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 They can sell you a lot more square footage without forking out to build "outdated" things like full second floors, when a partial second floor "open to below" will let you display Michelangelo's David or the Buckingham Palace Christmas tree,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?


southernyankee said...

Ur wish is my command! :-)

Christy said...

My daughter loves HGTV and we've had several conversations along those lines. Great way to talk about want vs. need. To say our trip to Africa helped tremendously with that concept is a massive understatement.

Catherine said...

So true. I love to watch HGTV and I certainly got some good ideas when it came time to sell my condo several years ago. But the whole "that will need updating" stuff is ridiculous!

Ronnie said...

Amen amen amen ---

That updating scam is simply that - a perfectly good well-planned attractive kitchen needs to be updated simply to sell new appliances and flooring - and man-hours of work.

ronnie said...

Re: the illustration: one presumes that when she isn't actually cooking she charges admission to roller-skaters...

Nanato4 said...

Too funny!

Although when we looked at houses when we moved 2 years ago, I was adamant that I did NOT want an open floor plan. But after spending some time at my daughter's (who has an open floor plan), I've come to realize that an open floor plan is just what I wanted. ;-)

But I'm with you on the exchanging the word "want" for the word "need" has gotten crazy.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

SY - It will be wonderful! And we'll both be glad to finally have NO humongous water tanks in the #&^%ing closet! 8~)

Christy - that trip was one of the greatest gifts a parent could ever give her children. I am SO glad yall did it!

We do have a concept of "need" in this society that much of the world - and what's more, our ancestors, only a short while ago - would find pretty opulent.

Nana - welcome!

There was one episode in which a mother with little kids said she really needed an open floorplan to be able to work in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the kids, which made perfect sense.

A lot of hunters also say that they like to visit with dinner guests while they're cooking, and all i can say is - they must be a whole lot less ADD than i am! Keeping track of various dishes with various timings takes all my mental energy. More, actually. If someone is talking to me my responses tend to be "Um...yeah. Right." while i wish they'd save it for the table! 8~)

Amanda Christine Cox said...

Hi Sher
I like a mix of both.. open plan downstairs, cosy rooms upstairs. I only say this because I like lounge/diners and we have a dining room that never gets used because we all sit in the lounge and watch tv and eat off our laps...
My mum and the in-laws have small modern houses with a lounge diner, most of the time the TV is off but its kind of reassuring to see it!

I hate daytime TV. The worst for me are those cartoons with all the associated crap like Ben 10.. just getting kids to nag their parents to buy plasticky stuff made in China that will end up in landfill in a couple of years..

Sherwood Harrington said...

Hi, Amanda! Nice to see you over here at Ruth's place!

A note of explanation to others: Amanda, who lives in England, is a longtime contact/friend of mine over on the Flickr photosharing site. I'm sure she arrived at this post via a link in comments on this photo of mine.

I hope you come back to Ruth's blog here often, Amanda. I think you'll find a kindred spirit here.