Yes, this is a long read, and yes it’s about the You-Know-Who’s. But it says (verifies?) everything we instinctively don’t like about the Fixer Upper effect. The #shiplap hashtags, the national obsession, the gentrification, the whitewashing (literal and figurative), the rumblings of anti-LGBTQ religious stances, the bougie-ness, the very Instagrammable-ness of it all.
And while it’s all about Waco, Texas, it’s also about our towns. (Well, Beacon, cohost J’s town, at least. How about Milton/Marlboro, Rob?) Many towns. Many downtowns in any American city. How do we improve and build even better communities for everyone who lives there? How can we all come along for the ride? Can we do that while having some personal fun and individuality in design???
BTW, we’ll get over the Gaines eventually. It’s just that they, like this article, seem to sum up a lot of the conversational threads of the middle class home/garden/shelter/real estate sphere. We’ll be back to ogling hot gardeners or obsessing over wallpaper in a hot minute.
Cohost J here. I think anyone who has fallen in love with Paris is dying on the inside today. The images of Notre Dame cathedral in flames are heartbreaking. Though the worst-case scenario didn’t materialize and the firefighters were able to put out the blaze before permanent structural damage was done, this is still a punch in the gut.
I’ve been to Paris twice and went to Notre Dame both times–twice on my last trip in 2014. I took a Gothic architecture art history class in college (and almost changed my major because of it) and went gaga over the flying buttresses, the arches, the rose windows, and all the little details frozen in stone, including those famous rain spouts we call gargoyles. Despite the hordes of fellow tourists, once you step inside the doors and wander through its forest of columns, this feeling of wonder and peace settles over you–which is exactly the intention of its design. I am not into the church (lower nor upper case!) at all but the building still gives you that religious feeling, somehow. That bodily response to a cathedral is not unique to Notre Dame (I literally cried at Chartres cathedral’sblue stained glass–design nerd alert!) but ND is literally the heart of Paris. Geographically and spiritually. How far to Paris? The mileage is measured to Notre Dame’s front door. It’s kilometer zero. And as a visitor it can become the center of your memories too.
Notre Dame is so much more than a church. It is more than brick, stone, glass and wood. It is architectural history in physical form. It’s an incomprehensibly collaborative art installation (and yes, it was built using exploitative practices and unholy money and yes I’m still not down with the organized religion thing) that spans the centuries. The wood, stone, glass and brick can be rebuilt–maybe add a little steel this time?
After all, Notre Dame was not a static structure. It changed too, and the process of renovating and restoring it seem to be the likely source of this fire. The lovely super-ornate, majorly Gothic over-the-top (pun intended) spire which collapsed was a nineteenth century addition, after all. Fun fact: it’s a major blooper in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame! Quasimodo dances around the roof and uses the spire like a stripper pole, but it would not have been there when the story was set!
Anyway. They will rebuild. They were already in the process of reconstructing and preserving it. Designers and architects will combine wood and stone to create something magical. The fire is now part of Notre Dame’s long history. Hopefully what we remember is that buildings and artworks can awaken emotions in us, and they too can be lost. No one died in the fire, thankfully, but those who love that cathedral, for whatever reason, felt like we were watching a death unfold. Through design, our public places and houses–even houses where God lives–can feel like home, and we need to recognize and celebrate them in the now. Before our own history is history.
Open floor concept living is not for everyone–either by choice or by architectural design. This recent Boston Globe article sums up a growing dissatisfaction with open concepts and their ubiquity in the real estate marketplace.
Cohost J. here: We can’t give a Tag For Hate to open concepts, because in many spaces they work beautifully. Lots of people love the entertaining possibilities–heck, cohost Rob has an open concept first floor! What I love about this article is that it makes the case for actually thinking about your lifestyle and how your home enhances and supports that lifestyle. Homeowners interviewed by the reporter talk about how they could see themselves entertaining lavishly while whipping up three-course meals in the kitchen, or keeping an eye on the kids while busy doing something else. For most of us, these are fantasies. And while fantasy interior design has its place, you have to be really careful about making those dreams come true.
Sometimes you get what you wish for, and, to quote Sondheim’s Into The Woods: “Wishes come true, not free.” The tradeoffs of open concept? Lack of privacy. Clutter. A nagging sense that there are things still to be done in that other “room” over there that I can see while I’m trying to relax on the couch. Or, as homeowner Asya says in the piece, someone is relaxing and watching her while she’s working.
Friends of ours (frequently referenced in the show) have a 1970’s swinger’s house in Poughkeepsie–no joke. It’s a one bedroom, 3,000+ square foot three-level house. The only interior walls that extend to the ceiling are around the kitchen and bathrooms. It’s a great house for entertaining (and they do, frequently, and largely). But quiet and cozy it is not. It works for them and their lifestyle–it’s just the two of them and a dog–but it would be totally impractical for my family. And most families, which is probably why it sat on the market for four years, waiting for just the right buyers!
So as you’re househunting, fantasy or otherwise, or dreaming up ways to fix up your existing space, be honest with yourself and your family. Perform a lifestyle audit and really think about your tolerance for clutter, mess, cleaning, organizing, noise, and activity. Hash it all out internally before knocking down all those internal walls. Be open with yourself and those you live with before committing to open concept.