objects of consumption, but I don't think it's a particularly recent phenomenon. I mean, house design & decor magazines have been around forever.
posted by quaking fajita at 2:47 PM on March 8


My wife and I appeared on an HGTV home remodeling show around 12 years ago... AMA!
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:48 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


Interest is the devil!

You live in the US. It's tax-deductible. A mortgage loan is the cheapest money you'll ever get.

That said, my renos have always been almost all cash because paying off loans destroys your cash flow. What's the point of a new kitchen if you can only afford to eat instant ramen?
posted by GuyZero at 3:05 PM on March 8


A charming feature I've always liked in houses built before AC are gigantic sleeping porches.

I love the side porch on our house and practically live out there during the warmer months of the year. It's 8' deep by 40' long, so lots of room for some great parties and happy hours during the summer.
posted by octothorpe at 3:05 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


My parents gutted and rebuilt the first house I remember living in. I thing I was maybe six when we moved out?

Anyway, there was a period of time (I have no proper sense of how short or long it was) when the only thing between the bathroom and the sky was a couple of roof trusses and a layer of clear plastic. And we lived near the airport. I remember a general sense of anxiety there for a while.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:30 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I'm a fairly recent homeowner and I fantasize daily about renovating my bathroom but that's mostly because it was some terribly cheap addition done in the 80s and it feels like it might just fall off of the house sooner rather than later.

I really like neutral palates, maybe because I grew up in a house with all white walls that was a dash of Scandi style but mostly "easiest for Mom to match whenever something got scuffed/damaged."

Valiant defenses of the open kitchen have already been mounted, so I'll add that the answer to
Who wants barn doors in their bedroom? is OMG ME. I have terrible folding doors in a tiny bedroom and a barn door would get me a little extra room in front of the closet which would be heavenly.
posted by TwoStride at 3:37 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]


I remember a friend of mine who wanted to replace the wood paneling in her house, and when we tore it off, we discovered the house was insulated with old newspaper. That made for some interesting reading, but for house repair it was a serious WTF.

That was probably the original insulation; that's what they used in the olden days. Two of my high school friends lived in farmhouses where at least part of the house still had the original newspaper in the walls and floors.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:37 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I've learned so much from this thread, like that somebody here owns Roger Ailes' home? And that people use to wear the same shirt multiple days in a row, they just swapped out the collars? How do you swap out collars? I wear pretty much the same outfit to work everyday.

My girlfriend and I live in a hundred-year-old home in NE Portland currently. Our landlord is nice, so far, and the house has been in her family for a while. There are a lot of weird things with the house, like outside near the backyard there is a pulley system of some sort, I am not sure for what, but the things the rope goes around are high up on the house. The bathroom is strangely redone and doesn't match the rest of the house: it's all black tile and the mirror is over what use to be a window (we can see the window from our room), while the rest of the house is hardwood floors, and there's a giant bump going across the width of the house, which could be annoying in our bedroom if we didn't have the bed positioned in a specific manner. It's a pretty nice house, a lot nicer than where I was previously living.
posted by gucci mane at 3:40 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


The pulley system may have been for a laundry line.

(And collars used to be detachable).
posted by TwoStride at 3:45 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


We didn't know it was Roger Ailes' house when we bought it. We found out around the time of the election. Ask me how fun it was to have a documentary film crew come to our election returns watching night, capturing our reactions to Election 2016, on camera, for forever and all time.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:51 PM on March 8 [12 favorites]


That said, the true ludicrousness of Fixer Upper isn't even its problem with destroying authenticity. It's the idea that you should spend your entire budget on a house. I mean, the premise of every single episode is "So this house is $200,000, so with your all-in budget of $350,000 we will put in exactly $150,000 of 'upgrades.'" And every single episode I scream and am all, "Holy shit save the $150k instead in case you need something important later in life!"
posted by TwoStride at 3:51 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


You live in the US. It's tax-deductible. A mortgage loan is the cheapest money you'll ever get.

For most people starting next year it really isn't. If its a small mortgage, its not going to exceed the standard deduction. If its a very large mortgage, most of it isn't deductible anyways. The max deductible you'd get on a mortgage is ~$13k if you had 5% interest (which is fairly high), and standard deduction for a married couple is $24k, so unless you have a lot of other deductions it's not really a factor anymore.

That said, it's still a pretty low interest rate compared to other loans, yes.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:58 PM on March 8


(And with state/local capped at $10k, you'd need charitable contributions or other deductions even if you had a $750k mortgage and high state income tax / property tax)
posted by thefoxgod at 3:59 PM on March 8


Detachable collars

Oo, a good high-up laundry line with pulleys is a great thing. I used to live with one that had been built with a little brick stand next to the low end to put the laundry basket on. Perfect.
posted by clew at 4:02 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I had blanked out on the 2018 tax changes, ugh. Indeed, it's not the huge deal it once was.
posted by GuyZero at 4:03 PM on March 8


"My wife and I appeared on an HGTV home remodeling show around 12 years ago... AMA!"

Tell us everything! What show, what did you do, what was crazy for-TV drama, everything!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:12 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I just gutted my kitchen and bathroom and did some work in my bedroom too, and I love my apartment so much more now. SO MUCH. I don't think I erased any authenticity or charm or whatever. Maybe I did, but it's my home, and at least for now I like white cabinets and marble and white tile so... I have them.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 4:14 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Another we saw was an old building that someone had Miami-Viced up with glass block and NEON around the fireplace.

When I moved into my current apartment, I was moving in with a friend whose roommate was moving out. The roommate had some...interesting taste; she had painted the bedroom lavendar and teal, with some sort of sponge-paint effect on one wall. I got a big can of white paint to cover that up; I was going to do two coats, but it was pretty bright after only one coat, and looked like it had a sort-of "distressed old farmhouse" effect that way that I kinda liked. (It's all white now after my super painted it. I've done a lot more with furnishings and rugs to give it character since i moved in anyway.)

The other relic of the prior occupant is: my friend says she was religious and had some unusual superstitions as a result; one of them drove her to anoint all the mirrors she owned with holy oil. She left those mirrors behind, and I liked them too so I kept them; but it was a pain to scrub that weird sticky cross off the top of each one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 PM on March 8


Some interesting things obviously went on before we bought it, but damned if we can figure out what they were:
Here's mine: there is what appears to be a boarded up window between my dining room and the spare bedroom. It's plastered over on the dining-room side (but you can still sort of see the outlines of the boards), but it's very window-y on the bedroom side. Like this! One of my goals for this weekend is to patch and paint the trim and interior of the window and come up with some cool thing to put in the back to cover the mint-green boards. I can't for the life of me figure out what the deal with it is. Was there a window there for ventilation?

My house was built in 1930, and it definitely needs some updating. There's gross carpet that I need to pull up, and I'm hoping that I can salvage the hardwood floors underneath rather than replacing the carpet. (We'll see. I don't have hugely high hopes.) I had to rip out some knob and tube wiring before I could get insurance. I would like at some point to redo the kitchen, because there's no dishwasher, and the counter space is pretty limited. The cabinets are original, but not in a good way, and everything else dates from the late 60s and looks like it. I don't know. I don't watch home renovation shows, and I don't think I'm a massive consumerist. Not all quirks are charming, and it's ok to want your house to be the way you want it to be. I'm a first-time home owner, and one of the fun things about owing rather than renting is that I can do whatever the fuck I want to it and not have to apologize or ask anyone's permission.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:47 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


We just moved into our house after doing an extensive renovation on it. Its various owners had done some very bizarre things to it over the years, including closing off a staircase so the only way to go between upstairs and down was to go outside.

We opened up a nice big kitchen/family dining space with vast amounts of storage, including a dedicated cupboard for the vacuum cleaner and a lockable cupboard with a zillion charger outlets for iThings. What used to be a dark corridor is now a space with depth, texture and light. The kitchen can handle three people working side by side.

We ripped out some very daggy slate flooring and found beautiful and unusual hardwood underneath. It looks a lot more expensive than it is.

We'd do it again in a heartbeat. Except we don't have to.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:52 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Was a short-lived show called "New Spaces"

My wife is a pro interior designer and that's how they found us. I have lots of stupid parts of the story, but here's the tl, dr: We got no compensation other than "Your business will be featured in the credits!"

Ours was a downtown Chicago apartment. They were always looking for this kind of thing as the bigger projects, the majority of projects, have so many potential issues: the people run out of money (again, the show gives you NOTHING) or there's a divorce, or whatever... so the production companies vying for HGTV time can lose big, if they do 1/2 production on a project that goes nowhere.

The show created a false drama where the contractor was made into the smart leader. In reality, my wife had al this crap planned out well before the contractor was hired to execute her plans. fake "shopping" for tile, countertops, other finishes.

Overall, it was a pain in the ass, as they took over our place for a couple weeks. They didn't tell the whole story as our bathroom and bedroom was renovated and had zero part of the story.

Was kind of interesting to be a part of. But I would NEVER recommend anyone voluntarily agree to this crap. Ever.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:32 PM on March 8 [10 favorites]


Australian 'sleeping porches' are verandahs.
posted by emf at 6:34 PM on March 8


We're about to do our kitchen and the good people of Metafilter will be pleased to hear that I decided to not turn the dining room wall into a peninsula. Too expensive and we'd be giving up to much precious storage space in my 8x13 kitchen. But it's definitely a needed reno. It's nearly non functional as-is. The people who lived here before us painted the cabinets...kind of. They put some primer on and then apparently wandered off. The fridge is directly next to the stove which means we can't use two of the burners. There is almost no counter space or cabinets, but two walls with nothing on them. I had to move in my workbench just to have a place to put the microwave. I'd like my workbench back. We plan on staying in this house for a good long time and my kid is finally old enough that I can spend serious time cooking again, which is a beloved hobby that I've largely had to give up these past few years. So: new kitchen in 2018. I'm stoked.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:35 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


OMG, Drew, one of the "Property Brothers," is a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies tonight, introducing To Kill a Mockingbird and talking about how his father looked like Gregory Peck and how he and his brother did some movie acting as kids. Worlds colliding, Jerry!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:50 PM on March 8


I dunno. I took the half bath out of my kitchen, and I've not regretted it.

Seriously. It was IN the kitchen.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:52 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


...one of the fun things about owing rather than renting is that I can do whatever the fuck I want to it and not have to apologize or ask anyone's permission.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:47 PM


Eponysterical.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:58 PM on March 8 [5 favorites]


I never got a sleeping porch, but when I lived in the woods in my glorified shack, I just put up a bunch of tents in the backyard. There was a two-room sleeping tent, a screened-in dining canopy, a two-room utility storage / guest tent, and a popup shower tent under a tree.

The shower tent was my pride and joy. It was set up over a floor of four paving blocks, with a little "stoop" from two more. In addition to the regular stakes and lines, it was also secured with extra lines to the tree and clothesline. I rigged up a pulley with a cinder block as counterweight on a limb over the top of the shower so that the water in the black shower bag could hang up way high to get warm. There was just enough water to wet the hair and body, pause the flow, lather up, open the nozzle, and use the rest of the warm water to rinse. And with the heavy tree canopy, it was a far cry from Roofless at the Airport (above). dry off and change into your line dried jammies inside the shower tent, tuck yourself into your air bed with all the screened tent flaps open, turn on the radio, and sleep like a baby.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:11 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


I dunno. I took the half bath out of my kitchen, and I've not regretted it.

Seriously. It was IN the kitchen.


Yeah, putting it in the dining room makes much more sense. I mean, that's where the food goes after you eat it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:14 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I took the half bath out of my kitchen, and I've not regretted it.

Seriously. It was IN the kitchen.

We once looked at a house where they had installed a toilet and sink in a bedridden grandmother's room. At first it was so she could use them without walking to the bathroom down the hall, but later, a caretaker would use them to empty and clean her bedpan and commode.

There was a part of me that wished we'd gotten the house, added a bathtub or shower to that bedroom, and just made it the Hugest Bathroom Ever. You know, like in the movies, with a chaise lounge, Hollywood-style dressing table, elegant freestanding towel rack, and big-ass potted palm.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:26 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Two and a half years ago, we moved into a house that was clearly state-of-the-art in the late sixties. (It had one owner, who bought it then when this was the edge of civilization, before Atlanta sprawl engulfed it.).

It had not enough counter space in the kitchen... and a window looking from the kitchen into the garage. (The best I can figure is that the garage was added on later.) So we did the obvious thing and closed up that window, and put cabinets and counters on the new wall.

We also had a pass-through from the kitchen to the living room, which is nice if you want to watch TV while you stand at the stove, but not so nice if you want your curious cats to not burn themselves. So that's closed up too.

(Yes, we're closing things up in a fifty-year-old house. We specifically bought this house because it was not open-plan. I have enough of that at work.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:41 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Now I'm getting flashbacks to house hunting. We looked at a house that had a toilet in the middle of the second floor, and the second floor was an open room that ran the entire length of the house. The house we did buy is a 1920s duplex that has only one bathroom which was last renovated in the 1960s, but given what we've seen, we don't feel too bad about that.

And since the kitchen is my refuge in a small house, I don't mind at all that there's only one narrow doorway connecting the kitchen to the rest of the house. There's no door, which is fine, but since it's in one corner of the kitchen, it gives me enough isolation to feel like I have a room to myself.
posted by mollweide at 7:48 PM on March 8


I have a toilet in my basement. Not a bathroom: just a freestanding toilet. This was apparently a thing in pre-war houses, and I'm definitely not getting rid of it, because it must weigh a ton.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:49 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Just bought a condo a couple months ago, but it's the one we've been living in for five years, so it's not really new. We're starting with renovating the bedroom. The initial plan was: let's replace the closet hardware! It turned into: let's replace everything! Because it's easier to do all the things at once than to drag it out.

Except we're entirely inexperienced and have full-time jobs and it's taking forever and we probably have at least another week with the bed in the living room and I can't find anything anywhere.

I wanted our disgusting, disintegrating, cheap-to-begin-with carpet out and something sweepable in. We managed to remove the godawful dusty popcorn ceiling texture, and used All The Joint Compound to smooth the textured walls. We rebuilt part of a window frame out of even more joint compound, new corner bead, and hope. The paint colors we chose look pretty good after all that prep work, though they're gonna need some touching up after a bit of damage while slowly installing fake wood flooring. Not looking forward to figuring out how to add baseboard molding, but that's next. Then, new window shade, install the closet hardware (finally!) and move all our stuff back in.

In conclusion: whoever invented popcorn ceiling texture is history's greatest monster, or possibly just a spider wearing a human suit. I'm pretty sure the only reason for that stuff is cobweb collection.
posted by asperity at 8:01 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


" I can't for the life of me figure out what the deal with it is. Was there a window there for ventilation? "

It looks like a pass-through, like was the kitchen ever in the spare bedroom, and maybe when more modern appliances came in they moved it to another room?

"I have a toilet in my basement. Not a bathroom: just a freestanding toilet. This was apparently a thing in pre-war houses, and I'm definitely not getting rid of it"

Ah, yes, the Pittsburgh toilet, my house had one too. Handy people slap up some walls around it and make a basement bathroom; the less-handy sometimes buy bathroom stall walls at fixture auctions and just use those. They're definitely a conversation piece!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Are those basement toilets macerating toilets? Because those things are Bad News.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:16 PM on March 8


They're definitely a conversation piece!

Fancy LED lighting's so cheap now that sticking on some festive lighting around the bowl would really pay off. Also, general room lighting effects on flushing would be amazing. Why simply have a basement toilet when you could have an awesome basement toilet?

Is there an HGTV show that's not so much about minimizing your home's weird features, and more about turning them into sets for 80s music videos?
posted by asperity at 8:18 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


More toilet stuff:

My sister-in-law used to live in a house that had a toilet on the landing halfway down the basement stairs. There was a little privacy screen that was just enough to cover the toilet part if someone was using it, but they could (in theory) carry on a conversation over the top. I didn't try it.

Another in-law bought a nice farmhouse with an enclosed front porch that had been converted into a few rooms, including a powder room. But where did the toilet go? It was nowhere near the rest of the utilities and they couldn't find a connection in the basement. Oh, it just ran through a pipe down to the creek at the edge of the property.

Up in the mountains where my parents used to live, houses are pretty much built on an ad hoc basis, so property listings could be entertaining. There was one where someone decided the best place to put the bathroom was right in the dining room, with a door that opened up right onto the toilet at the end of a big dining room table. So at the big family dinner, if you had to go, there you were.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:29 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I have a toilet in my basement. Not a bathroom: just a freestanding toilet. This was apparently a thing in pre-war houses, and I'm definitely not getting rid of it, because it must weigh a ton.

Our basement has a shower and and a sink, but no toilet, and no door around that "bathroom". The fixtures are below the main pipe coming in to the house; our theory is they didn't want to spring for what my father-in-law calls a "doo-doo pump".
posted by madcaptenor at 8:34 PM on March 8


I find the idea of house ownership and maintenance kind of terrifying, and also feel a weird rage that homes in general seem to need so much expensive work regardless of age. Our homebuilding technology is still balloon frame and drywall and concrete slabs and it just seems like we could have come up with better ways by now, with less fragile materials.
posted by emjaybee at 8:40 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


All I've wanted since I moved out of home is a bathtub and seemingly no new townhouses or apartments have them. Anyway, this is just to say that 2018 is the year I will have a bathtub (I hope - we're looking at options right now).

I also love open plan when done right - but I love the light and airflow that you get with open houses, especially when it opens up into a nice big deck so the whole space becomes an entertaining area.
posted by liquorice at 8:44 PM on March 8


Seriously. It was IN the kitchen.

This was quite common in NYC, especially downtown, until the latest upturn. Everything on one stack.

Gazing at the peeling shit-brown faux-wood laminate cabinets and coordinating plywood doors with those little circular indentations for handles in my rental apartment (I'm guessing they are as old as the decor suggests and haven't been replaced since ca. 1980), I can't be too hard on the compulsive renovators.
posted by praemunire at 9:04 PM on March 8


it just seems like we could have come up with better ways by now, with less fragile materials.

I wish LEGO would make building materials, especially flooring that would really snap together perfectly.
posted by asperity at 9:15 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


" I can't for the life of me figure out what the deal with it is. Was there a window there for ventilation? "

Mom's parents moved their first four kids out into the country shortly before #5 was born. Grandpa got a great deal on an 1860's farmhouse and some hilly land that was too rocky to farm, and a low-interest loan from his boss at the steelworks. They did a lot of work just to make it livable before and shortly after they moved in - little things like adding indoor plumbing - but they kept working on it all the while the kids were growing up. When #5 showed up, they noticed that they had an alcove in their bedroom very similar to the one you described, with a window in it. They put his crib and little chest of drawers in there, and later a youth-size bed. Grandma sewed curtains for the window and a matching shower-curtain-sized one for the large opening. And there was the "nursery."

(I assume they just stacked the rest of the kids up like cordwood.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:21 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


The one and only thing everybody hates in a house is when it looks exactly the same as everybody elses house. All layouts, renovations , styles, and updates work for someone at some point or other. I think its counterproductive to make people ashamed of their choices whatever they may be. I love looking at homes. I learn so much about the people that own them without having to go the more difficult route and find things out by, you know, talking to people.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:17 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


The renovation I'm hankering after now, but can't really afford is adding some PCM (Phase Change Material) panels to the structure of the boat. Because it's made of steel it has basically zero thermal mass, so it's just the insulation keeping the heat in, or out.
But you can get these wonderful looking panels which have beads of wax encapsulated in them, so at 22 degrees they melt (thus absorbing heat because of the phase change) and below 18 degrees they freeze, thus releasing heat. So it adds MASSIVE amounts of thermal mass equivalent. A 6mm PCM Panel can have the same thermal mass as about 50mm of concrete.
Unfortunately, they're about £70 per metre and it's outside the budget for now.
But next time I need to replace a wall, PCM!

I've done a fair bit of looking into ways of moving heat around. There might be a megapost on it some time soonish if I can find the time to write up my notes into MeFi form.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:02 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


> I have a toilet in my basement. Not a bathroom: just a freestanding toilet.

Originally it might have been surrounded by wood boards, but in a couple cases I’ve seen the basement toilet ringed by a very old curtain rail from a shower stall hanging from the joists.
posted by ardgedee at 3:35 AM on March 9


My first house had a toilet tucked under the basement steps and a shower stall back next to the furnace. I was working as a painter so the shower was a handy way to clean up after work.
posted by octothorpe at 4:34 AM on March 9


We bought a flat last year in a converted warehouse building - so outside it's a lovely sandstone listed building, inside it was converted in the 90s into Generic Flats. And it was a rental property that we were renting before we bought it, so everything is suuuuper cheap. Stick on door thresholds, the worlds cheapest laminate flooring, and a super cheap kitchen where the melamine is peeling off the mdf and will probably start disintegrating soon. Oh, and our tiny bathroom somehow has room for a bidet but zero storage, and has a mysterious plastic pipe sticking out the tiled wall next to the toilet which ???

So we're gradually fixing all the things that make me sad to look at, on a tiny budget. My dad helped me make a new hardwood floor for the bedroom by chopping up mahogany furniture we bought for next to nothing at auction (horrible vintage stuff, nothing nice, don't worry) but it was horrendously time consuming and I can't face doing it for the rest of the flat. I'd like to remove the bidet and move the sink to that spot, and tile the bathroom floor, but that comes with a whole lot of possibly re-tiling the walls and other stuff that all needs to be done at once, so we need a bunch of money in one go. And even a new cheap, slightly less horrible kitchen costs a fortune - and I'm considering building the carcasses myself just because I really, really hate mdf and plastic finishes. Maybe there's nothing wrong with my flat, but there are a lot of things that are crappy in my flat.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:37 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Oh, and my finger in the air to re-sale value was knocking down the built-in wardrobe (it was in front of the door! it was stupid) and replacing it with an amazing antique gothic wardobe. Not Sorry.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:50 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


the good people of Metafilter will be pleased to hear that I decided to not turn the dining room wall into a peninsula. Too expensive and we'd be giving up to much precious storage space in my 8x13 kitchen.

This is roughly the size of the kitchen we're renovating / gutting and replacing right now. When we moved in, the previous owners had been using it as an eat-in kitchen, with a peninsula (containing the range!) that split it in half. There was about three feet of counter space, the widest bit of which was on top of the dishwasher (so... two feet maybe? Not enough to hold the large cutting board). The corner of the peninsula was about a foot and a half from the refrigerator. I had to remove an upper cabinet because I kept hitting my head on it because it was in the worst place. It was a terrible kitchen.

We are putting in so, so much counter top and so, so many cabinets. This includes a pass-through to the dining room (though not a peninsula) and it's going to be glorious. I hope.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:50 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


We’ve just moved in to an apartment we’ve been renovating for the last six months. The previous owner smoked a pack a day in here for 50 years, we had to replace the floors and replaster all the walls just to get the stink out. So there was not nothing wrong with this house!
posted by nicwolff at 5:11 AM on March 9


> I have a toilet in my basement. Not a bathroom: just a freestanding toilet.

Someone I know has a basement with a toilet. But because of the elevation of the sewage pipe, the toilet is up on a platform about 3 feet above the floor. So to use it you would walk up the toilet stairs to the toilet platform, hunker down with your head near the low basement ceiling, and sit there looking out across the entire basement. It is one of the most user-unfriendly toilets I've ever seen in a house.

Our house has a really awkward (and extremely dated) layout, and is unnecessarily closed off from the backyard. But it's not a case of "just remove this partition wall" -- none of the fixes would be simple or cheap, so we will probably never do much more than repaint and rearrange the kitchen appliances and cabinets at some point. The cost of doing the renovations would so wildly outweigh what the house could later sell for that I can't see ever doing the work. It would make much more sense to sell and move if we really cared.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:19 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I find the idea of house ownership and maintenance kind of terrifying, and also feel a weird rage that homes in general seem to need so much expensive work regardless of age. Our homebuilding technology is still balloon frame and drywall and concrete slabs and it just seems like we could have come up with better ways by now, with less fragile materials.

There was the Lustron House.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:24 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of the remodeling thing is an extension of the consumer economy. "Okay, guys, people are buying cars every three years, now what else can we get them to buy - I know, farmhouse sinks and quartz counters!"

That said, we did remodel our kitchen and family room to be open, as the kitchen was the size of my ass and the family room had one tiny window that looked out on the carport, so it was a dim cave. It's SO much better now.

The folks we got the house from had a thing for weird paint colors and (grr) wallpaper. As God is my witness, I will never have wallpaper for anything, ever. How I hate it.
posted by corvikate at 7:05 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


My first house had a toilet tucked under the basement steps and a shower stall back next to the furnace. I was working as a painter so the shower was a handy way to clean up after work.

And that's exactly why a lot of those basement showers exist - they're most common in working class houses where the men had factory, mining or otherwise physically dirty jobs and needed to be able to shower right after work. Showering in the main bathroom would mess it up and would require immediate cleaning, but a roughly made basement stall could stand up to more dirt in the first place and could be cleaned only when time was available.

Someone I know used to have a house with a sort of ad hoc basement bathroom of this kind and it was actually super convenient - the basement had been lightly finished so that it was dry, clean and well-lit and having a spare shower made things much easier when there were guests. I wish I had a modern basement instead of a gross, terrifying Victorian one - I would love to have a spare shower.
posted by Frowner at 8:22 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


corvikate, As God is my witness, I will never have wallpaper for anything, ever. How I hate it. Serious question, what is wrong with wallpaper, or is it that it's so difficult to remove?
posted by honey badger at 8:37 AM on March 9


We’ve come up with some better technology, though. My house is quite energy-efficient. The windows are double-hung so you can fold them in to easily clean the outside (they demonstrated this to me during closing, but I’ve forgotten exactly how to do this). The windows and sills themselves are all of a unit, and basically plastic, so that any rain or dust can just be wiped off and won’t leak. The insulation is made of foam boards instead of that blown fiberglass stuff. The units are double soundproofed because people care about not hearing neighbor noise, and my kitchen has 11 electrical outlets in it because people complain about not enough outlets (my whole house has a ton of outlets). My power bill averages out to be about a hundred bucks a month for a 1900 sq ft space with a lot of windows in a continental climate (so, extremes of both heat and cold).

That’s one of the reasons I made a point to buy a newly built place instead of one built in the ‘90s or late ‘80s. Better use of the space and better construction materials. They’re all fairly minor changes in the overall scheme of things, but it adds up to a space that’s easier to maintain and live in.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:46 AM on March 9


Hereabouts, we call those basement toilets "Pittsburgh Potties." They are incredibly common in any home built before 1970. We looked at a house a few years ago where the Pittsburgh potty was the only bathroom in the house (house had been constructed before indoor plumbing). Our 1950 home has one. It's got some plasticy-feeling walls around it and the little shower stall, but it's clear these were originally out in the open facilities.

Uncleozzy, best of luck on your kitchen reno. We also are looking forward to 22 luxurious square feet of countertop, and all the cabinetry that Ikea can provide.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:49 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Oh and while we're discussing horrific wall treatments: textured walls! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?! I have so much painting to do and I've been putting it off for months because painting textured walls is the fifth circle of hell.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:52 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


textured walls!

Textured walls and popcorn ceilings are for the same reasons: partially due to acoustics and mostly due to the texture or popcorn covering up joints, so the plaster or sheetrock job takes like 1/4 of the time. Of course, a decent laborer can do a smooth ceiling no problemo in roughly the same amount of time, but in ye olden days they didn't hire them, they hired the people who could do it the fastest the cheapest.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:02 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Our house has a really awkward (and extremely dated) layout

A layout being awkward is easy to understand, but I can't wrap my head around the idea of a layout being "dated." I mean, unless it's something like the privy being in the back yard, or the attic being connected to the kitchen by narrow back stairs because it was the servants' quarters, or a secret room from Prohibition days?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:31 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


A layout being awkward is easy to understand, but I can't wrap my head around the idea of a layout being "dated.

Example: seven tiny useless rooms where you could've had one decent sized lounge and two or three adequate bedrooms. A lot of old houses subdivide the space to the point where a significant square footage is just wall, and the rooms too small to accommodate furniture.
posted by Dysk at 9:37 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


‘80s construction was fond of smallish bedrooms and big common spaces. So you’d have this giant living room and a family room and a den, but the biggest bedroom would be like 10x15. But it might have a master bathroom with the inevitable trapezoidal jacuzzi tub making a weird shape in the corner. On a tiled pedestal.

In the mid-90s people started to think, “You know what would be great? Privacy,” and you got fewer and smaller common areas, and larger bedrooms and more suites.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:22 AM on March 9


Our basement has a shower and and a sink, but no toilet, and no door around that "bathroom". The fixtures are below the main pipe coming in to the house; our theory is they didn't want to spring for what my father-in-law calls a "doo-doo pump".

My house growing up also had a basement washroom with just a shower and sink (this was the only other shower in the house, upstairs had one full bathroom and a powder room). The house was located on the same land as the business, which included a machine shop. Apparently the previous owner's wife had it installed because she wanted the husband to shower/wash all the grime off from the machine shop before entering the nice part of the house, so he would enter through the basement door, shower and come up.

This house also had every colour of shag carpeting you could imagine, different in every room, and each bedroom had a full wall of loud wallpaper. My room had blue shag carpeting, and one wall of wallpaper with girls in fancy dresses in gardens.
posted by devonia at 10:24 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


There was the Lustron House.
posted by lagomorphius


SO THAT'S WHAT THIS HOUSE IS MADE OF! (Google street view link)

I've lived a few blocks from this house for years and always thought it was interesting outer material (plus, the funny signs for dogs to not pee in their yard. Zoom in! weird!)

Just a few houses south is this house (red, white tan on the right) that has a unique building style, too, with the house on top of the car port (car ports are very rare in central Minnesota) and that midcentury deck thing where the railing is solid instead of see through.

Going to open houses is our favorite free thing to do on weekends with our young kid. Especially as a couple of summers ago, the 60s/70s houses that were built by the rich doctors near the hospital and the river were finally up for sale, and you *know* those rich folk didn't spend a dime to upgrade anything. These were PEAK 70s style with record players that folded down from the wall, brick red kitchens and eating area, see-through fireplaces from the master bedroom to the living room, pink and blue bathrooms, mirrored wall dining rooms... Those were the *best* to check out.
posted by jillithd at 10:49 AM on March 9 [7 favorites]


The Underpants Monster, I think I can already lay claim to the hugest bathroom. Or at the very the least, the hugest HALF bathroom.

At some point in the history of my 110 year old house, someone thought it would be a great idea to take the kitchen, which spanned the entire width of the back of the house, and cut it exactly in half. One half is the kitchen, the other has a sink and toilet, washer and dryer and door to the basement.

So I have a half bathroom that is approximately 12 x 12, and a kitchen that is 12x12. WHYYYYYYYY?????
posted by pixiecrinkle at 11:22 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


Oh man my aforementioned bozo remodeler did the same thing to our place, leaving a huge half bathroom next to the small kitchen. We wound up keeping our blender and other little-used kitchen stuff in the bathroom.
posted by exogenous at 11:24 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


jillithd, that little house is the coolest looking ever! Apparently MN is a hotbed of them. I found this:
https://www.minnpost.com/view-finder/2011/11/exploring-nicollet-avenues-unusual-lustron-houses
posted by Don Pepino at 11:32 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


I have a half bathroom that is approximately 12 x 12, and a kitchen that is 12x12. WHYYYYYYYY?????

Most of the houses around here have little 8x5 bathrooms, but for some reason, we have a small "master" bedroom (12 x 10 maybe?) and a bathroom of roughly the same size. It makes no sense. And the way it's laid out, if we wanted to reclaim some of that space into a bedroom, we'd have to move all the plumbing. It's bananas.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:42 AM on March 9


that's not a half bath! That's a luxurious laundry room with a toilet.

This has been an interesting read, since I'm currently in the process of buying a small 2/1 apartment. It was built in the early 60s. And it's perfect for a single cat lady. But I'm struggling to see it as the family community it was created to be.

That said, I want to make changes. After years of consigning myself to being a renter, I have accumulated a wishlist. It might sound like a list of things, but really, it's a list of experiences.

A soaking tub. In unit laundry. The kitchen work triangle.

They're indulgences. But they're also the reason I'm making the jump from renter to owner.
posted by politikitty at 11:45 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


painting textured walls is the fifth circle of hell.

The sixth circle of hell, then, is scraping textured walls smooth so you can paint them.

Turns out that, sometimes, that textured bead shit all over the walls in your 60s-70's home? Asbestos.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 12:06 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


When we were house hunting a few years back we saw a lot of lovely and puzzling things but the one that really stood out was the newly renovated kitchen in one place. It was huge, probably 12 metres of bench space, and had lots of storage, nice big sink, fancy stove/oven and NO DISHWASHER.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:13 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I am privileged to live in a house we designed, where we chose all the things. Sure the budget was limited, but we aren't living with anyone else's weird choices and we didn't make ourselves slaves to resale. We chose an open floor plan for the ground floor, and the bedrooms are all upstairs where they feel private. Despite the open plan, the bathrooms are placed so that you cannot see a toilet, from anywhere you'd be likely to put a chair.

I like the open plan because at every party I have ever thrown, guests will stand in the kitchen and get in the way. You chase them out and then the doorbell rings and the new person comes into the kitchen with their casserole dish and starts talking, and the people you chased out of the kitchen come back because that's where the lively conversation is. You end up with six people in that one person triangle, others crowding the doorway, and you are trying to take a roast turkey out of the oven and you can't even open the over door because of the crowd. OK, FINE, make the kitchen and dining area and living room all one big space, so we can cook safely even when we have guests. I don't care if they see a mess.

But the best part of building a custom house, is getting to pick all the colors. We did not get one single thing that is beige. I do have white ceilings, and some white tile. But for the most part it's got color. The exterior is green and purple! Wheee, colors! Also, nothing is stainless. The fridge is black. Magnets stick to it and it doesn't show fingerprints - it is like the fridges of my childhood only frost free and energy efficient.
posted by elizilla at 12:26 PM on March 9 [5 favorites]


that's not a half bath! That's a luxurious laundry room with a toilet.

Yeah, that's what I figured, and I've been to old farmhouses that were renovated in the same way. If I had my druthers, though, I'd have a leetle half bath and do my laundry and ironing in the kitchen.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:10 PM on March 9


That Lustron house (emPHAsis on the LUST) also has strange smooth roofing that I'm not sure if it is plastic or also that metal stuff, but it certainly isn't standard asphalt shingles.

Elly Vortex, my parents are the same way about keeping the house ready for who ever will live there next. I wonder if that is a Minnesota/Midwest thing where you inconvenience yourself such that you don't create a potential perceived inconvenience to others - even if they are decades down the road.
posted by jillithd at 1:36 PM on March 9


Another we saw was an old building that someone had Miami-Viced up with glass block and NEON around the fireplace.

I would buy this house just for that. I fucking swear. I love weird old houses. But then my parents kept their pink mid-century bathrooms and the layout, so it may be genetic.
posted by dame at 1:47 PM on March 9 [7 favorites]


I know, I know, the roof! The tiles are steel! Enameled steel tiles! (It's actually a nightmare, though, per what I've been reading, because after fifty or sixty years they start to rust, and Lustron went bellyup so you can't get replacements.)
posted by Don Pepino at 2:03 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


"I am not in the kitchen alone while guests frolic elsewhere because all guests hang out in the kitchen anyway. There is no reason in the world to open plan a kitchen."

I'm glad you have a kitchen large enough for people to hang out in. Not everybody is so lucky. Also, when your house is generally dark despite plenty of windows open plan layouts can really help.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:03 PM on March 9


I'm glad you have a kitchen large enough for people to hang out in.
I don't. It's tiny and the washer and dryer stack is in it and there's nowhere to sit, other than the floor. They hang out in it, anyway. It's larger than the one in my apartment, and they all hung out in that kitchen, too. People like kitchens because the surfaces aren't going to get damaged if they spill something and the light is usually good compared to a partylit house. The one party I had where I kept them out of the kitchen I took the bulbs out of the fixtures so they couldn't turn on the lights and I hung black visqueen "walls" and made it into a hallway into the rest of the apartment. That thwarted them.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:14 PM on March 9


I walk guests to another guest I think they'd like and make a brief introduction and wave at the horse doovers on the [buffet|sideboard|dresser] and go back through the swinging door to the kitchen. Solitary guests get the poetry and art books to amuse themselves with. Eventually we all sit down and have dinner at the same time.

I expect Lifehacker to present this as a new idea any time now.
posted by clew at 2:24 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


I walk guests to another guest I think they'd like and make a brief introduction and wave at the horse doovers on the [buffet|sideboard|dresser] and go back through the swinging door to the kitchen.

I just get progressively more and more tense until my guests pick up on my not wanting them in the kitchen with me (I picked up my father's territorial instincts in the kitchen; at least I don't holler 'GET OUTTA MY WAY!" like he does). The open-ish plan lets chatty guests still see and talk to me while I'm in the kitchen; I don't mind their company, I just want them out of my way becuase I NEED TO GET IN THE FRIDGE
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:55 PM on March 9


A layout being awkward is easy to understand, but I can't wrap my head around the idea of a layout being "dated." I mean, unless it's something like the privy being in the back yard, or the attic being connected to the kitchen by narrow back stairs because it was the servants' quarters, or a secret room from Prohibition days?

Maybe we are using the term differently, but I see dated layouts all the time. Having a sunken conversation pit in your living room was trendy at one point, but now just reminds people of a bygone era, for example. Our house doesn't have a conversation pit (sadly), it just has an awkward layout that no modern architect would ever sign their name to.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 PM on March 9


Yeah, my house has a 60s-tastic intercom system in every room. I'm sure the original owners thought they were at the height of technological innovation. (Meanwhile, the house is so small that I can be at one end of the house and hear the cat nibbling his kibble at the far end of the house).
posted by TwoStride at 5:41 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Re: Lustron, if you're ever in Columbus OH you might want to stop in at the Ohio history center. I guess the company was based in central Ohio, and there's a Lustron house set up inside the building, furnished appropriately with relics of the time. There's a bomb shelter door in the AstroTurf "yard", too. If you like the Fallout aesthetic you'll love it!
posted by dbx at 10:07 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


This unhealthy obsession with how much houses are worth or could be worth is how they get to be too expensive for anyone to have.

YES.

When the Maus and I first got married, his brother was CONSTANTLY on our asses about buying a house, "it's an important investment!", "cheaper than rent", blah blah blah. And the Maus bought into it hook, line, and sinker, and we ended up buying a house that I didn't really want.

We spent 10 years pouring money into it. The Maus bitched constantly that we never had any money, and how is that possible? Well, gee, when you pay the mortgage AND the property taxes AND the homeowners insurance AND the water bill AND you have to pay for every goddamned thing that goes wrong in the thing, it turns out that it's a shitty investment and three times as expensive as renting ever was. Then he lost his job, and after 2 years of fighting, we lost the house.

He wanted to appeal. I wanted to walk away. Our attorney sided with me. We walked away.

We have been back to renting for nearly 5 years now, and I couldn't be happier. Furnace went out? Not my problem. Tornado threw a tree branch through the roof? It wasn't my insurance deductible that needed to be met. Gutters need replaced? Landlord's guy deals with that.

I love the house, it's an older house with a HUGE fenced in yard that my landlord lets me do whatever I want with. The Maus wants to buy again. This time I'm digging my heels in. There is ONE house I'm willing to purchase, under very particular circumstances, and it's not going to be an option for several years yet. I am so OVER the notion of House As Investment. All I want is a cozy place to work and hang out, without having to constantly be concerned with how much the damned thing was worth, is worth, or might be worth.
posted by MissySedai at 10:11 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]


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