Friday, September 21, 2012

The Details of Houses Past

In the mid-1960's both sets of my grandparents built houses....

My maternal grandparents built a graceful, traditional home set among tall southern pines on a large lot in their small town. My grandfather repurposed antique bricks from a torn down train station for the house's construction at a time when new, not recycled, was the rage. To this day it is a beautiful home.

My paternal grandparents hired a local architect to design a true mid-century modern home for them that was heavily inspired by the design for the 1964 World's Fair House. {As an aside, the professor reminded me the other day that we own the book featuring this house. Daddy, I know you'll enjoy looking at it. I did.} Their house was built on a steep mountain hillside along with other distinctly mid-century modern homes in the city where I was born and raised. I still make a point of driving past it from time to time when I visit my parents.

So, in 1964 while my grandparents where busy contemplating custom designed houses for themselves, someone else was busy in this college town designing and building our new house as well.

Quite often these days I get a delightfully strange sense that I'm living in my grandparents' houses. While each house has its own distinct design, the details are uncannily similar. Each morning we open full length drapes to let the morning sunlight shine in through large, heavy sliding glass doors... just as my grandparents did. The warmth of the paneling in our new kitchen and the way the wood cabinet doors feel when I open and close them remind me of Nanny's kitchen where Louise fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and creamed corn for dinner {the midday meal, of course}. Shortly after moving here, I sorted through a quart-sized ziploc bag filled with old keys and found one bearing a label for the door that opens onto the "sun deck." Grandma and Grandpa had a back deck on their mod'ish home that they referred to as the sun deck as well.

From the glazed porcelain bathroom tiles to the hot and cold water knobs in the bathtubs to the faintly musty smell that greets us when we walk in the door... the translucent glass windows in the foyer, the louvered wooden door in the kitchen, the long brick hearth and wall in the living room, and even the redwood and aluminum chairs on the patio... All of it feels strangely familiar and comfortable. These details take me back to times and places where I can't return. I rather like it. It feels like home.