justification of a name.

11Apr08

I’m annoyed by advertisements for “new homes.” (As opposed to “new houses.”) Usually these are ads for some flimsy thing that a developer threw up in the middle of a patch of prime farmland, putting ever more stretch marks on the belly of suburban America. Lots of enormous garage doors dwarfing the front elevation, big silly dormers that lead to nowhere, and an array of cheap materials that are used to equate size with quality. (A big house is, after all, a good house in much of the real estate world. Despite the small house movement.)

In my mind, a house is something you buy (or rent), and a home is something you create within a larger framework of relationships, place, lifestyle, etc. But that’s not an easy distinction to grasp in a country that is obsessed with hyper-consumerism. Dolores Hayden argues in her book, “Redesigning the American Dream,” that the concept of “home” in America has long been linked to the act of consuming material goods. Hayden notes that the rapid development of an advertising industry in the 1920s let to the promotion of the “home” as a setting for other consumer purchases, such as appliances, cars, furnishings, etc. It was only a matter of time before the “home” became a container for all the “stuff”, and…. and what is to become the container for life?

I am not immune to the desire for consumer goods. For me, (re)building a house has become entangled with questions of consumerism, especially since we both care a lot about aesthetics and quality. But we want this house to be something that we created ourselves– not something that we’ve purchased off the shelf, or something that embodies a growing mountain of personal debt and irresponsible pressure on shrinking planetary resources.

Making a structure that comes from our labor, and our values, and our individual training, skills & creativity is a process of growth and discovery– not an off-the-shelf solution to a “housing” problem. A big part of the process for Luke and I is in working together, and once again discovering that we really like making things together. Getting a roof over our heads is just a desirable by-product.

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2 Responses to “justification of a name.”

  1. 1 karine

    that’s a real pleasure to discover your blog! I totally agre with your vision of what a “home” should be…wonderful and exciting project you have! but what huge work waits for you, you are both vey courageous! best thoughts from France šŸ˜‰

  2. 2 lauracm

    Thanks Karine! Wish we could visit you & Bruno & Hugo & Noah in France…. we could use a vacation right about now. Best, L&L


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