Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hello, and Welcome!

The brick planter next to our front porch.
I love the architecture and decor from the middle of the 20th century, when I was a kid.  Though we didn't live in a modernist house, what's now called MCM furniture and housewares (also called "atomic") found their way into all sorts of homes.

I also love the architecture and decor of the upper Florida coast, where we vacationed pretty much every summer. I'm speaking mainly of the little cinderblock houses that dotted the beaches back in those days. They were usually painted pale pastel colors -- think bottle green, pink, sky blue, pale peach, light aqua. There was no air conditioning, and jalousie windows allowed the entire window opening to admit breezes.

I've discovered that these little houses were built in the waning years of the "Old Florida" era. Says one website:
The term "Old Florida" generally denotes Florida the way it was at least two generations ago. It's a Florida from  the 1960's and earlier with roadside attractions,  hamburger stands and other reminders of  yesteryear that are quickly vanishing.
Back in the early 1990s, hubs and I bought one of those little Florida cinderblock bungalows built in 1957 -- originally pink, but yellow when we found it -- that looked so cute, despite having been badly flipped and "updated." The only thing modern about our house is the low, sloping roofline that extends out over the carport. Inside, it's very conventional. Plaster on lath walls, rather elaborately milled woodwork (the antithesis of modernism). But it's strong and solidly built -- a little Gibraltar of a house -- and it sits on what passes for "high ground" in these parts, so we don't evacuate during hurricanes.

Unfortunately, as noted, the house was badly flipped at some point before we bought it. Some of the problems were hidden, and we didn't find out for years.  Other bad-flip areas were  visible right away.  For example, the structure's Old Florida heart and character were ripped out along with its ornamental concrete blocks and jalousie windows. The truly awful casement windows with fake panes that replaced them are neither MCM nor Old Florida. Yes, I know jalousie windows weren't energy efficient, and presented a security risk, but there were and are ways to deal with that. But since replacing the windows would be prohibitively expensive -- and there really isn't anything wrong with them except their awful aesthetic -- we're stuck with them.

Nevertheless, we liked the little house and in the ensuing years, we did what we could to improve the, um, improvements. But we both worked, I was heavily into politics for a while, and we had my aging and infirm parents to look after. More recently,  I've grown deeply involved with writing, which takes a lot of my time, and in the Southern heritage community ... so improvements kept getting put off until something broke (as they increasingly do when a home ages)...

So now, I'm embarking on the adventure of turning our little cinderblock bungalow into a cute and comfortable retirement home, where Old Florida meets Mid-Century Modern. While I have quite a bit less money now that I'm no longer working, I have a lot more time -- and doing it yourself can be a great money saver. 

Although my little Florida bungalow will be the primary focus of this blog, I'll no doubt often swerve into related areas -- decor, architecture, the 50s, the 60s, vintage fashion, and great memories...  Come along with me, if you'd like. It'll be fun!

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