I recently had lunch with a young female dentist who talked
about the home her and her husband, also a dentist, were in the
process of buying. The house sits in a very upscale neighborhood
that is transitioning from successful retirees to young
professionals. She lamented that although the layout was exactly
what they wanted, the house needed updating. I suggested she live
with it "as is" for about five years when everything would simply
come back into style.
The conversation got me thinking about homes of my past
including the one where I spent my childhood.
The two-bedroom house my parents bought for under $10,000 in the
1950s came with hardwood floors - knotty pine if I remember
correctly. My mother would clean those floors on her hands and
knees with a scrub brush and a bar of brown soap. When they were
thoroughly dried, she applied a coat of shellac - something I only
relate to when it comes to my manicures.
Trying to work two jobs while raising three girls became a bit
overwhelming for my mom, and something had to go. It was the
hardwood floors. The carpet I most recall from the succession of
those that marched through our living room was a blue and green
Berber. The walls were painted blue except for the one that was
covered by a plastic molded faux brick. It was white and the
thousands of crevices used to make it look authentic were pure dust
collectors. I remember plenty of Saturdays spent scrubbing the wall
- one fake brick at a time - the same method my mother instilled
when hanging tinsel on the Christmas tree, one strand at a
Our sofa was Danish teak that held one long cushion for seating
and one long bolster for the back. Though it decorated our living
room in the 60s, it reminds of something I would find at IKEA
today. The design was the complete opposite end of the spectrum
from the oversized, sink-down-deep-into-the cushions models found
at my grandparents' houses.
Our dog, Bonnie, loved the couch. She was only allowed to stay
in the kitchen - the only room without carpeting. But since the
couch was raised up on skinny legs there was plenty of room for her
to lay underneath it. Though she was in plain sight, in her mind
she was hidden from view. My sister and I simply pretended we
didn't see her there. She would sleep comfortably until mom chased
her back onto the kitchen linoleum.
The color schemes in the house changed every few years. Walls
were painted, carpets replaced. It was a small house, so
redecorating wasn't necessarily very expensive. The bedrooms,
bathroom and living room were all done in different colors. I
remember carpets in pink, gold, blue and a black/white tweed. The
wall colors changed often and the woodwork was always given a fresh
coat of bright white, oil-based enamel. The bathroom and kitchen
eventually were wall-papered. And then the living room succumbed to
paneling. Luckily, it wasn't a dark, dreary paneling. It actually
resembled distressed wood and was very light in color.
My mother sold the house in 1980 for $25,000 - not a bad profit
margin. Ten years later, houses in the same neighborhood were going
for $90,000. I'm sure whoever bought that house had a field day
when they pried off the paneling and pulled up the carpeting. That
hardwood flooring was probably a very pleasant surprise!
My first two homes after I got married were built by us. There
is nothing better than being the first person to live in a brand
new home. I spent hours choosing wallpapers, appliance colors,
cabinets, lamps and fixtures. I always wanted a kitchen with a red
floor. I got it the year my husband dropped a burning pot on the
vinyl and insurance paid for replacement.
Our third home, in Salt Lake City, was our first resale. It was
hard buying a house someone already decorated, especially when
their taste was completely different from ours. The kitchen also
had a red floor - well, it was red, orange and black and made me
think of Flamenco dancers. The kitchen counters were also red. So
why the appliances were avocado green was a complete mystery to me.
I guess they felt it was a good match for the gold and green shag
As Boomers, we look toward downsizing and simplifying our lives.
We want laminate floors that look like wood but are easier to
clean. We aren't picky about the color of the appliances, we just
want them to be self-cleaning. We keep walls a neutral color so the
place will be easier for our kids to sell when we move into
assisted-living. We steer clear of houses with stairs and we want
tiny yards that are maintained by the homeowner's association. And
we hope to live long enough for everything in it to come back in
Cindy Phillips is a freelance writer for The Mountain Times, she
can be reached at email@example.com.