Veneer of Civilization

We are deep in the process of home upgrades.  The kitchen has been de-constructed.  We want to sell our house, so we asked real estate agents, stagers and people who are looking to buy what people want to see most.  Every single one said, “granite in the kitchen”.  Hmm. Our tile countertops looked fine.  I mean COME ON, do you really need to have a multi-hued slab of polished rock to stare at while you cut carrots?  Even though it’s a natural material you have to forcibly tear it out of a mountain.  Not exactly “green” behavior.  There’s even a rare possibility of getting granite with enough uranium in it to let off radon gas over time.  Radon’s the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking.  There are other materials like marble and laminates that look just as nice!  The design web sites and magazines are full of articles that say “granite is over”.  Those same articles, however, are followed by dozens of comments from people expressing how much they LOVE granite.  The shows on HGTV promote it as a sign of quality in a home.  All right, all right.  People love granite.  We picked out some granite.

When you get granite, there’s often enough left over to do a sink somewhere else, so our “award-winning bathroom” is now also torn up.  We had to pick out sinks.  I won the kitchen argument (like the previous one, but stainless) and lost the bathroom argument.  The bathroom is getting a porcelain oval bowl topped by a burnished copper faucet.  Lady Windermere will be quite at home, should she decide to visit the water-closet.

Oh, it didn’t end there.  The granite conundrum was nothing compared to the arguments we had over tile for the backsplash.  Our stager, who is educated and experienced in these matters, indicated a look of textured stone helps a home sell.  Geez, this is the suburbs, not Tuscany.  Then we had to decide whether or not to angle the tiles, and whether to use square or rectangle-shaped tiles.  It seems (say the experts) that people like the look of bricks, so you should use what are called “subway” (rectangular) tiles and offset them.  It’s a sign of quality in a home, you see.  Even though the tiles aren’t bricks, and they only remind people of bricks, and they are, you know, tile-thin.  The walls aren’t even insulated, but by God we’re gonna have the HGTV seal of approval.

I’ve had to learn to look disapprovingly at things in my house I never spent a second thinking about before.  Our cabinets, for example, have a nice bevel you can put your fingers under to open them.  However, our stager says they need to have little brass handles on them.  Yeah, yeah I know, please don’t say it…sign of quality.

The house must also be painted, inside and out.  The colors we have are not in fashion.  Beiges and greens are in fashion now.  We have variations of ivory and blue, which are no longer a sign of quality. If I haven’t made it obvious by my previous reactions to the big kitchen questions, I am a man.  Whatever I may know about, I know little and care less about fashion.  However, I’m no dummy.  I know fashion influences purchasing choices.

Let the grand cover-up begin!


Have you been through home upgrades and survived?


Filed under Money, symbolism

21 responses to “Veneer of Civilization

  1. I think it’s sad that most Americans are so unimaginative that they have to have just what is in fashion or what everybody else wants. On the other hand, if you are sure you are not going to stay there, you more or less have to please the “average bear”.
    It is very stressful to live through major remodels and I wish you luck. Hopefully in your next abode you can have a field day decorating to your own tastes and claiming the space as yours.

    I hate cookie-cutter houses, cookie-cutter shopping malls that we see all over the US, etc. We have lost our rugged individualism and it is a shame. Fortunately there are a few left who are still unique and want to be like themselves and not like everybody else.

  2. monk

    Funny you should ask. We’re right in the middle of remodeling the farm house where I lived until I went off to the army. Dad passed away about a year ago and mom couldn’t live alone, so she’s now in a nursing home. My brother and I talked and it was decided I should move there. My wife and I lived through remodeling the house we currently live in but she said she won’t do that again. So we have to get the farm house finished before she’ll move, then we can do it all over again with our current home so we can either sell or rent it.

    I had a real estate agent friend look it over and it’s not worth as much as I had hoped. Of course, I missed the big market boom of a few years ago and those numbers were sticking in my head. What a letdown! I’m leaning towards rental as they aren’t as picky as buyers (no granite required) and that will give us some extra cash every month to supplement our retirement income.

  3. I still have harvest gold appliances and macrame plant holders and I think my house looks just fine thank you.

    Good luck

  4. Cat

    Just reading about having to deal with this shit made my head hurt. My mother and sister are obsessed with HGTV and the like. I cannot stand it. It is like a slow, painful death. It reminds me of how magazines have to be written in a certain way, aimed toward the way most people are. Similarly, houses have to be “improved” (or not) to appeal to the way most people are, regardless of what the person actually owning the house sees as appealing. Oh, society, how I loathe thee. ;D

  5. lianamerlo

    I know how you feel, having to sell something dear to you, but boring and old-fashioned to others.

    I was a plain bookish girl. So when I was getting close to adulthood, I had to prepare for the market. I had to sell myself. I listened to the media. It’s always right about society, everyone knows that. TV shows told me men only like tan girls, so I went to tanning salons. I was told men like big breasts; I got mine enhanced. I took pole dancing classes. And I traded in my librarian clothes for Halloween outfits to wear out in public. And now I can have any superficial asshole I want! I’m so glad I have so many airhead options.

    Point of my little (fictional in case you weren’t sure) story. I hope your house doesn’t end up with a bunch of asshole inhabitants who like to show it off, but don’t take care of it because they love it. Just because they care about their social status. I’m actually drawn to the comfortable looking “fixer uppers”.

  6. We like those kind of places too, and we certainly might buy one. I don’t really care who buys this one (Am I awful to be so over it?), as long as they pay asking. It’s too crowded for us in the town where we live now. We want less traffic. Hey, less IS more!

  7. It sounds like you’re creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place.

    • The problem, as I saw it, was that people want what they want and fashion has an influence on it. At this point there’s no problem since the work is completed and everyone’s raving about how pretty the granite is. I think it’s pretty too. I don’t doubt it will help the house sell faster, and it was only a few thousand in complete cost.

      (Mr. McDonough sells marble, in case some of you are thinking about counter tops in other surfaces.)

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