So . . I was awakened by words no homeowner wants to hear,
“Mom, the refrigerator’s not working.”
Yes, sometime during the night my refrigerator just stopped. Slipped away quietly in our sleep. Peaceful, really. We should all go like that, except for that pesky spoiled food, two days after I’d gone grocery shopping for actual perishable food.
Oh there’s a chance of revival, of resurrection. But it will come at a cost. Possibly a deal with the devil, financed by American Express, or MasterCard, with a ridiculously high APR.
Now, I’ve made it clear how I feel about Open Floor Plans. And I don’t have one anymore, don’t want one. In my most popular post to date I only listed some of the reasons I don’t want one. There are more. And in many of my comments readers have pointed them out. But the reason that affects me right now is that because of HGTV and the Open Floor Plan we have all been conditioned — brainwashed — to desire and require fancy, shiny, state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances. Indeed, The Open Floor Plan, Granite Counter-Tops and Stainless Steel Appliances are the Holy Trinity of home improvement.
(I’ll wait for the moment of silence and for those religious folks to make the sign of the cross.)
But I just need a working refrigerator. The purpose of refrigerators is to keep some foods chilled and others frozen. That’s it. Now I know many refrigerators also serve as dispensers for water and ice. Okay, that’s cool (no pun intended). But other than that . . . we really just need them to keep food cold. The magic happens when the food comes out of these beasts and the chef, host, or hostess then does his or her thing.
Is it because so many of our kitchens and the ones showcased on TV are open for all to see that now we feel we must have costly granite counter-tops and state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances? And even worse, have we been conditioned to buy more than we need or spend more than we have even if we don’t have an open floor plan?
Now, it seems, we are supposed to want to show off our refrigerators, not just serve good food and make our guests feel welcome. We want to be the envy of our family and friends who should salivate over our appliances, not our dinner.
I get that some of the fancy refrigerators have neat features — don’t get me wrong — like keeping your drinks at a different temperature than your fruits or vegetables, or if there is easy access to the most used items . . . etc. But really? Those are amenities that happen inside a refrigerator.To show them off you have to have someone come into your kitchen –which happens automatically because the kitchen is now in the family, living, and dining room – open the refrigerator door and point out all the many ways that you can chill your stuff.
These days when someone walks in your home you don’t just offer them a comfortable seat and a beverage, you usher them to the appliance that chills the drink as if to say,
“Look at me, I’m getting your drink out of this beautiful thing. Pay no attention to my decor, artwork, hell my spouse or children. And for the love of all resale value do not sit down! Come here. Watch me get your drink. Only then will we perch on stools at the granite countertop island and later you can watch me put the bottle back in the stainless steel refrigerator! This thing cost me two thousand dollars so please show some respect. How is your juice?“
And then you close your refrigerator doors and immediately buff your thumbprint off the stainless steel shine of the thing while reading the digital display that gives you further information about how your refrigerator is doing its job — information that you, apparently, must have.
I mean, if you are a gourmet cook, having a six burner gas stove and two ovens, etc. those would be appliances whose functions directly lead to a desired result — a great meal. But a refrigerator? Its job is to keep the food cool so that when when take it out to cook, prepare, or serve it, it does not kill you. The refrigerator is a middle man.
It all seems a throw back doesn’t it — from a time before my time, when housewives of the 50’s would invite ladies over to show off their new washer dryer and yes, their Frigidaire?
Plus, gone is the Refrigerator Art of days long past — the report cards or prom pictures or “Things To Do” List that had traditionally been affixed to the refrigerator to give you a smile or a reminder. I wonder — Are kids these days getting dumbed down because no one would dare to put magnetic letters of the alphabet on a stainless steel appliance? Are little feelings hurt because Mommy no longer hangs a school drawing on the refrigerator?
It seems that the refrigerator itself, not the food that comes out of it, not the “Number One Best Mom” card your kid made you, not the latest picture of your new niece or nephew, is what is showcased. And let me tell you, the show does not come cheap. I have a (currently non-working) fancy, three door stainless steel refrigerator. I didn’t pick it out. I didn’t really pay for it. How I got it is a story for another post, but it’s legal, I assure you. Suffice it to say I had no idea how much this thing costs on the open market.
And guess what, these digital stainless steel refrigerators are quite expensive to repair, I’ve since found out, sadly. Hell, tragically. Something about a motherboard. (I ask you, did I need a motherboard to keep my milk cold?) But . . . I digress . . .
The repair guy said that these high end refrigerators often break down and the repairs are neither cheap nor guaranteed. If I can live without the look and features of the current refrigerator, he suggested, I could buy a brand new one for only a little bit more than the cost of the repairs.
hmm . . .
My first response in my head was — I don’t need another high end refrigerator. I don’t need to show it off – I don’t even have an open floor plan. The water dispenser hasn’t worked in a year anyway. I rarely consult the digital display.
But why, I ask, does it seem like a step down to purchase a large, white, two door refrigerator? The no frills, freezer on top models (which seem to hold more food) are now considered garage refrigerators suitable only to chill your beer. They are not to be seen by the general public, not ready for prime time, as they say. Maybe you’d have one at a beach house, or a rental unit. But they are not presentable enough to chill any respectable homeowner’s milk, butter, and eggs. They are that cousin that gets seated way –WAY — in back at family weddings.
hmm . . .
Right now, my beautiful, large, three door, digital, stainless steel refrigerator is useless, empty. Truth be told, it’s not even that pretty. It has two dents from two incidents with a bass drum (don’t ask). Dented Stainless Steel is like a pregnant prom queen– unfortunate, because there had been so much potential.
Also, my stainless steel is not even completely visible. I felt as though my children and I were not doing enough accidental or subliminal reading of things important to us, meaning important to me. Visually, we only see what is fed to us on TV and social media, we don’t hang up enough calendars or maps or pictures or words with which we should be familiar. Why can my teens spell Toshiba and Netflix? Because they see those words all the time. But they don’t see the months of the year or school announcements or reminders from me and reading a map is — unthinkable. They see what’s new on Netflix as soon as they turn on the TV, but when they went to the fridge to get a cheese stick they were met only with their distorted reflection. Oh, don’t get me started. Long story not really short, I defiled the gleam of my dented stainless steel and hung pictures and stuck word magnets on my refrigerator. One side English; the other side French. I mean it can’t hurt, right? And it made my kitchen feel like a family kitchen, the heart of the home like at my Mom’s house — where she has photos of all her grandchildren to enjoy on her refrigerator. It gives me the warm fuzzies to be able to look at vintage baby pictures of my kids as they scowl at me in real time. My kitchen was no longer a showroom of gleaming appliances.
(Oh, the HGTV people would have my head on a spike, a stainless steel spike).
Bottom line: I just don’t see spending my limited funds on a fancy refrigerator. It’s an appliance. It’s supposed to work for me. I’m not supposed to work for it. It should give me features that make my food maintenance and preparation easier. It does not define me; nor do I expect it to be beautiful, just functional.
We’re not going to hang out in it. We don’t sit on it. It doesn’t entertain us.
But . . . still . . .
It seems like such a step down, in defeat. Did I drink the Kool-Aid, the properly chilled inside a stainless steel appliance HGTV Kool-Aid? I wondered (well my Mom pointed out) — What about resale value of my home? Will people not buy my house if the refrigerator isn’t stainless steel? Will they walk away from my home — not because it only has one bathroom, or because it’s on a busy street, or because there are sofas on the side of the road — will the deal breaker be that the kitchen is not open and does not show off matching state-of-the-art stainless steel digital appliances?
These are questions I asked myself, as I ate canned soup for dinner, because my top-of-the-line stainless steel refrigerator stopped doing its job, making my job as head of this household much, much harder. You just don’t realize how few meals you can prepare without milk, butter, and eggs until you have nowhere to chill your milk butter and eggs.
But one to three grand to keep my milk butter and eggs cool in the matter to which I — we — Americans — HGTV –have become accustomed?
As my teens would say, “Can we just . . . not?”
Just Me With . . . warm bottles of Gatorade.
Postscript: During the preparation of this overly long post, my refrigerator was partially repaired. It keeps food cold now, but the digital display and the interior are dark. The controls do not work. I’m told the front board needs replacement. There are no small repairs on these types of appliances. While he was there I had the repairman look at my stainless steel top-of-the-line two drawer dishwasher because it hasn’t been feeling well. My dishes came out dirty, crusty and the inside of the thing is corroding. (But on the outside, it looks good.)
I received bad news and will have to replace that appliance. The repair would cost more than a new one. My fancy HGTV approved appliances (that I did not pick out) are turning on me, one by one.
The microwave, stove, and oven are still working like champs, though. (Knock wood. Actual wood.)
On every home makeover show, every real estate show, they talk about how everyone loves the open floor plan. It’s the new black. Homeowners are forever busting through walls to open the kitchen to the family room and eliminating the dining room altogether.
There are two main reasons why the open floor plan is so so popular:
1. It is great for entertaining. People always end up in the kitchen anyway, right? This allows the cook to be in the kitchen puttering around and interact with guests.
2. It is great for parents of young children. It allows the parent to be in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the little ones in the family room. No more baby in a playpen or high chair in the kitchen while you make dinner.
Do you see the theme?
“STAY IN THE KITCHEN!“
The open floor plan negates any reason to actually leave the kitchen.
But there is a third reason: knocking out walls creates space, or at least an illusion of space within the same square footage.
When you think about it, the open floor plan has been common in apartments for years. Walk into an apartment and you can see everything except the bedroom. It was supposed to be a move up for an apartment dweller to buy a house and actually have separate rooms. This new open floor plan trend has essentially turned high-end palace homes into nothing but super-sized apartments, with a second floor.
For those of you who don’t have the open floor plan, before you take out all the walls in your house, and before you feel badly because you have a wall that you can’t take down, consider this:
1. Your children won’t be toddlers forever.
Children tend to grow. And there will come a time where you don’t want to and don’t have to watch every move they make.
2. Yes, you can see your toddlers, but your toddlers can see you, too.
My husband and I used to go into the laundry room to shove a snack into our faces so that the babies wouldn’t see and start wailing for some. Sometimes, I’d drop down behind the island like I’d heard sudden gunfire in order to have a cookie.
3. You can see your school-age, tween and teen kids, but they can see you, too.
With an open floor plan, you can forget coming down to sneak a snack over the counter in your jammies late at night, or reading the paper at the kitchen counter/table in the morning before your shower. There’s nothing like hearing, “Hi. Mrs. Peterson!” when you’re bra-less in a vintage tee and boxers drinking coffee in your kitchen. And if you dare talk on the phone while cooking or cleaning, you will be shushed by someone — or perhaps worse, a child will be listening in on every word. And it is a truism, a simple fact of life, that as kids grow, parents spend a fair amount of time hiding from them. The open floor plan is antithetical to the natural course of child-rearing in this respect.
4. Your kitchen must always be spotless . . .
There’s no door to close. When unexpected guests pop in — yours or your children’s — and you haven’t unloaded and reloaded your dishwasher — everyone can see it. Suddenly you’re a slob. The rest of your house could be spotless, but under these floor plans, no one ever sees the rest of your house.
5. Your family (TV) room includes a kitchen– a noisy, smelly kitchen.
Imagine sitting down in a darkened room, ready to watch a great emotional or talky movie and — oh hello, there’s your kid or spouse or whatever, in the kitchen, talking on the phone, repeatedly opening the fridge, making bacon, arguing with someone. Go ahead and click pause, because you can’t hear whatever George Clooney is saying, not that you need to . . . . but I digress. Your quiet moment has been ruined.
6. Children’s Programming/Teen programming/Sports/News — Anything you don’t want to watch at any given time.
Your little kid is watching Dora. Again, and again, and again. You can’t get away from it. iCarly? I get it, but I’ve had enough. People are enjoying the big game, snacking, yelling at the screen, having a good old time. You are wiping the counter after having loaded the dishwasher and setting out food for them. Worse, you can’t even mutter to yourself or roll your eyes at the unfairness of it all, because you are on display.
Essentially, the open floor plan allows you to be in the kitchen and watch — other people watch TV. Humph.
7. “Oh my gosh I dropped the chicken!”
In a perfect world, no one would know. Open floor plan? Well, it’ll be tweeted in minutes.
8. When entertaining, sometimes you need a minute.
Your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, your boss is bored, your husband/wife is saying something he/she shouldn’t, you need yet another drink, you just said something really, really stupid. With an open floor plan, THERE’S NO PLACE TO GO!!! I love all the classic TV shows where people could say, “Can I see you in the kitchen” or “I’m going to check on the food,” followed quickly by, “I’ll help you.” (This is all code for “We need to talk.” ) With an open floor plan I guess you have to hide in the bathroom, and that’s just plain icky.
One big room is fine, it can even be intimate when you are alone or coupled up. But once there are people of different ages, interests and responsibilities, well let’s just say that all this open living can be downright oppressive.
I speak from experience.
I knocked out a kitchen wall in my old house and built a family room addition. Instead of looking out my kitchen window and seeing trees, I created a view of my family room. I had young children at the time. I fell for the “I can be in the kitchen and see the kids” trap. Well, the children grew, the husband left, and I downsized to a much smaller fixer-upper home.
When it was time to do the kitchen, the contractor asked,
“You gonna knock out this wall?”
I said, “No. I want my wall. I need my wall.”
Truth is, I need some division in my life.
Sometimes I watch a little TV or listen to music while cleaning or cooking. Sometimes I sit at the kitchen table on my laptop or the phone while my kids are in the family room watching something that literally makes me ill. I’ve even been known to channel my inner Beyoncé and dance to my heart’s content in my kitchen. With my wall intact, I can be unseen but close by, and still opt in or out of the children’s entertainment at will.
It’s the little things . . . Sometimes a wall is a good little thing.
Just Me With . . . a divided floor plan and a bit of, well — if not sanity — at least a bit of privacy.
How to Get Rid of That Hoarder’s Smell
As I noted in Piss, Puke and Porn after I bought my new old house I allowed the prior owners to rent it back from me for a number of months while my marital home was on the market. During this time I worked mostly on the outside of the house.
It needed it.
When it got closer to move-in time I did do some work/planning inside the house.
It needed it.
One fine day I was in the kitchen measuring, trying to come up with a plan to remodel the kitchen which, again, was nasty –I mean it had stained, smelly carpet — IN THE KITCHEN! Once white ceiling tiles which were brown from cigarette smoke and water damage, and the kitchen boasted a lovely exposed toilet pipe, etc. But I was financially challenged and wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to afford all the home renovations needed at one time. I briefly considered trying to live with the kitchen “as is’ for a while. (Of course, after removing the carpet and massive cleaning and disinfecting.)
During the rental period, the matriarch of the family, bless her heart, had become ill. She was staying in a hospital bed in the front room (the hallway was too small to get a bed upstairs). Her common law daughter-in-law (the one living upstairs with Piss Man) was her primary caretaker. See What Happened In My House? Murder? The daughter-in-law seemed to want to befriend me. I can talk to anybody, really, so we were chatting it up. Mind you, this was before the discovery of The Piss Collection.
But then something happened.
Piss Man’s Girlfriend had gone to check on the Matriarch. I stayed in the kitchen, pondering — what to do with this mess? Then, Piss Man’s Girlfriend returned with a full bed pan and proceeded to empty it — into the kitchen sink — INTO THE KITCHEN SINK !!!!
She did this right in front of me!!!
My hopes of my family using the existing kitchen for a while and thus staggering the home renovations were dashed, or should I say splashed down the kitchen sink. A kitchen sink currently being used and surrounded by dishes and food.
When the family moved out of my new old house, the entire kitchen — including the kitchen sink — was demolished by a friend and I — within days. We lived for four months with no kitchen at all. But I’d rather have no kitchen at all than —-
Just Me With . . . The Ever Popular “Toilet — Kitchen Sink Combination.”
Related: What Happened in My House, Murder?