pondering inconsistencies

A neighborly conversation caused me to think about the interests of people in my general region of the country with respect to their houses or houses they desire to own in contrast to other things they own. I started to see what I believe is an inconsistent approach to what they choose.

If you want an old looking car what do you do? You have to find and buy an old car (vintage is the term to make it sound cool). If you want an old looking house, you can buy one right? It might require a bit of restoration. Of course restoring an old house as restoring an old car requires quite an investment.

Today we build new houses with some attempt to recall a look of the past. Yet we fill them with all of our new things that look…well…new. I may be a minority here since some believe our “modern” house does not “fit” in our neighborhood. Although I can defend my position of why it does fit, I welcome the friendly debate because I endeavor to think beyond the superficial and delve into deeper meanings. At the end, one could argue it’s a matter of taste, thus potentially ending the discussion. However, let’s not and carry on down this path.

* Automobiles and other vehicles (kind of covered that a bit…new cars look new)
* Furniture (No your old furniture is not antique, it’s just old.)
* Kitchen appliances, and other kitchen “conveniences”
* Cell phones, iPods, Blue Tooth devices…on and on
* Computers, Lap-tops, iPads, Kindles
* Televisions, DVD Blu-ray players, online movie downloads, other forms of entertainment electronics
* Clothing (maybe you have a bad wardrobe but nobody is wearing Civil War era clothing to work)
* Music (well, we may listen to music of a specific time period of the past)…most of us “listen” to music on some contemporary device. (Does anyone still have an 8-track player in their car?)
* Old things…new things, contemporary…nostalgic, current…period, modern…traditional

Why do we all desire new things (that look like they are part of our era) in nearly all aspects of our lives, but with our homes many long to recreate the past? Would we buy new “vintage” cars, music players, clothing if it were readily available? (maybe some of you would) Would that be authentic?

My question is not so much about wanting or buying an old(er) house, but worse, I suppose I am critiquing the way our production housing system offers only house designs that attempt to look like a copy of a copy of a copy (see where I am going) of a past housing style because they believe that is what the market wants (who designs this stuff anyway?). In the past fifty or sixty years we have taken a “pick and choose” method of recreating aspects of old house styles, yet merging them into some freak-show conglomerate of a housing style that never existed (bitter-huh?). Yet these houses are built in new neighborhoods with no trees, swimming pools, large decks and covered with vinyl siding to boot. Oh, and that three car garage out front doesn’t help the argument. It’s inconsistent.

Should you buy an old house that has wonderful character? Yes, absolutely…it’s better than using up more resources on a house I described above. I truly love authentic historic houses (or architecture in general) of time periods long forgotten. I would live in a house from the turn of the 20th century era (except for those wet basements). Yet why do we want to recreate something that is trying to fabricate or imitate an appearance from yesterday without being wholly consistent about it. Garages and vinyl siding did not exist during the colonial era. The appearance of those houses was largely determined by the technology and available materials at the time. Where is the housing that says 21st century? Where are the houses that can and will speak honestly of our time, our culture and our technology?  It is time to be genuine.

Are we being inconsistent? What do you think?

pondering inconsistencies

3 thoughts on “pondering inconsistencies

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Inconsistent, ingenuine, and insane are the only words that describe our “modern” housing stock. These “styles” are generated by focus groups consisting of homeowners in the area that fit a certain demographic the developer wants to sell to. These are typically working class people who are presented with a number of material and floor plan choices and asked to choose he one they most identify with or would like to see on their home. It’s a completely bogus and biased “study” that yields no real data on the true desires of the purchasing public. If the only choices you have are A,B and C, you’ll choose the best of three. The reality is though that they really want option H, but it doesn’t exist outside of the “custom” market therefore it’s out of their reach. If we simply PROVIDE modern and contemporary options people will buy them if they are affordable. The interior spaces of our current stock are evidence enough that people are starving for modern design!

    1. Preach it brother…you’re more wired than me about this.

      Yes where is option ‘H’? You’re onto a great point. In our country almost every home owner seeking to build a new house will go directly to the contractor of choice in that “plan” and they will have to choose from what is offered.

      I tried at one point to buy a lot in one of those developments and when I showed my custom modern house that I designed, I wasn’t permitted to build there. It actually worked out for the best. I found a lot in the city and I can walk downtown. Don’t get me started…actually yes, let’s get started and talk about this.

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