Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Very Brady Renovation: 70s design

By Elizabeth Prata

A very Brady Renovation is a new show on HGTV. Apparently the home in Los Angeles used for exterior shots-only for the 5-season TV show went on sale for the first time in 45 years. Amazingly, there was a great deal of intense interest in the home, and a huge bidding war ensued. HGTV got it.

The Brady Bunch TV show is celebrating its 50th year since its debut season in 1969. Can you believe it? I can't. I was 8 1/2 when the show first aired, and it's weird to think I can remember things that happened half a century ago.

I liked the show well enough, as a child it captured my interest because of the storylines involving issues of interest to kids: sibling rivalry, character building, and responsibility within the family.

When HGTV heard "The Brady House" was for sale, they decided to buy the home and renovate it. The interior we all saw on TV was simply a set that a set designer dreamed up, and bears no resemblance to the actual home's insides. The set was a two story home, with the famous floating staircase joining the lower and upper floor. The actual home has no second story! So the HGTV folks had to build one. Further, the home isn't large, not for all the rooms that the Brady set designer dreamed up, so HGTV constructed an addition in the back (so as to keep the front exterior aspect the same.)

The episodes I've seen so far focus on scrounging, making, or crowd-sourcing exact replicas of everything in the home, down to the glass cluster of grapes on the living room coffee table and the fluffy giraffe in the girls' room. In that way, they focus some on design of the era.

Now. The design. Sigh.

I'm not a fan of 70s design. I much more enjoy seeing the sleek, linear, and symmetrical lines of mid-century modern. That era extended from 1933 to 1965, though some say the design height of that period was confined to 1947 to 1957.

The clunky, chunky 70s design era was filled with barrel shaped end tables, lots of paneling, heavy stonework (usually on chimneys), and gasp! avocado and burnt orange kitchens. I wonder who thought up the avocado trend...

My first home was a raised ranch with a modern contemporary design inside, sprinkled with a few antiques. The antiques I had were sleeker with no fru-fru scrollwork, so they fit in with the modern design. Then when I got married we lived in a 'camp'. This was a seasonal cabin or small home n a lake. It's what we called these seasonal homes in Maine. We winterized it and moved in.

The cabin was built in 1953. When I moved in during the late 1990s the interior still sported the original kitchen clock, the propane, rounded top fridge, knotty pine paneling on the walls (which didn't make the room dark because the three walls facing the lake sported bay windows) and the overstuffed puffy couch with huge pattern. We even had a 1950s Electrolux vacuum, lol. It weighed a ton.

I liked the 1950s style. The style I'm living in now is kind of an eclectic Boho. A mishmash that kind of works. Mainly because this furniture is what I've ended up with or been given, so that's what I have, lol.

I lived through the 70s and I wasn't a fan of the design then and I'm not now. But it's nostalgic for me and I'll tell you why.

When I was born me and my parents lived in an apartment above the family business in the city of Providence. My parents' goal was to buy a home in the suburbs. They found a 100 year old Cape Cod-style farmhouse (1860s) in a nice town and 4 acres came with it. Perfect. Also a chicken barn in the back. The farmhouse was typical of the 1800s construction, small, lots of smaller rooms, a fireplace in each room, and an add-on of a kitchen in the back that was so small only 1 person could work in there at a time. Upstairs was two large bedrooms rooms with sharply sloping ceilings typical of the Cape Cod style, a bathroom and a small closet that was turned into a nursery when my sister came along.

It was fine for a while, with a small child and a baby (my brother that came soon after). However when I was 10 years old they decided to renovate the chicken barn out back, move into it, and rent the house. This was in about 1970.

The chicken barn was 90 feet long. My father designed the home to his aesthetic which meant the living room and dining area comprised the main part of the home, and was all open. The room was about 50 feet long. Red brick adorned the back wall, and along the two sides were sliding glass doors and huge windows. The ceiling was rustic, rough-hewn cedar beams along cathedral ceilings. The ceiling hung with black wrought iron chandeliers with light bulbs that looked like candles. There was a five foot wide fireplace with concrete floating hearth, and massive stones lining the chimney up to the chalet-like ceiling. Since the room was so big the massive concrete and stone fireplace didn't overwhelm the room.

Red shag carpeting. An octagonal dinging table with swivel barrel chairs. A galley bar with high barrel stools matching the dining table. It looked like a ski lodge and was dark, despite the windows all along the side.

I liked the openness of the plan and I love the cedar, stone, and brick. I do like natural materials. I even loved the concrete hearth. I wish I had polished concrete floors or a concrete kitchen counter. I like the look of polished concrete.

Anyway, "The Barn" (what we called our home forever after)  was a unique design but was totally unworkable for a family. There was no tub. The kitchen had a stove and fridge but no sink, the only sink was in the galley kitchen-bar. And it was small. It's also where the dishwasher was. Not enough bedrooms for the sisters and brother, the brother slept in the attic (which he loved). But he had to go through the sisters' room to get to the attic ladder, which they hated. A Jack-and-Jill bathroom connecting the living room and the sisters' bedroom. Awkward. Dark, heavy, very male design which the wife disliked. She always said it was like living in a chalet. It was really suitable for a bachelor and indeed that is who my father sold the home to 40 years later.

Anyway, as I watch the Brady House renovation and they design the stone walls inside the home and add the paneling and the brick, install shag rugs, and place barrel-shaped end tables adorned with clunky lamps, it is all very familiar to me because I lived in that aesthetic from age 10 to 14. Also included in the 70s aesthetic were bold prints of flowers in bright colors, yellow (The Brady House has yellow tile backsplash in the bathroom), macrame plant holders (Macrame is just a dust catcher to me), rattan, and disco-glitz.

If I was forced to choose a 70s design it would me Mary Tyler Moore's apartment, with the gold velour couch, stained glass kitchen over hang, beige shag rug, and cream tulip table with rattan chair by the sliding glass doors.

The renovation show does bring back a lot of memories, both of my own life in living that design era and the Brady Bunch show itself. Can you believe The Brady Bunch is 50 years old? The lead actors who played the mom and dad (Florence Henderson and Robert Reed) have passed away. The maid, Ann B. Davis, has also passed on. But all 6 actors who played the kids are alive and all 6 participated in the reno show.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, nostalgia has become a big business. The ratings for A Very Brady Renovation are through the roof. As an aging Boomer, I know I'm interested. Apparently there will be a Christmas Special, too. LOL. Now, if only the actual design of the era was palatable, we'd be all set.

More on 70s design:

This Decade Is Slowly Taking the Design World by Storm

American Style Through the Decades: The Seventies

Seventies design trends and ideas

1 comment:

Grace to You said...

I had not heard about this, so thanks for the heads-up. There's nothing new under the sun, is there? :)