Monday, January 10, 2011
No, actually I loathe the open floorplan.
Awhile back, Larry and I started watching HGTV at lunchtime, when there wasn't anything cool on the History/Discovery/Nat Geo channels -- or at least, when those had reruns of reruns.
It was a nice escape and it sort of fed my home-voyeurism. I love glimpsing other peoples' houses. Another show on Discovery called It Takes a Thief -- where real former thieves broke into real peoples' homes, with the owners' consent, to show their security weaknesses -- was a lot of fun for the same reason.
So we'd chill with our sandwiches in front of Househunters. On this show, they take real people who are househunting and show us 3 of the places they consider, then follow them through on their final choice.
I figured from the start that home product-purveyors are heavily invested in the network and have an agenda : "Make the viewer want to remodel, redecorate, buy stuff!" That's above-board enough to be OK by me.
But I, really, innocently, thought that this message would be subtly imbedded in a wide variety of home styles. You know, the something-for-everyone thing.
At some point, the dreary sameness of the houses, of the hunters, and of the whole blasted thing began to show. Not long after that, it became distressingly obvious that the show exists not to push products, but to push standardized styles and samey products.
There's alleged variety -- lofts, condos, houses, older and newer developments. But the same sentiments are voiced the same way repeatedly.
The buyers are so coached that watching it is kind of like being one of those Rocky Horror Picture Show nuts who's seen it 4000 times and can recite the scripted lines right along with them. If one more dimwit says the precise phrase "I love the high ceilings and the open floorplan!" my brain will melt.
I won't say that real people never want open floorplans, Like anything else, some like them, some don't. But if you judged by this show, you'd think that caves were all anybody wanted, ever.
Because builders love open floorplans. They can sell you a lot more square footage without forking out to build "outdated" things like full second floors, when a partial second floor "open to below" will let you display Michelangelo's David or the Buckingham Palace Christmas tree, and says trés elégante to potential buyers who've turned their brains off. Or interior walls, with all those tedious things you have to put into a wall, like framework and drywall and paint and outlets and wires and wage-hours and stuff.
Hunters seem unconcerned about the Grand Central cacophony of noise as every downstairs activity -- laundry machines, TV, kitchen clangs and clatters, phone calls -- resonates together. And we mustn't even think about watching our heating dollars waft up into the 18-foot ceiling of our massive Great Room.
HGTV is paid well to try to convince you that this is what you want. When househunters see older houses that still have those terribly outmoded features, like rooms, or, God Forbid, white kitchen appliances, they wrinkle their noses.
And if they see the ubiquitous high ceilings, guhrayuhnit countertops (that's "granite" countertops; they all worship granite and they all pronounce it like that), and stainless steel appliances, they brightly approve these things not as mere preferences, but as necessities.
HGTV has got it down, man, but honestly, when they get a 30-ish-year-old guy to walk into a nice, well-planned, color-coordinated kitchen, look at synthetic countertops, and say, "Those countertops will need updating," it takes implausibility to new heights.
The word, trained into the potential buyers with painful obviousness, is "need." They clearly are told to say, not that they want to update the kitchen, but that they will "need" to. Like a white stove won't cook and a fridge that's not steel won't keep the milk from spoiling.
And we must love open floorplans. Living, kitchen, dining rooms all have to flow into each other like one big Dark Ages Great Hall.
Give me walls. No matter how much building material and effort you have to grudgingly expend to do it. Got that?