Disagreeable Grey

Gabrielle London

In today’s day and age, who really wants a house with historical character and charm? Why retain the architectural integrity and theatrical beauty of a decades-old home when instead you could have a cement block as your kitchen island and a shiplap accent wall! Wealthy millennials answer: “It’s stylish!” House-flippers are, in reality, a stain on humanity and history and have effectively ushered in the worst era of home remodeling. In addition to styling newly built homes in the same tired farmhouse-chic style, these small “flip” teams have also begun to target and incite the decimation of old homes—homes whose lifespans are triple that of those who buy them. Houses are sources of refuge and emotional tranquility. By placing sameness and marketability above warmth and personality in terms of value, home-flippers are leading the charge on the destruction of character both in homes and in the people who inhabit them.

There are a litany of problems with modern home-design culture, but the primary issue is the death of character. Across the nation, landscapes are disappearing in favor of new sprawling neighborhoods to support the growing population of homeowners. This surge of people moving and buying homes en masse is not unheard of in history; in fact, the same situation occurred not 80 years ago with the eruption of the baby boom. The difference, however, is the care that was put into the construction of new houses. In the 1980s and earlier decades, there was far more consideration behind building a place where people were to live. The process was not the careless slapping together of plywood, not a foundation formed in three days. Rather, sturdy materials were used, accompanied by the understanding that a house was where one lives a life and as such must be reliable and personal. There has to be a relationship between building and builder, a mutual dependency to give one another a deservedly strong reputation. The same is true for any epoch preceding our own–there was an understanding amongst buyers and builders that it was absolutely essential for homes to last. The design of interiors holds true just the same, in that there was far more excitement in choosing a colorful wash for the walls or a sculpted design for the banister. Today, designers all advertise the same idea of having a “modern” or “contemporary” look. This consists, however, of varying tones of gray and white, of furniture that may as well have been stolen straight from an IKEA display. Subway tile sprawls throughout the house, and slabs of marble or concrete dominate every functional surface. Eggshell and ivory, they claim, are worlds apart in color. Yet none of these things hold any vibrancy or emotion. When these designers are inevitably hired to paint and style every identical looking house in the shiny new neighborhood, all individuality is lost. These depressed spaces consume homes, creating an emotional vacuum and celebrating the brutal massacre of liveable art.

What is nearly worse than the flickering bulb of character that is to eventually darken permanently is the intentional remodeling of the few homes lucky enough to have been erected before this new age. As though it wasn’t bad enough that not a single new construction on the market has any ounce of interest, independent teams are now taking to historical homes. Often millennial and almost always wealthy, social media accounts of self-proclaimed “home-flippers” are popping up in the newer trend waves. I speak not about those who intend to bring life back into a long-abandoned home from another era, but those who strip such a building entirely and produce instead a modern design. I don’t doubt their subjective views of themselves as new-age masters of design who bring life back into grim old residences with a righteous sense of heroism. The hard truth, however, is that really they are the conscious destroyers of genuine craftsmanship. They are featured on television channels like HGTV, their work celebrated by those who like the style, rather than flinched at for their actions. It is not at all uncommon to see a Tiktok or Youtube channel of partners documenting their flip journeys, and even less uncommon to watch as they transform a home bursting with history and originality into a whitewashed void. Handmade features were a usual sight in older homes, made with special care by masters of their crafts. There is a certain attraction to custom-made wood fireplaces, original brick or hardwood, painted bathroom tile, stained glass windows—any feature that an architecture major would marvel at. These are assets to a home, not hindrances. These flippers who demolish such features with gleeful smiles are criminals, even if they aren’t breaking laws. They prance about with grotesque arrogance, willfully ignorant of their decisions to blemish permanently the incredible splendor of old homes. Yet flippers unfortunately have wealth, and thus access to stunning historical era homes which happen to be on the market. With this wealth comes the unabridged freedom to wreck all that they please, the only deterrent being the spoken word of dissenters. They may as well put padding up on the walls of the bedrooms and lock themselves in, given their delusional perpetuation that it is acceptable to incinerate character as they do. Crafted features are part of the longstanding history of old houses which should have been able to survive for a far greater time than the new design trends. Their future is now left uncertain by the exceedingly selfish flippers, a disappointing disturbance to homes that could be incredible. I find it to be a distressing insult to art and to architecture and an irreversible shame.

In a world which favors the easy way out in terms of building homes and which resists genuine effort, what we need are people who will preserve the artful craftsmanship and beauty of old homes and who will fight for a return to originality and uniqueness in the development of new houses. We need societies and organizations dedicated to the protection of historical architecture and its supreme beauty. These home flippers, these self-proclaimed saviors of interior design, must understand the ruinous wake of their actions. Old homes have charm and character that lay out a story through textures, tones, and handcrafted pieces. To dismiss this by destroying them is to erase the history of a home and to enact the new ice age of cold, emotionless houses.


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