The world is watching “Cribs.”

Paul Fussell’s great book on American social class stratification — titled, duh, “Class” — is pretty out of date in the details by now. Written at the dawn of the go-go ’80s, it missed how much that decade changed the relationship between class and money, never mind the ’90s and ’00s, which blew it out of the water.

But a lot of the details are timeless, including my biggest takeaway, which is probably not unique to him, but he gets credit for being the first writer to point it out to me: The hallmark of the middle class is fear. Fear of slipping a rung, either in reality or just in the eyes of others. It explains so much about how middle-class Americans dress, talk and otherwise comport themselves.

Middles love euphemism (“Excuse me, but where is your powder room?”). They like their labels on the outside of their clothes, so everyone knows they bought the right designer purse or necktie. They fret over the condition of their lawns and the shine on their cars. Etcetera. And so it was that I picked up my Detroit News today and immediately identified the area’s biggest residential foreclosure as a distinctly middle-class house. Hell, it might even be proletarian. Who else would build an $18 million, 13,777-square-foot house in a subdivision, complete with bowling alley and “custom wine tasting and cigar rooms?”

“It’s like going to Disney World,” said real estate agent Chris Knight, who has sold the home twice. “It’s a phenomenal, one-of-a-kind special property. Waterfalls, ponds all over the place, streams. Lots of Venetian plaster walls. Imported this, imported that …”

Venetian plaster, you say? It’s so much…classier than regular plaster.

The story reminds us this pile of Venetian plaster — inevitably described as “a mansion” — is not alone in its sad little subdivision, Turnberry Estates:

A third of the subdivision’s homeowners have either faced foreclosure in the past two years or had mortgage problems, public records indicate.

Since March 2008, one house was lost to foreclosure; three were scheduled for sales but avoided them; and two foreclosure sales are pending — including (former Detroit Lion) Charles Rogers, according to the Legal News. The former No. 2 NFL draft pick faces a sale Aug. 31 after defaulting and owing $1.17 million, according to a Wednesday notice in the Legal News.

Turnberry Estates has to stand for something bigger; the writer in me demands it. Nowhere do you see so much evidence of how disconnected wealth and responsibility got in the last 25 or so years than you do in housing — not just in these vulgar money pits but even in more modest upscale homes (always homes, never houses), with their media rooms and enormous closets and wine cellars and poker rooms and all the rest of it. I knew a guy who built a 10,000-square-foot house when he married a woman who had two daughters. They needed the space, he said; they would have a live-in housekeeper to watch the girls when they wanted to do impulsive newlywed things like go out to dinner or fly to New York for the weekend or whatever.

They’re divorced now. But you knew that.

My house is 2,000 square feet. The people who built it raised seven children here, in three bedrooms. My last house was about the same size. The previous owners had five kids — and one bathroom. My friend with the 10K house had separate bathrooms for each daughter. The first thing they did after moving in was convert a dead-air space into a deluxe closet.

Do I sound resentful? I’m not. Enjoy your money, rich people. But when my house is foreclosed upon, I bet it’ll be easier to unload than the $18 million Venetian plaster showplace. Even with a cigar room.

So, some bloggage? Probably we can rustle up some:

The New York Post falls for a wrong-o. Did an accused killer who swallowed rat poison get an emergency liver transplant, as the paper crowed? Um, no. But that is one great headline: Thug’s op is liver worst. Congrats to the greatest copy desk in tab-dom.

Thanks to Rana (I think) for reacquainting me with Tom and Lorenzo, the Project Rungay bloggers who dabble in “Mad Men” on the side. I can take or leave them on the episode guides, but their commentary on the clothes is first-rate. I loved their latest, on Betty Draper last season, including her slammin’ Roman holiday getup. They’ve got great things to say about all the madwomen, though, so warning: You can get lost in that site. But in a good way.

The Michigan oil spill now stretches for 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River, and yes, pals, it looks like we have another BP on our hands. Who could have predicted? And so on.

Kate’s going to the Warped Tour show with her dad tomorrow, and I promised her I’d get her a new guitar strap to collect autographs on. So time to hop to it.

Posted at 10:45 am in Current events, Detroit life, Television |

53 responses to “The world is watching “Cribs.””

  1. LAMary said on July 29, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I got lost in Project Rungay for about an hour the other day. I could have left work at 5 but I sat here uninterrupted in an empty office reading about Mad Men clothes. And I don’t regret it.

    191 chars

  2. Julie Robinson said on July 29, 2010 at 11:26 am

    1700 square feet here, and it’s really too big for us. When DH was with the paper we’d get comp tickets for the Parade of Homes, and my reaction was usually not envy but disgust. But I’m not even sure we boomers will be able to sell our modest suburban homes; our daughter’s friends want to live in the city and use public transportation.

    I know Mad Men is all the thing and we started watching it, but stopped about halfway through the first season. It was so depressing, and there didn’t seem to be any characters that we could care about. So we gave it up.

    567 chars

  3. Mark P. said on July 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I think your “middle class” is that portion of the middle class that aspires to be nouveau riche.

    97 chars

  4. Jeff Borden said on July 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I agree with Mark P. My parents clawed their way into the middle-class, but never gave a damn about status. They bought houses they could afford near good schools. They bought and drove used cars until the last two decades of their life. They purchased clothing, furniture, appliances with no regard for labels or brand names, only price and quality.

    Our house is less than 2,000-sq.-ft. and it’s more than enough. In fact, there are a few rooms we rarely use. Why would we ever want a five bedroom, six bath house with built-in wine cellar and four-car garage when we don’t use all the space we already have? And we’d only have one car, some bicycle and a push lawn mower to store in the garage?

    I will argue that multiple bathrooms are a very, very good thing. We don’t need six, but two are quite nice.

    811 chars

  5. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

    A small chuckle: Just listened to President Obama’s speech to the Urban League, which focused on education and his Race to the Top program. Speaking of the need for the kids, themselves, to make an effort, he said, “Education takes work. You have to want it. You can’t just tilt your head and have them pour it in your ear.”

    He cracked up just slightly at the image as he said it, and the audience chuckled a little too. A nice moment.

    443 chars

  6. John C said on July 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I have a cigar room, but I call it by the old-fashioned name: Yard.
    (BTW … I am in an Apple store – crowded as usual – doing what I always do … checking in at NN.c and thereby planting it in the history of this random machine.)

    232 chars

  7. beb said on July 29, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I don’t think our house breaks 1000 feet but I don;t know if you count the basement. The kitchen is so small you have to step out to change your mind. Then I look at some of the subdivision houses in older towns like Easypoint, no upstairs bedrooms, doesn’t look like a basement either. There’s more room in a double-wide from the look of these places.

    The takeaway from “Class” that the middle-class is defined by fear is a great point, explains the Tea Party since they on the whole are above aveage in income yet seem literally hysterical that someone is going to take something away from them.

    Meanwhile I read where the Obame administration is seeking more authorization to seize your on-line activities records through warrentless National Security Letters. I thought we had a Fourth Amendment saying we were to be secure in our persons, properties and papers. Why is it that the only Amendment “patroits” care about is the 2nd. Seems to me if you really cared about your freedoms you would want to protect the 4th as well!

    So, did the Michigan Democratic Oppo research really nail the republican Attorney General as being at the long rumored stripper party of disgraced ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick? Heard that they had found a witness but haven’t heard anything since.

    1283 chars

  8. adrianne said on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

    You could usually tell the richest person anywhere by their car: a venerable BMW or Mercedes that needed a wash and had 100,000-plus miles on it. I agree with all on the supersized houses: who can clean all that space? My one desire is to live in a house with more than one bathroom.

    283 chars

  9. Jeff Borden said on July 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Well, here’s some happy news on a Thursday morning. Shirley Sherrod, victimized by the loathesome right-wing political trickster Andrew Breitbart, says she’s going to sue him for airing that heavily edited video and trashing her reputation.

    No doubt deep-pocketed right-wing foundations will step up to the plate for Breitbart, who gives ratfucking a bad name, but if it peels back the curtains on the conservative media machine even a little, this case will be worth it.

    474 chars

  10. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    “. . . so small you have to step out to change your mind”

    Now there is a great phrase. I grew up in a very small house, too–at least for the number of people who lived in it. There were six kids born over eighteen years, and as the older ones moved out, the younger ones moved into their beds. We didn’t have a real indoor bathroom until I was ten, at about the time the fifth kid was born.

    By the time they were down to three kids at home, my folks had enough money to build a new house, and build they did. Three thousand square feet on the main floor and a finished basement. No more shared bedrooms, three bathrooms, no more laundry in the basement, and a swimming pool in the backyard.* My mother was beyond thrilled, and I can;t blame her.

    When I think of all the physical work she had to do w/ toddlers clinging to her skirts, it’s not hard to see why her disposition sometimes suffered.

    *The new house was built in front of the old house, and the old house was moved to a new site, leaving a rather large hole in the ground. Without that, I don’t think they’d have built the pool, but my dad liked the idea of giving the neighbors something to talk about.

    1192 chars

  11. ROgirl said on July 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    News of yet another family that’s had to downsize in this tough economic climate.

    134 chars

  12. alex said on July 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Paul Fussell’s observation pretty much encapsulates what I took away from my brief stint working in marketing and advertising. This is the psychology that is applied directly to driving consumerism.

    So I’m glad to see the GOP finally being tarred by the great unwashed who’ve comandeered it. Those who’ve never before considered what it means to be a Republican other than the status they thought it conferred upon them are likely to think again.

    450 chars

  13. Dorothy said on July 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Not that I’m trying to “one-up” any of you, but we had 12 people living in a three-bedroom house that had indoor plumbing, thank goodness. It was a little row house with not much of a backyard (not grass but brick). Right after my 11th birthday we moved to a much bigger 7-bedroom house. My mother thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Three floors!!! Two toilets!!! (one bathroom, one powder room). I have my own version of heaven now in the house we built and the three acres we built it on. I am grateful every single day that I have such great surroundings.

    567 chars

  14. Bob (Not Greene) said on July 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Back in 2001, a “venture capitalist” and his wife (daughter of the local fire chief) bought a modest home in one of the leafy towns I cover. Demolished it and built an 8,500-square-foot McMansion (French chateau style, natch) with six bedrooms and seven (!) full bathrooms, wine room, media room, workout room, Italian tile, giant chandeliers, in-ground pool and separate “spa” (it ain’t a hot tub in Middle Class Land). They took out a $3.2 million loan to build the thing on top of the original $575,000 mortgage.

    On Tuesday, the house was sold at auction for $1.5 million. Here’s how desperate these peope were to unload this albatross — it was a no-minimum, no-reserve auction. They simply wanted to walk away from the house (the “official” reason was they wanted to move to Florida to be near someone’s aged parents — I know it ain’t her parents becase her father is still working as a fire chief in another town).

    The house wasn’t in foreclosure or anything, but I have a feeling that the auction was needed to prevent it from happening.

    Oh, and real estate taxes on that beast? At last tally, $63,000 per year. Per year, I tell you! The high water mark for that propoerty’s taxes, two years ago, was $75,000.

    The sale of the home, of course, now sets the market price for the rest of the high-end homes in town. And there aren’t many this big. Gonna take a long time for those values to recover, if ever.

    The saddest part, is that I toured the home before the auction and it just screamed “tacky.” It was the most underwhelming piece of architecture you can imagine. Big for the sake of big, but no style, no class.

    1639 chars

  15. kayak woman said on July 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    We own a very small house with one bathroom. It got a little tight when our daughters were teenagers but it is perfect now that they are (mostly) gone. Well, except for the clutter that I am in a constant battle to eradicate. When that big mortgage/greed crisis hit, we had no worries because we had paid our house off many years before.

    337 chars

  16. MichaelG said on July 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Ken Levine’s take on Betty Draper: Scroll down to Mon, 07-26.

    I live by myself in a thousand sq ft high water bungalow. Three beds two baths. I sleep in one bedroom, one is storage and the third is an office. Living, dining and kitchen is one big space. I like it. Cigar room is all around you.

    336 chars

  17. Julie Robinson said on July 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    We decided that our “dream home” was one that wouldn’t give us nightmares, like Kayak Woman. We’re 3 1/2 years from that sweet day of payoff. Dorothy, your family sounds like my DH’s, 10 kids, small house and one bathroom. I will say that having a second bathroom is a good, good thing.

    289 chars

  18. Jen said on July 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    There were only two things that I really wanted that we didn’t get in our house – a second bathroom and central air. I’m hoping to add both at some point, and then our house will be as perfect as we could ever afford. I wouldn’t want it much bigger – too much to clean!

    I love big old historic houses, but a lot of the newer ones I’ve seen just scream “tacky” to me. If I were going to upgrade, it would be an older home in the historic part of town. But the way things are going, my husband and I will probably stay in our house with three bedrooms (two upstairs, one downstairs that is really a den) and one bathroom in the less desirable part of town, furnished in our “garage sale chic” style (or, as my mother-in-law once called her design style, “Early Hurricane Hugo.”)

    779 chars

  19. coozledad said on July 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I like our old house, but I’m pretty much reconciled to the idea that it’s a stack of lighter. That’s why we sleep next to a ground floor window that would be easy enough to leap through, even without a lot of adrenalin.
    The house added nothing to the cost of the place when we purchased the land. The bathroom and the kitchen are both fleeting afterthoughts: primitive, really.
    Eventually, I plan to build a small house on the wooded acreage, with a deep covered porch and a deck that ranges over a ravine, either suspended from some giant yellow poplars or perched on a frame that looks like an old railway trestle.
    The first time I ever saw a house that had a room set aside for specific activities aside from washing, eating, or sleeping, was in college. We rented one house where the landlord told us on the walk-through,”People are just damn nasty. You wouldn’t believe what they done with this house. They had one room covered wall to wall with old mattresses. I don’t even want to know what went on in there”.
    I was on the board of an organization with some wealthy people. During a conversation after one of the big hurricanes (Floyd?), I overheard a guy asking another one if his beach house came through the storm alright.
    “It’s not as bad as it could have been. The roof on one wing was damaged, and about six of the rooms had water damage.”
    “Damn. How many rooms are in that house anyway.”
    “What do you and your wife do with all that space?”
    “Oh, it’s nice to have when family visits.”

    1514 chars

  20. nancy said on July 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Cooze: Snerk.

    You know what I loved most about Betty’s Roman outfit? The nude lip. That’s exactly the way you need to do makeup with a getup like that. She’s already got serious eye shadow action going on, so you balance it with essentially non-existent lipstick. And that’s exactly the way her character would play it, too. She knows how to tiptoe up to the line of too-sexy, but never, ever cross it.

    I also like their breakdowns of the other characters, but especially the one on the Olson women, the dull sparrows trying to keep their little nightingale from singing. They really know their semiotics of wardrobe.

    624 chars

  21. Rana said on July 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    D and I have a fair amount of stuff (the result of being bookworms and packrats, and, in my case, a serial hobbyist), so we do care about having room to store it and use it. The thing is, most of those giant houses are terrible when it comes to storage. Lots of empty space to rattle around in, no place to tuck junk away (unless you rent a locker off site – which defeats the whole purpose of having a large house, to my mind). This brings me around to my main point – aside from the pretentiousness, the literally inhuman scale of those McMansions bothers me.

    With one exception, all of our furniture is either inherited or bought with rentals in mind. That is, it is scaled to smaller rooms and lower ceilings. The exception: a hide-a-bed chair that we got for D’s office so we could turn it into a guest room. This thing is not only heavy (because of the metal infrastructure), it is huge. It’s a chair, but aesthetically it looks larger than the sofa! The proportions are all big and lumpy and oversized; we only bought it because the alternatives were worse. It’s the Dodge Ram of living room chairs – over-engineered and bulgy and part of that middle-class aesthetic of conspicuous consumption and fear you describe. In a McMansion, our other furniture would look dainty and overwhelmed, but this thing would be right at home.

    1362 chars

  22. Bob (Not Greene) said on July 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Oh, I forgot the kicker on the mansion auction. Now that the new market value has been set for the largest homes in town, they will be reassessed at a lower level, which means the tax bills for those properties will fall. Which means that everybody else’s taxes are going up, because taxing bodies are still levying the same amount. The pie is just getting sliced differently. Rich people get their property taxes lowered, and the burden falls on the rest. Where have I heard that before?

    488 chars

  23. Jeff Borden said on July 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Bob NG,
    I think you just described Republican economic principles in a very succinct manner.

    93 chars

  24. brian stouder said on July 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Bob captured the whole damned thing – inlcuding that the folks with the upside down mortgage on the McMansion would be the first to say “But…but…but we ain’t RICH!” (upper middle class, maybe)

    Say – I got a forwarded email of puns, and I’m still chuckling over several of them.

    Maybe in a bit, if we need a palate cleanser, I’ll post ’em.

    370 chars

  25. Mark P. said on July 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    This is only peripherally related, but my mother recently got a notice of an increase in her home valuation (and thus her property tax). I did some checking at the Federal Housing Finance Agency website, and found that average property values in her town are lower than at any time since 2003. It’s going to be a long road back.

    328 chars

  26. Bob (Not Greene) said on July 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    But don’t forget, guys, the housing crisis is the fault of those dumb-ass poor people who forced the banks to give them loans they couldn’t afford. Rich people would never do that.

    180 chars

  27. Jeff Borden said on July 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Bob NG,

    And not just dumbass poor people, but dumbass poor people who ain’t white. You have to include the racial angle to truly achieve full Republican erection.

    165 chars

  28. Dexter said on July 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Though I smoked my last celebratory cigar in 1986, I do believe a cigar room could make me crumble, lose my resolve, and light up a Don Rigo.
    My grandpa’s cigar room was his bedroom, where he smoked while sitting at his desk, all day long. Whoever dreamed that would be illegal in some places today?
    If ya wanna see a perfect example of extravagance in house-building, check out “Lucky” on HBO’s OnDemand. A lottery winner who eventually blew all his winnings built such an elaborate upstairs which nearly collapsed onto the ground floor, and I assumed the place was condemned, millions lost, for nothing.
    The lotto winner who really had it going, had his stuff together, was the math prof who realized his love for a Lamborghini was just a fantasy; he didn’t need more than a sensible car, and his dream of a mansion was just foolishness, and to move would be a waste of his fortune. His wife took her share and divorced him, and then he met his life’s true love, established a chair at his university which grew from corporate donations, paid for a friend’s kid’s cancer treatments…just a perfect way to use his lottery windfall.
    He learned what I consider to be the truth about windfalls, and that is to have all that cash allows you to be free of the burdens of issues like having to maintain a giant McMansion—you’re rich, and you can buy simplicity and peace of mind, like the bum who won in Chicago, and rejected his $300,000 house he bought and moved into a cheap motel, millions still in the bank for him. He just wants to feed his cats and have a hooker massage him once in a while. And that’s all.

    1628 chars

  29. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I liked that documentary, too, Dexter. Another happy winner was the guy who came to the U. S. as a refugee from Vietnam–one of the boat people–and had made a decent living at a meatpacking company in Nebraska. He used his “found money” to build a family compound–four new houses adjacent to each other, one for himself and his wife and one for each of his three sons and their families–and to help his sons start businesses. Also sent money back to Vietnam to build a big house that was, essentially, an apartment building for family there. His choices reflected the values he’d always lived by; the money just gave him the ability to express those values more fully.

    675 chars

  30. alex said on July 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    My cigar room is every room. I even posted a sign that says “Smoking Area: Light Up or Leave.”

    94 chars

  31. Dexter said on July 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Jolene, the Boat People guy’s story was most inspiring. That place back in Vietnam must have set him back plenty. His USA compound easily set him back a mil and a half…he’s smart, though, a couple gas stations, other businesses bought, so he has income for his family.
    I hope the African American lady wins big soon…she is such a good person.
    “Lucky”, now on HBO OnDemand.

    Alex, I like your warning. I’d post “Smoke ’em if ya got ’em”. I heard that a thousand times in the army.

    493 chars

  32. Deborah said on July 29, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Our place in Chicago is about 1,200 sf, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths. The second bedroom is our library. The baths are tiny, 1957 Mies originals. My bath has coral colored fixtures and my husband’s are grey. Same with the kitchen it has the original white metal cabinets. We have another unit in the building next door (the other Mies building) that my husband offices out of. It’s a one bedroom and Little Bird has that room. Her kitchen is teensy tiny. She’s such a good cook, it’s a struggle for her to operate there. She often cooks at our place, with a slightly bigger kitchen. The house in New Mexico that we are designing (and redesigning constantly) will be almost 2,000 sf. It will have courtyards so it will feel bigger with those outdoor “rooms”. We’ll probably keep a small place (studio) in Chicago for my husband’s architecture practice after we build in NM.

    863 chars

  33. alex said on July 29, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Rana, I too sing the praises of smaller scale furniture. It works well in my modest ‘fifties mod house that started its life out as a summer cottage. However, as decrepitude sets in I wish there were something as comfy as a recliner that didn’t look like one.

    It’s almost six years ago now that I traded my life in a box in the sky for life on a lush piece of land and I couldn’t be happier. While the neighbors may be busy keeping up with the Joneses, I busy myself keeping up a natural landscape without use of any fertilizers or poisons. I’m sure my place makes them feel as good about theirs as theirs make me feel about mine. But I don’t think visitors are blowing sunshine up my ass when they tell me my yard beats the heck out of all of them for visual interest.

    773 chars

  34. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Outdoor rooms are the best. While you’re designing, Deborah, make sure that one of those rooms is off the kitchen. It’s so nice to be able to step outside w/ your morning coffee and to have it be easy to move from kitchen to outdoors when serving porch or patio meals.

    270 chars

  35. joodyb said on July 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    My former dream house has been on the market for 2 months and lists at $829,000. It’s not quite 3,000 square feet. It’s in a nice old St. Paul neighborhood, but not that nice. (Ten years ago, it probably went for a fourth that. Can’t wait to see what they get for it. They won’t be getting it from me!)

    We augmented our original 1750 square feet three years ago. We could have gone bigger, but we chose not to alter the footprint and just tore off a three-season porch. I’m glad, and we got an awesome “treehouse” bedroom in the process. Even a 65-year-old house is a work in progress. In the end, I’m pretty sure I’ll be departing 4412 on a gurney. Or be found inside, partially eaten by dogs.

    697 chars

  36. prospero said on July 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Pleasw tell me the world is watching the most horrific episode of CSI_New York.

    Sorry, but badsly written drama has got to interest a sentient human being more than badly scripted supposedly real shit. Are people really this gd stupid?

    this is Sarah politics, and what it requires is fucking morons.

    There is no [olite way to get atound this. You have got to be a moron.

    If people like this go to bvote, they should ask to read Chinese. No shit. Back in the day, if you were black and couldn’t read Chinese, you didn’t get to vote. You pale teapartyers, lets here that. What does that Chinese say? You racist aholes.

    There is just no way a normal, sensible human being could possibly figure Teabaggers weren’t just whack=job racists.

    749 chars

  37. prospero said on July 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Just where does Newt see Sharia law creeping in? Roberts court? What an astounding asshole. Look, you idiots, is he saying that the 2000 and 2004 elections were hijacked? By Muslims? By the PNAC? What is this idiot talking about? Kennetth Blackwell said he’d steal 2004 and he did. Are we kidding? Lying scumbags that stole elections and they’re admitting it.

    These people have no shame. And their devotees are so fucking stupid there is no way they should be allowed to vote. We’re talking about idiots here.

    515 chars

  38. Linda said on July 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I’m loving my 1200 ft bungalow in a blue-collar neighborhood, where there is not too much to clean and enough room to grow herbs and tomatoes. And I have neighbors who taught me how to play euchre. When I bought it, coworkers–and the loan officer–laughed, because I could have bought “better” (bigger, in a more pretentious neighborhood). But I know a woman who did that. She is now upside down on her mortgage, and now that she’s retired, can’t unload it to live near her daughter and grandkids. OTOH, I will own mine free and clear in less than 3 years.

    561 chars

  39. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    alex, you should post some pictures of your visually interesting yard. Would like to see them.

    Partially eaten by dogs, joodyb? Ewwwww. I actually know of someone that died that way–the recluse ex-husband of a friend. Pretty terrible. You live in Virginia, right? If you’re ever feeling poorly, give me a call. I’ll come and sit w/ you and call the coroner when the time comes.

    388 chars

  40. Jolene said on July 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Or maybe it was judybusy who lives in VA. But call me anyway. I don’t want anyone to be eaten by dogs–partially or otherwise.

    128 chars

  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Yesterday saw a house semi-deconstructed and historically interpreted that was almost enough to make me forget (for a moment) Julia Child’s kitchen in the National Museum of American History. Built in Ipswich, MA around 1760 with elements from an earlier 1710 teardown, and then adapted through 1963. They’ve got the occupants and family history in a wonderful exhibit that walks you around the house, which is sometimes just framing, sometimes fully furnished, sometimes cutaway clad, and the exterior wall of the large room tracks the social changes from a couple of pre-Revolutionary social strivers with an African American indentured servant, through a couple with abolitionist involvements, later a pair of sisters who were Catholic working class, and finally a family with a son who joined the Navy in 1942. Better than Paul Fussell, even.

    Did not leave a pound of butter at Julia’s kitchen.

    904 chars

  42. beb said on July 30, 2010 at 1:02 am

    The thing about Sharia law is that the more you look into it the more it begins to resemble conservative evangelicals. There’s not a lot of difference between right-wing Christians and right-wing Muslems except how they spell the name of God (Yahwah or Allah)

    259 chars

  43. basset said on July 30, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Fourteen hundred square feet of production-built tract house here, and the entire place is a non-smoking area. No wine storage either, I don’t keep it around long enough to need special cabinets or anything; my approach is pretty much like Dave Barry’s, “drink it and look around for more.”

    And the place is starting to look like a house again – painter’s working inside, we ordered the cabinets this week, looks like we’re going with real wood instead of laminate floors. Still not so sure about ceramic tile in the kitchen, though, have heard repeatedly that it’s hard to walk on… but there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground between that and vinyl. I ask the wisdom of the hive mind on that.

    702 chars

  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 30, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Hello, Crinoid Girl — you still out there? This one’s for you:

    145 chars

  45. crinoidgirl said on July 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

    ooooooooooooo – Thanks, JTMMO! Is that at the Smithsonian?

    58 chars

  46. Jim said on July 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

    We toured this Frank Lloyd Wright house last week:

    Amazing how it was so small. Only 1,200 square feet, built for a small family. The kitchen, as our guide noted, was average for the time — very small by today’s standards. And I think Wright only charged $500 for the design.

    “The house of moderate cost is not only America’s major architectural problem but the problem most difficult for her major architects.” -Frank Lloyd Wright, 1936

    477 chars

  47. nancy said on July 30, 2010 at 9:36 am

    In Fort Wayne, my favorite houses were designed by a female architect, a local, named Joel Roberts Ninde. She worked a lot in the Craftsman tradition, and her houses were touted as being easy to care for, by women who didn’t have help — or much beyond a single maid. I walked the dog past this house several times a week, and it was one of my favorites. Pretty big — more than 3K sf — but really comfortable. The owners were standing outside one day, and we chatted. My favorite detail was this: There had to be at least three straight days of over-90 degree temperatures for the place to heat up to where they felt the need to turn on the air conditioners. Stucco — is there nothing you can’t do?

    EDIT: By the way, that house is now located in what Fort Wayne would consider a sketchy neighborhood. You could pick it up for under $100K, I’m sure.

    966 chars

  48. Jim said on July 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

    My grandparents lived in a home on West Wildwood, just down the block from the old Lutheran Hospital. The home was built (I believe) by my grandmother’s uncle. I don’t know if it ever had air conditioning — maybe window units. As a child, it fascinated me. A breakfast nook and a laundry chute. When my grandmother died, my uncle bought it and lived there for quite a while. Last time I went through there, it was sad to see how the neighborhood had deteriorated — and that was probably at least 10 years ago.

    517 chars

  49. alex said on July 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Nance, that house was on the market fairly recently for well over a year and the starting price was, I believe, about $134K and was reduced several times.

    Bassett, if I recall your house is on a crawl space, so vinyl tile would probably be gentler to walk on than ceramic, and falling glassware would stand a slightly better chance of survival on vinyl as well. I’m on a slab and will probably end up with Morton’s neuroma even though it’s mostly carpeted.

    Jolene, I used to have a flickr page but lost the logon and password when my old computer died. I may start a new one soon.

    EDIT: I take that back, Nance. The house I’m thinking of is on Kinnaird, the next street over, same block, and looks a lot like that one.

    729 chars

  50. Colleen said on July 30, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the link to that blog, Nance! I would love to one day own a Ninde house!

    84 chars

  51. Rana said on July 30, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Basset – what about linoleum?

    Another option would be something like Pergo or other woodlike treated flooring. (My parent’s house is entirely Pergo on the main floor except for the bedroom, bath, and mudroom, and they seem to like it a lot. It certainly looks good.)

    273 chars

  52. LAMary said on July 30, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Basset there’s stuff called Forbo that’s nicer than vinyl. I do a lot of standing in the kitchen and I would think ceramic tile floors would get very tiresome. I have Forbo. It’s like old fashioned thick linoleum. You can get it in rolls or tiles. If you drop a glass it doesn’t usually shatter.

    373 chars

  53. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 31, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Cgirl — yes, in the Nat’l Museum of Natural History, one floor down from the much more photographed Hope Diamond, but we know better! I went nuts taking pics of the Burgess Shale fossils, too.

    194 chars