Friday, February 12, 2010

In Praise of 70s Fixtures

The homeselling professionals are clear about it: “Up-to-date bathrooms and kitchens are important to home buyers, so if you do nothing else, at least splurge on updating your sinks and fixtures.”

I remember when we bought our house and the real estate agent told us “The first thing you’ll want to do is update these fixtures…”  Well, no. I wasn’t crazy about the fake blue and white marble formica, but there were other emergencies to attend to. Like the foil flowered wallpaper (which now I’m kinda wishing I hadn’t taken out!)

When we look at Victorian houses now, don’t we appreciate original details? We love the look of old stuff. Isn’t that why we replaced the handles on one of our sinks with some that look like they’re from a 1920’s barbershop?

My feeling is that unless something is toxic, there is no reason to rip it out of the wall, put it in an landfill, and replace it with something that’s going to use up more of the earth’s resources. Maybe it’s not necessary to rip cabinets out of your kitchen and put in new ones when you can refurbish the ones you have.

I may not have the most stylish shower handle, but it works just fine and has probably been here since the house was built in 1977. Now that we’re thinking about selling our house, we’re being told to do things like replace our wood windows with vinyl, cover up that horrible fake wood paneling in the basement, and find another sink that isn’t blue. We are just tacky, tacky, tacky, I’m afraid.


“Green," reclaimed or sustainable building products are all the rage, but the greenest action is not to use them at all. I do wonder if the houses with bamboo floors and windows you can clean from the inside will sell faster than mine.  Do you think it's at all possible that future generations will appreciate the brown tiles I’ve left in my shower, and the perfectly functional avocado colored sink in the laundry room?

Are you attached to any of your old fixtures?


If you’re getting rid of any old fixtures or building materials consider offering them on Freecycle, Freeshare (if you're in Rockland County) or to the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange before putting them on the curb!

27 comments:

Karen said...

Oh, I didn't realize you were moving! Hope it's for a good reason - what about your garden? Are you planning your seeds to go in a new place? Sorry to be nosy, I just wonder how you plan to do it. Raise the seeds in one place and plant them out in another? Well anyway, back to your question - our house is full of awful fixtures, light and bathroom both, and have replaced one? Nope! I agree, it is much more "green" to just drive your old car instead of buying a Prius, keep your house the way it is instead of remodeling. However, I do remember updating our bathroom a bit in our past place, inexpensively and without too much heading to the landfill, and I was so much happier afterward! Good luck with your house selling, I know from experience it is nerve-wracking!!

Pam J. said...

I'm attached to ALL my old fixtures, but mostly because I'm also in the "if it works, keep it" school. A move is exciting! And generally translates to a 10-pound weight loss for me. A temporary loss...

AshKuku said...

Lovely fixtures..... R u moving??? I hope we would still be in touch & I get to read your posts..... Do not discontinue for any reason.....

All the best wishes & Cheers from me to you!!!!!

Ash....
(http://asha-oceanichope.blogspot.com/)

Talon said...

We live in a house that is 125 years old so we've always appreciated the original things that are still intact and are grateful that there are old-fashioned styled replacements available as things completely wear out and have to be replaced. But I'm never giving up the beautiful doornobs. Nope! We've had to do some serious hunting to find replacements when they've worn out, but it's worth the time and effort.

I think it's so sad that there is this whole generic element to home decorating these days. Obviously, the manufacturer's goal is to make people feel that if they don't have the most current _______(fill in the blank) they are losing out. Like you're soooo not gonna sell your house if you have white appliances or you don't have granite countertops and nickel-plated hardware. Some of the saddest renovations are the ones that remove all traces of a home's character and make it look like any showroom model.

There's hope when you sell - we bought this house 3 years ago and it was the original fixtures that charmed us and continues to. I'm sure there are plenty of buyers with the same vision.

Another annoying thing is, so many of today's fixtures are only built to last about 20 minutes unless you want to pay astronomical amounts of money for things that are built properly like they were back in the good old days.

Bangchik said...

Older stuff tend to be more durable and in fact made to last.... ~bangchik

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, I'm attached to my old fixtures and door knobs. We have a Craftsman style house and have had to change somethings but keep what we can. On our toilet, which we've had to replace one or twice in the nearly 35 years we've lived here, we kept the flushing handle, which matches your sink knobs, from the original toilet that came with the house. It is so COOL. I will NEVER get rid of it.

tina said...

I'm attached to my old fixtures, especially when I hear how much it costs to replace them. Your shower is a great color, nice and neutral that I think will stand the test of time.

midwestgreen said...

Our house is 70 - 90 years old (depending upon the part of the house). I love the 1920's light fixtures in our bedroom and my daughter's room - except that CFLs won't fit in them. There are some very ugly 60's/70's fixtures downstairs (how many have the wagonwheel chandelier?) Still, after 14 years in the house, we still haven't replaced them. We did replace another '60's fixture though - with a period piece from a friend's home - he has since died and I think of him everyday when I use the dining room light.

w

Joanne said...

I'm from the same school you're from. And sometimes the old has such story in it, which just adds to the appeal. I also don't really get the open floor plan design. I like separate rooms, cozy in their own purpose and design. A room for everything, and everything in its room!

Happy Valentine's Day :)

JGH said...

We're nowhere near ready to move, Karen. Just trying to figure out what we need to do to get it ready to sell. I'm heartsick about leaving my garden. I've heard that plants are like light fixtures - they stay with the property :-(

Pam, ten pounds?? I think I need to move ASAP!

Ashkuku - no worries - the blog will remain in the same place even if I move so we can still virtually visit each other!

Talon - I also love the old doorknobs - are they the crystal and brass kind?! Generic is a good way to describe today's decorating. It's so sad that people are afraid to use color - everythings, neutral, neutral, neutral. I suppose it is good to splurge on the good quality stuff when you do have to replace and hope it sticks around a few years.

Bangchik - exactly! I figure if these faucets are still hanging in there after 30 years they deserve the honor of sticking around.

Rhonda, great that you've been able to keep that stuff around. People sometimes forget that repair is an option. They're so eager to replace to a newer model. Sometimes it's possible to put new "guts" in a toilet and add elements that make it use water more efficiently. In one of our bathrooms, we got a new toilet that conserves water, but it often needs two flushes!

Tina, thanks. I suppose brown and avocado are considered neutral, too. I hope the same is true for blue!

W, I have seen those wagonwheel chandaleirs. You know they will be collectors items someday! I think it's nice to have beautiful things around that remind us of those who have passed, and earlier times. I have a stained glass window in my office that was in my bathroom growing up - I still see the green tile and hibiscus blooming outside when I look at it. Too bad about the CFLs... I wonder if there's any way to adapt that?

JGH said...

Joanne, I've always said that I'd like to have a not-so-big house, with lots of small rooms. I would have no problem finding uses for ten separate tiny bedrooms, I swear! Open floor plans are nice for entertaining, but how often would I be doing that, I wonder?

Happy V-day to you, too!

k said...

Somebody told me I had to update a ton of stuff and get rid of all that old stuff - and the third guy who saw it bought it. He redid the pipes, and ripped out a rug. That's all.

Carmi said...

I grew up in a house that my parents bought new and held on to for 41 years. By the time they moved out, much of it was clearly dated - but I loved the character and charm of the place. I remember walking through the place on the day they moved to their new, modern home with the kind of fixtures that real estate agents love. It just wasn't the same.

I like your take on things...sure wish more of us looked at the big picture.

AshKuku said...

Hey,

Kindly accept & collect your TOFAS from my space...... Thank You,

Happy Valentines Day!!!!

Ash...
(http://asha-oceanichope.blogspot.com/)

JGH said...

K, that is very encouraging. After all, it's up to the owner to decide what they can live with and what they can't. How do I know if I'm spending my thousand bucks updating the right thing? When there are so many things that need to be done?!

Carmi, when I see things that remind me of my childhood home, I always find it charming and nostalgic - just like when I'm at a garage sale and find the old juice glasses we used! I wish I had taken more photos of these things back in the day.

Ash, thanks for the TOFAS - enjoyed my visit this morning!

Anonymous said...

I like your blue bathroom-- I figure if you buy new rugs and towels / shower curtain when the house is shown--that's good enough. If a bathroom is brilliantly clean with fresh plush towels, it will show well.


We bought a house with harvest gold plastic-like sinks in the bathrooms and broken fixtures, so we had no choice but to rip out the bathrooms asap. The old toilets were not water efficient like the ones they have today. the kitchen we left alone, and it is shabby still, we just got rid of the harvest gold stove when it died, and replaced the sink. The house had no fridge, so we had to buy one.
I had never seen sinks made of plastic (a molded rubbery sort of plastic) until buying this house. I could have lived with the harvest gold, to be "green" but the plastic sinks with perma-stains in them-- seriously depressing... they had to go.
Generally we replace things as we go. We've kept every vehicle for at least 13 years, which gives us time to save up for each new vehicle--we've never had a car payment or put an appliance on a credit card. Many people who buy houses usually plan to re-do the kitchen anyway, so I say just do the minimum to sell--

Anonymous said...

So many people pour money into their homes esp. for 'showy' kitchens and baths. .When you travel the world you see REAL kitchens and bathrooms-some very tiny and shabby-and realize clean and functional is all you need to be happy and have a nice bubble bath and a good dinner. I've always had a thing for the well worn old farmhouse kitchen.

JGH said...

Anon - I'm trying to remember if I've ever seen a plastic sink! - I don't think so! Though there's a big utility one in my garage made out of some kind of resin I believe.

I have replaced a few depressing things - like a cracked toilet bowl and my kitchen cabinet doors that were all water stained. Now I'm thinking I could have refinished them, but at least we avoided ripping the shelves out, which are good quality solid oak.

Anon, love your hot meal and bubble bath philosophy! The simple comforts....

patti said...

Didn't know you were moving, either!!!!! We learn a lot on blogs, huh????

Old fixtures? My house is only 20 years old, so the oldest fixture is---ME!!!

Blessings on great blogs!!!

Squirrel of Nyack said...

I like the shade of blue ... your fixtures are fine.

ARUNA said...

those r lovely fixtures!!

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

Luckily we did not remodel our kitchen when we first moved into our house. Eight years later we took out the carpet and updated a couple of appliances. The room was the right size and worked perfectly. But it was the waiting that convinced us; now I don't rush into projects.

Thanks for the Howard Zinn link.

LazyMom said...

You're moving?! Don't move! What about the chickens?

Our house was built in the 40's and we still have the "central" heating vent that sits in the center of the house between the living room and dining room. There is no privacy in our house in the winter because you have to keep the bedroom doors open to get heat. The house also came with Viking kitchen cabinets which would have lasted for another 60 years if we had scraped the rust off what seemed like solid metal.

Lynn said...

Know what 70s bathroom bathroom fixture I would like? One of those terribly inefficient but very effective toilets that used way too much water but always flushed!

tut-tut said...

Thinking of moving myself. but SOO tiring. the packing requires herculean impetus. and you really need to know how to do it yourself. don't leave it to the movers.

糟糕啦 said...

只有尋常才幹,但具有不尋常恆心的人,一切皆可獲取 ..................................................

patti said...

Miss you!
P