Editor's Letter: Under the Influence
Of course your house affects your life, in obvious ways. My young parents moved us from a cold-water flat over a garage to a two-family house with a yard—and a swing set!—and life was very different. I’m sure my own children were affected, for better or worse, by growing up in a house that was ramshackle at first (they rode tricycles inside), then under messy, asthma-inducing renovation for eight years, and finally the neighborhood hangout (beach towels for all).
I learned all about houseplants because my top-floor Brooklyn floor-through had a south-facing bay with three big windows. In that same 1890s apartment, I decided to wear sweaters in winter because the furnace couldn’t keep up, and I figured out how to open window sash and the old iron roof skylight at just the right time to create airflow on summer days.
Old-house owners will tell you the house changed their lives, even if in subtle ways. We live room-by-room, for example, having chosen not to tear out all the walls for open-plan sight lines. We’ve gravitated toward DIY projects, maybe rediscovered lace curtains. Some houses are not subtle in their demands: the Bennetts bought a well-preserved Georgian survivor in Maine, and years later they eat by candlelight, cook in a yawning hearth, and are on a first-name basis with the renowned local archaeologist.
For a long time I’ve held that I’d be skinnier if I lived in a Richard Neutra mid-century house. How could you possibly eat much while occupying spare, modern rooms framed by glass and filled with low, angular, colorless furniture? The opposite end of the spectrum is right there in southern California: Storybook houses. Turns out the builders were a bit eccentric, and I’ve met contemporary occupants who are, too. Did nonconformists pick these houses—or did the houses themselves, medieval stage sets and Hobbit abodes, cast a spell over their owners?
~Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
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