Thursday, March 12, 2009
Bridging the gap from Middle America to Modern
Before purchasing our current house, Mrs. Surly and I came to an agreement on a design style as it relates to our residence. We both can appreciate different styles of architecture and styles of design but the common ground between us is Modern. Modern can mean different things to different people but as far as couples go, we should be able to get through this without coming to blows. There is a problem with Modern. I think it's a Midwestern problem. On paper, I'm a typical blue-collared Midwestern working shlub. I would like to think there is more to me than that but that's a debate for another day. So how does a typical Midwestern blue-collared working shlub relate to Modern design and architecture? Well, typically they don't. For arguments sake we'll create a fictional Midwestern homeowner. Let's call him Joe Average. Here's how it goes in a vague stereotypical way: Joe buys a modest house he can afford. It's in a cookie cutter subdivision, a rural plot, or down a tree-lined street in an older small town. If it's a new house in a subdivision, there's no such thing as Modern. The small town home or rural homes will be pre-owned more often than not. Getting the pre-owned home is always fun. You get to fix all the things that the previous owner did. So now you have the house. If it's decorated at all it's got floral print wallpaper and some nice "country" accents in the kitchen. I'm casting stones here. If that's your thing, cool. Let's assume for a minute you're not a fan of wallpaper borders in periwinkle with duck silhouettes. "Great!" Joe says. "We'll just remodel, and make it what we want". Sounds great right? Sure, just head on down to Menard's and pick up some of that Galvalume siding and maybe a sliding door or two. Wait, what's that? Not an option? The high-school kid at Menard's points to the giant wall of siding options. "No no, you see I want something Modern that's durable and... "It's brand new" the helpful teenager says. "No, I don't mean modern as opposed to ancient." "I mean Modern as in Richard Neutra or Charles and Ray Eames or The Guggenheim." Blank stare. For the positive spin there are other options and things can be special ordered but the idea here is you have to search beyond the middle of the road. Perhaps this is by design, I don't know.
Point #1: Lack of options and availability for Joe Average.
Undeterred, Joe subscribes to some magazines that cater to his interests. The back of these magazines have many advertisers that sell all kinds of groovy things that the Modern homeowner may want to build or furnish their house with. A quick check on the old interweb for prices and "HOLY SHIT, IT COSTS HOW MUCH?". Joe is gobsmacked by the prices of alternative building materials. Furniture? Forget it. Ikea is just about the only affordable option if Joe is to buy new furniture.
Point #2: Compared to what Joe Average has available at local retail outlets, the price of Modern is ridiculously inflated.
There are many great things about Modern. I love the idea, the aesthetic, the simplicity. Being a contrarian, I like that Modern is contrary to the norm in my area. If everyone embraced it and it was no longer contrary I would still love it.
It is becoming trendy by the way. You see plenty of it in TV commercials.
Defining what is Modern is not so easy and the argument could be made that Modern does not exist. Yeah, that's for another post.
Back to Joe Average. What is Joe to do? Get mad and go back to Menard's and buy the ornate gold faucet and some fresh duck wallpaper border. No, Joe is a free-thinker. Joe saves his money for the deals that make the most sense for his house. Joe is good with his hands and can make many of the things he needs. Modern is not about buying things. Nothing worth a shit is about buying things. Unless you're a sheep.
Motorcycling content - Thanks Jesper
Part two to come...