Northern Michigan Living: Modern Ideas for the American Home

Whether you grew up in Northern Michigan or elsewhere, real estate is an integral part of our economy. The perspective of a Leelanau local concerning the housing market rings true for residents of Traverse City, Petoskey, and many other towns throughout the state of Michigan as well as the nation.

The idea of progress is an American religion.  We are always trying to do things better, faster, more efficiently.   Because we believe we can, and we should.  Nowhere is this more evident than in our homes, where within some fairly conventional exteriors the latest in innovations – remote computer security, 3-D surround sound entertainment centers, convection ovens, cappuccino makers and remote control hot tubs – have literally reshaped our lives.

I for one, welcome innovation in the home.  Where would we be without TiVo, all-in-one remotes, microwave popcorn and a cup-holding lounger.  (If you answered “20 pounds lighter” you really aren’t getting into the spirit of things, and need to throw something soothing into the blender.)  Clever builders have embraced this new age technology with a marketing savvy that is uniquely American.  Model homes have become the best testing ground for new products and design ideas, creating an ever expanding list of domestic “essentials” that add up to more sales and a growing economy.  All good.

Of course, the source of all great innovation is consumer demand.  People got too busy and overworked to spend three hours preparing a five pound roast, so innovation gave us the slow cooker.  When the slow cooker rendered a roast and vegetables that tasted remarkably like canned vegetable beef soup, we got the microwave. When the microwave failed to render the pretty brown color and pink texture we wanted from a roast, the convection oven was born.  And about the time we embraced the convection oven, the kids became vegetarians and we began eating out.  But that’s another story.

Any way you look at it, consumers have asked and the building products industry has responded.  Movie tickets became more costly than making a low budget picture, so builders and architects added home entertainment centers with screens, theater seats and sound to rival the local multiplex.  Take that Hollywood.  Now we know where our kids are.  They’re not hanging around some dark movie theatre.  They’re making out in a dark basement pretending to watch a video.

Since housing is such a consumer driven industry, this consumer has a few thoughts of his own.  Manufacturers, architects, designers, builders – take heed.  Consider these few modest suggestions for the next list of home essentials.

Let’s put drains and fire hose outlets in kids’ bedrooms.  I saw this Honda with a back seat lined in vinyl so it could be hosed out, and I thought to myself, hmmm.  Think of the thousands of dollars wasted on nice carpet and cute wallpaper in a kid’s bedroom.  As soon as the kid is old enough to hold a crayon she or he is connecting the dots between Whinny the Pooh and Rabbit’s den, drawing mustaches on the Disney characters and dumping perfume, mascara and half the contents of a chemistry set on the deep pile carpet.  Imagine what a fire hose would do to their daily messes.  Just open the drain and let it fly.  A little squeegee action and you’re back in business.  Oh sure, we’d lose an occasional puzzle piece, Lincoln log or gerbil, but think of the great new homework excuse we’d have created:  “my Mom washed my homework down the drain.”  And of course, the inevitable rejoinder: “well, if you didn’t leave your papers on the floor…”

Couch ejection systems. There are chairs, couches and even beds today that will actually help us rise to our feet.  They are, of course, designed for the infirm.  But the ‘healthy’ sales figures point to the inescapable conclusion that many of us are buying these furnishings because we’re just too lazy or fat to get up.   Enter American ingenuity and the aircraft industry.   Why not hook up an automatic timer with a mechanized eject system.  After two hours of reality TV or an all too real Lions game, the couch ejects its occupant.  There you are suddenly on your feet two rooms over, drool and Doritos hanging off your chin, with a whole new perspective.

Disposable toilets. The plumbing industry is halfway there with this one.  The guts of every toilet – the ball, the chain, the stopper, the tube doohickey and the rest – are cleverly designed to wear out ten minutes before you expect company, Christmas Eve, or about the time your wife goes into labor.  Fixing these beauties is always interesting, because it seems that no two toilets are alike, and each requires a special little something that nobody seems to carry any more.  The replacement parts were apparently created on the Martian metric system and directions (if there are any) are written in Esperanto.  So why not take it the next step.  Let’s just make a cheap plastic toilet top with all the guts intact that would Velcro into and out of place.  No screws, washers, clamps, pipes etc.  It would look like those disposable plastic refrigerator containers and last about as long.

All furniture and major appliances should have wheels. Apparently, there is a genetically imprinted desire in at least half of the human species that requires that every piece of furniture within a domicile must be moved at least four times a year.  The heavier the furniture, the more often it must be moved.  Strangely, refrigerators that are rarely moved and never relocated once installed, have wheels.  But couches, washers and dryers, dressers, breakfronts, china cabinets, and king sized beds do not.  Or if they do, they’re these stupid decorative things that were never meant to move.  Push them once and go find the Super Glue.  So, manufacturers, start adding those industrial strength retractable wheels on all of your furniture and appliances and we can talk.  Don’t and I’ll keep gluing odd table legs to chairs I’ve broken in the last move waiting for you to come to your senses.

Pull out garages.  I saw this one on a motor home once.  This huge home on wheels pulls up, the owner steps out and starts cranking out his living room, complete with bay window.  Why not a crank out garage for the mower, boat, toboggan, etc., that inevitably accumulate where the cars were supposed to reside.  With a crank out garage, when you no longer need the space – when the kids are gone, the boat is sold, a lawn service makes sense — you just crank it back and save on exterior maintenance.  I’d buy it.  If the crank is electric and comes with a remote.

Well, I know this has got the product engineers and designers scurrying for their iPad cad systems.  Builders are reconsidering their next model home and manufacturers are looking to add a third shift at the factory.  To all these busy folks, just keep me in mind when those orders start rolling in.  I also do paid endorsements.

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