Where Muppets Go To Die

By January 8, 2021 architecture, Food for thought

Set an architect in front of the worst building, and for the most part, we can see the potential no matter how bad things look. Only twice in my career have I told a client their best option was to tear down and start over.

I was reminded of this a few weeks back when one of James’ coworkers was doing some house hunting and asking for opinions. He sent a link to a home outside Chicago that James insisted I look at. And with good reason. The previous owner had created a giant entertaining space with terrazo floors, a mahogany bar, and marble on every surface possible. We both stared at it trying to figure out 1) who would do that; and 2) how do you make that space usable.

Turns out the home was previously owned by a mobster who had been gunned down in his equally marbled entryway. Which somehow made the finishes make sense. However, despite the marble and the family crest engraved in the entry floor, you could still see potential there.

Then another coworker offered up a link to a home that popped into her queue when she was looking to move in October. The home she dubbed as the place where Muppets go to die.

The color and amount of shag carpet, including in the kitchen and baths, was reason enough to share the photos with some of my fellow architects. Add to that the rough-sawn cedar on the walls and ceiling and you really had something with this house. Someone did this on purpose and then stepped back, elated at the end result.

“Wow.  It hurts to look at that for too long.”

“This is hurting to look at.”

Both sentiments expressed exactly what I was feeling. Just to scroll through the photos and try to wrap my head around what I was seeing was a struggle. And because the different colored carpet in different rooms wasn’t enough, one bedroom featured shag that combined all the colors. How could anyone sleep there?

Then the architect potential started kicking in, and I found myself being fascinated by the stairs.

Maybe the way the photos were taken? Maybe how hard the owner had to work to go up and down? Or maybe just the thought of watching movers try to maneuver furniture from floor to floor? But as it turns out, I wasn’t the only one whose eye was drawn there.

“And the stairs are mesmerizing.”

Why yes. Yes, they are.

Not surprisingly we were alarmed at some of the same things – in particular, the bathroom with the open shower/tub with the pink top.

First – carpet in any bathroom. Bleah! But then the cedar walls and ceiling with the open shower? How much moisture and smell had been absorbed into the walls? And what were you going to find under the carpet, especially where the owner had extended it to create the sides of the bathtub?

Yet somehow, under all of that, we could still see potential.

“It could probably be really cool though.”

“It would be a perfectly fine mid-century modern a-frame if they had just put some actual consideration for the floors.  I love that living room minus the choice in carpet. “

“Ok I think I want to live here. It’s so cool.”

Unless perhaps, you are a Muppet.

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