Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fine or Beautiful

Something curious happened to many NYC neighborhoods during the last five or so years. Houses once characterized by aluminum awnings, concrete steps, and little patches of green underwent a sudden process of prettification. Aluminum awnings were replaced with shingled ones, concrete driveways were ripped up and replaced with spiffy paving stones, and iron fences yielded to chromed replacements, because you always want your front yard to have that cozy, automotive feel. Many lawns were paved over in part or whole in deference Convenience, queen of the modern Pantheon.

Unfortunately, most of these upgrades proceeded in poor taste, resulting in prettification instead of beautification. The chrome is shiny and garish, and where once yards sported subtle sections of green, they now extend a sea of paving stones, dizzying and offensive to the eye. The materials are finer, but they're no more pleasing. The pictures over here are a prime example.

Look at all of the beautiful decorative work around the windows and doors. How subtle, pleasant are the detail and decoration, and how loud and flashy the chrome. And that deck...

My thinking is that the impetus came not only from new, younger residents bringing newer fashions but from older residents, having just paid off their mortgages, not knowing what to do with accumulating dollars. One often hears the conventional wisdom of "adding value" to one's house. Is this notion not perverse? Houses are for living, not profiteering.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila explained the phenomenon:
The bourgeoisie is any group of individuals dissatisfied with what they have and satisfied with what they are. [1]
I hope that the home of my senile self is more a simple, kept, library than a collection of congealed frippery. 

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