I was paging through the glossy home magazine that comes with our daily newspaper when it struck me: Not only is my closet hopelessly out of fashion … so is our entire house.
It was the latest issue of Inspired Home, the lovely local magazine that’s subtitled “A Fresh Approach to Home & Life.” Its theme: the “white issue.” From the cover ― a striking shot of white tulips in a white vase against a white background ― to the stories about creating a Zen-like bathroom paradise and opening drawers with pulls as cunningly carved and crafted as Victorian gewgaws, every page conjured a vision of perfectly gracious living that, I admit, has as little in common with our life as a pop-up tent in a public park with a stylish Parisian pied-a-terre.
We have to face it: Our much-loved Moorhead home has become a period piece … not quite ready for Bonanzaville, perhaps, but as fixed in time as a fossilized wasp in a slab of Baltic amber. While we’ve been going about our business, our former dream home has evolved into a slightly dog-eared chapter in a snarky text on Middle America in the ’80s.
The place we’ve been calling “home” for more than 30 years clearly predates today’s fashionable obsession with high-style one-of-a-kind design. Indeed, an archeologist will someday uncover versions of our split-entry domicile all over Moorhead and Fargo, thanks to a builder who recognized an appealing floor plan and wrung his money’s worth out of every blueprint he purchased.
There’s a near-identical twin two doors to the north, another just around the corner and a couple more along our summertime dog-walking route.
Our real estate agent pointed us to four open houses that could have been quadruplets as we searched the local market. Our favorite was here in Moorhead, to our North Dakota-bred surprise, and we’ve never regretted it.
We sold out the land of our birth to Minnesota for oak woodwork and earth-tone colors.
Here’s what set our new Moorhead address apart from the Bismarck starter home that had once so bedazzled us. That first address as young marrieds distilled all that defined Yuppie style in the mid-1970s ― black wrought iron and harvest gold, shag rugs in orange and a suspicious green, heavy traditional draw drapes, cork tiles, woven-wood blinds and dark mahogany trim that set off all our macrame and hanging ferns to perfection.
Our new Moorhead home, the one that time has now forgot, made up for everything we’d happily left behind. I remember sitting in our new living room shortly after our arrival, silently marveling that one such as I had come so far that she now could live in such splendor. The half-cathedral ceiling in that living room was the apex of our décor dreams, along with so much more. Almond kitchen appliances! Butcher-block Formica on the counters! Camel carpets ― acres and acres of neutral plush, set off with walls the merest hint of beige.
At last, the curse of harvest gold had been lifted. This was heaven … heaven in earth tones. Give or take a few handwoven sofa pillows, a handful of knick knacks from our mothers, relentlessly beige bath towels to replace the old orange and a shaggy Swedish rya rug, we knew we could live here happily ever after.
And that’s what happened. The carpet eventually succumbed to wood floors, and a former dog’s indiscretion sent the rya rug to the curb during Clean Up Week, but our house’s good bones remain much as they originated. Almond appliances finally gave way to steel. The wallpaper has been stripped and hung a couple of times. Yet there’s no mistaking the homey genes that drew us three decades ago ― sturdy and sensible, comfortable and now unforgettably out of style … much like the people who live here.
It didn’t take a home decorating magazine to clue me in to our terminal out-of-date-itude. We were shocked several years ago when our daughter and her husband were looking for their own first house. While their exteriors may resemble familiar landscapes, we discovered with a start that today’s single-family homes dwell in a world both strange and vast to our generation’s eyes.
The house where Patti grew up, for example, still has something that apparently harkens back to an earlier day. It sports what we call “rooms.” Not a Great Room ― just a regular one. Instead of today’s echoing stadium-like living areas, our modest square footage is also equipped with another classic feature that’s apparently fallen out of favor, what we know as “walls.” These upright slabs, joined at square corners, divide the space into areas actually set aside for home-like pursuits such as cooking, dining and what we’ve always euphemistically called “living.” Some even have a quaint, yet effective, traditional privacy feature. You might know these as “doors.”
Our quarters are full of the kinds of stuff that modern tastes have ruled nothing but plebeian clutter. Other-than-pristine walls are hung with art and photographs. Every horizontal surface is stacked with books and magazines, coffee cups and ― tragically ― remote controls for gadgets we haven’t quite mastered. Cats occupy all the coziest spots, guaranteeing that everyone who stops by will go home with a nice fur coat … and we even help our elderly pooch up onto the couch when her joints hurt.
Instead of a home theater with dim lights, surround sound and reclining leather couches, Casa Hanson is satisfied with reading lamps and the occasional modest TV parked by broken-in recliners. Instead of Zen-like spas, we have bathrooms. Instead of master suites, we favor bedrooms. We do love lavish access to sunlight, but our windows are hung with curtains or blinds … and we close them when we turn on the lights.
As you might already assume, neither is ours a so-called “smart house” ― far from it. We favor the plain old dumb kind with light switches and thermostats and ordinary keys and locks, all operated manually by the humans within. If there’s one thing Russ and I agree on, it’s that we never intend to dwell within a building that knows more than we do.
No one will ever see this old house on the cover of Inspired Home magazine. Our comfy address is endlessly, hopelessly ― and happily ― out of date. We fit right in. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place quite like our home. It turns out, we can live with that … and in it.