You like that? Really?

6 Jun

So why are we doing this?  I know people have opinions about mid-century homes.  I know that I did.  Ranch?  Boring!  (Unless you mean the salad dressing and then I have even stronger words than boring.)  Characterless, uninspiring, ugly!  Yes, some people are even so cruel as to call them downright hideous. 

Here’s the truth:  I was one of those people.  Every home I have owned as an adult has been almost 100 years old.  The 1920s were my sweet spot.  From my first condo in a renovated Chicago courtyard building to our last home in Seattle, I adored the wooden floors, crown molding, poky hallways and small cozy rooms of older homes.  The inconveniences be damned!  What they lacked in modernities, they made up for in charm.  I mean, who needs a pantry really?

I realize now that I was doing what we all do, to one degree or another, was carving my own identity.  I grew up in a mid-century house and I needed to break free of it, chart my own course, blaze my own trail and, ultimately, make my own mistakes while I crafted a life that was uniquely mine and as different from my parents as possible.  And then as time went on, I remembered things.  Things I would laugh about with my siblings and cousins:  the rust shag carpet, the white faux fur floor pillow, the built-in TV and hi-fi, the huge wooden swinging doors that led from the foyer to the living room.  And also things that would make me wistful:  the Hotai on the red Chinese trunk in the entry way, the chime of the grandfather clock, the smell of cedar in the hall closet where all the Christmas decorations were kept.

The house I remember as my childhood home actually belonged to my grandparents, who we called Nanee and Poppy.  Someone commented the other day that our new house looked like Nanee’s house and he was right.  Nanee was a force of nature, the axis around which we all spun and her home reflected that.  The layout, the materials, the sensibility.  I realized one of the reasons I love our new house is because it’s like my childhood home.  It even smells like my childhood home.  But it’s more than that.

I love beauty and beautiful things.  Who can’t help but look at structures like the Sistine Chapel or Notre Dame or the Taj Mahal and not be in awe?  But lately I need philosophy as well as beauty.  I need a reason for things beyond their visual appeal.  Louis Sullivan ushered in the age of modernism with his aesthetic motto that ‘form follow function’ and that speaks to me.  The beauty in an object can come simply from its functionality.  I like that level of honesty.

Modernism and architectural honesty gave us Frank Lloyd Wright with his Prairie style and open-plans.  It gave us Mies Van der Rohe with his ‘less is more’ aesthetic and a host of other straight-line German architects. (I swear you can hear a Teutonic accent when looking at their buildings.)  It gave us Le Corbusier and those wonderful chairs.  It gave us ‘truth in materials’. 

But Wright and Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier are all far above my pay-grade and most everyone else I know.  For the post-war masses in California, a real-estate developer and architect named Joseph Eichler made this level of design accessible to the everyday man.  It was modern, ground-breaking, innovative.  Houses like most Americans had never seen before:  bringing the outside in, walls of windows, post and beam construction, patios, atriums, swimming pools!  (Cue Dean Martin because I swear I can hear a martini being shaken poolside somewhere!) These homes came in the time of space travel and rock and roll, a time when the war had ended, anything seemed possible and the future was yet unwritten. 

For me, I like that mid-century modern reflects my personal values and beliefs, that honesty in presentation gives depth and meaning to life.  Authenticity, genuineness, lack of pretense.  I value these things in my life and in home.  And if you don’t think this style is cool, you haven’t watched ‘The Incredibles’ with your children lately.

(For all of you MCM design crazies, here are a few more shots of my childhood home.  Yes, the kid in those photos is yours truly.  Check out the pendant and table lamps, the wood paneling and the awesome furniture.  What I wouldn’t give for that stuff.  But I am sure there is some store in Ballard that will ask me for an arm and a leg and my first born for pieces like that now.)



8 Responses to “You like that? Really?”

  1. Jen Graf July 19, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    These photos are great! I miss that house and miss Nane. Hope you’re well Brandy. Much love.

    • Brandy July 19, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      So glad you liked it. It was a fun post to write. Hope you are enjoying the blog. XOXO.

  2. Andy June 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    looks like Scout in the last one… Plus that TV antenna is AWESOME!

  3. Ida June 6, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    laughed when I saw the last picture. We have a picture of Lowell dressed almost identically to your dad. You and Brett have much in common


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