Thursday, November 7, 2019

Of kingdoms and coal scuttles.

Queen Anne: so cute, but way too fussy.
Yet how I would love to sit and write in a sunny turret!

I don't know where (or quite when) my husband and I will retire (really, I mean my husband, since I've been a stay-home mom all my life: do you ever retire from that? I guess you morph into Travelling Grandma, and that's wonderful too). Sometimes I dream about building a house where we will spend our golden years. And by "build" I mean "have built:" I'm not a builder and my hubby is tired of doing renovations, which have been occurring regularly for the 20+ years we've lived in our current house.

I've always had an interest in residential architecture and construction. As a kid, I helped dismantle an old house on our farm, for the purpose of salvaging materials that would be used to construct our new house. Long before "reduce, reuse, recycle" was an eco-edict, rural folk were doing it every day, all the time. I also watched my dad build a house, and sometimes participated, if the job wasn't a danger to life or limb. He trusted us with hammers; power tools, not so much. As a reader with geeky tastes (the dictionary, no lie),  I spent happy hours browsing house plan books and even dad's DIY construction manuals. I'm not sure how many Grade 4 girls in the 70s cared about back-to-back plumbing, but I did.

I've drawn many house plans over the years, and my brother and I designed a two-storey plan for a 40-foot round steel grain bin. It was never built, but he thought of it twenty years before this began to happen.  I still like to look at house plans but I get impatient with many contemporary designs: they waste space and seem more geared for "Wow factor" than for family life. Does anyone need a 500 square foot bedroom closet? I think not. Nor would I want a soaring 20-foot ceiling over the living room (not cozy) or a massive chandelier hanging over the entryway (who's going to stand in the ENTRY oohing and aaahing over your light fixture? Life is too short). The Tiny Home movement is another story altogether, and I find it quite funny, since so many people treat it like a New Thing, but it's been happening for hundreds of years at least (see nomads, gypsies and people who own RVs).

A nice compromise comes in the form of early 20th century home plans designed for middle class folk.  They are compact, well-designed, and would take only minor tweaking to bring them up to date. Many of them contain a maid's room, with an entire staircase exclusively for her use, haha! Not likely. And they are aesthetically beautiful without being pretentious (granted, Queen Anne is pretty fancy, but that style hearkens back to Victorian era, in my mind). I like American Foursquare, Colonial, Cape Cod, Dutch Colonial, Tudor/English Cottage, but I keep gravitating back to Craftsman. I gotta have a front porch. With a rocking chair.

One of the most entertaining aspects of these plans is the promotional blurbs.

"Men who would die for their wives, yet never bring in a pail of water or a scuttle of coal without grumbling, are seldom found in homes which have been built by mutual endeavour. Hands that help in making the Marlowe should gladly help in lightening the burdens of the helpmate whose kingdom lies within its threshold." 

Let me translate: a lady's home is her castle; help with the chores. No toxic masculinity there, despite its having been written in the 1920s. I know coal is evil now, but what a great image. I am blessed that my hubby has been carrying my coal scuttle --and a great deal more-- for 33 years.

Super cute: but my knees require a main floor bedroom and laundry. 

And check out the description below. This guy really got carried away by prepositional and other extraneous phrases "The gods smile..." (that's the subject/predicate) but it continues: "on the man...whose heart unison...with the lullabies...of a happy she cradles a living expression of love (Whoa--do they mean a baby?) a happy the Vernon." 

But I love it. Such a refreshing change from today's nihilism and despair. Sadly, our society is no longer geared towards encouraging young people to aspire to marriage, home and family. 

On a more prosaic note, split levels are terrible (I live in a 1975 split level). They are so dumb, I thought they HAD to have originated in the 1960s. Not true! They began to appear in the 1930s... (my illusions are shattered). However, if one has to live in a split level design, it should be an aesthetically pleasing design, and not anything from the 1970s. 

This Craftsman checks several boxes: front porch, main floor bedroom, lots of room for guests upstairs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment