Closed vs. Open Floor Plans

kitchendoor

One of the things that attracted us to our house is that it had been neglected for most of the 20th century. With the exception of the bathroom, there was no horrendous 70s or 80s era “remodeling.” Our home’s most unfashionable characteristic is a closed floor plan. Even the kitchen still has an almost 100 year old swinging door.

I’m nearly certain that the next owners of this house will knock out the kitchen wall and put in one of those bar stool counter thingies. Before they do that they may want to read these arguments against the open floor plan from a mom’s perspective. Summary: sometimes what goes on in the kitchen should stay in the kitchen.

Coincidentally I just visited three historic early 20th century mansions. All, of course, had completely separate servant/kitchen quarters with their own entrances. One even had a room just for preparing flowers and a kitchen devoted entirely to cleaning game shot from a balcony off the second story (the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills!). The “out of sight, out of mind” servant is one of the chief arguments used for the open floor plan: that is, that an open floor plan liberates the cook (often the woman of the house) from the servant role.

But I’m not so sure. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to hide the mess and noise of the kitchen from the rest of the house. Likewise I appreciate that the back bedroom that serves as my office and a guest room has a door to hide my chaos. If Dwell Magazine ruled the world, our homes would be one big open warehouse, and then I’d have to be tidy.

What do you think? Are you pro-open house plan or do you like doors? Why?

Saturday Linkages: DIY Coffee Roasting and That Crazy Rhubarb Lady

IKEA hack: DIY coffee roaster.

DIY

IKEA hack FrankenRoaster – DIY Coffee Roaster Drum http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Ikeahacker/~3/Ii6NHUh_5Hg/frankenroaster-coffee-roaster-drum.html …

Made in the Shade: Building a Vertical Garden Under the Canopy of Our Guava Tree http://disq.us/8en1h5

Create Your Own Hipster Logo In 6 Steps http://www.fastcodesign.com/node/1673156 

Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/krisdedecker/lowtechmagazineenglish/~3/3fsfrNm3iis/direct-hydropower.html …

HOWTO: Ultra-cheap Sous-vide – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2013/08/11/howto-ultra-cheap-sous-vide.html …

Nature
Biology, Antifragility, and Nature http://goo.gl/fb/VQHx3Garden Centers Sell Bee-Attractant Plants with Pesticide Residues Toxic to Bees http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=11566 …

Want your kids to play outside? Rip out the lawn! by Garden Rant » good read http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/want-your-kids-to-play-outside-rip-out-the-lawn.html?utm_source=feedly …

Design
The Modern Seaweed House by Vandkunsten and Realdania Byg http://www.dezeen.com/2013/07/10/the-modern-seaweed-house-by-vandkunsten-and-realdania/ …

Daily Flash: Jay Nelson/Mollusk Surf Shop http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/rw0ApY0oJPM/daily-flash-jay-nelsonmollusk-surf-shop_2987.html …

Your Open-Concept Kitchen Will Ruin Your House and Your Life http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/08/against_open_concept_kitchens_don_t_listen_to_hgtv_and_keep_your_walls_and.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_chunky …

New Skateboard Can Go Down Stairs http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/3_e0IccStLo/new-skateboard-can-go-down-stairs.html …

Life in the city
Urban Healers: http://urbanhealers.tumblr.com

Clotheslines vs. HOAs: “Right to Dry” States http://bit.ly/13nMrPL

The Ten Most Ambitious Failed Utopian Mass Transit Systems http://jalopnik.com/the-ten-most-ambitious-failed-utopian-mass-transit-syst-1135019271 …

Making a Case to Phase Out “Beg Buttons” in Santa Monica’s Pedestrian Action Plan http://disq.us/8elfzy

Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street » good read http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/08/12/meet-streetmix-the-website-where-you-can-design-your-own-street/ …

Werner Herzog Made a Documentary About Texting While Driving. And It’s Haunting. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/09/werner_herzog_texting_while_driving_documentary_from_one_second_to_the_next.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_chunky …

As City Considers Removing Ban on Parkway Vegetable Gardens, Some Communities Continue Planting http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/08/13/as-city-considers-removing-ban-on-parkway-vegetable-gardens-some-communities-continue-planting/ …

The view from above Los Angeles http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-green-homage-to-los-angeles-20130814,0,4040309.story …

This Week in Crazy Rhubarb Lady by Amy Stewart http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/this-week-in-crazy-rhubarb-lady.html?utm_source=feedly …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Before and After Permaculture

suzzanebackyard

An aspirational alternative to the future of jetpacks and space colonies I blogged about yesterday, came to me via the folks at Petaluma Urban Homestead. Noting that I said I was going to sit in on Larry Santoyo’s Permaculture Design Course (PDC), Suzanne of Petaluma Urban Homestead sent me before and after photos of her backyard saying, “This is what happened after I took my PDC!”

The Elysium Delusion

Matt Damon in Elysium

If the futurist projections of my childhood had come true, by 2013 we should have all been living in a spinning subdivision in earth orbit by now. But space colonization is a concept that’s always bugged me. It strikes me an irresponsible escape: rather than fix things on earth, let’s all get the hell out–it’s the ultimate form of suburban flight.

NASA's 1970s era version of Elysium

NASA’s 1970s era version of Elysium

The heyday of space colonization futurism was the 1970s. But space station fantasies have reappeared in popular culture recently. At the end of the recently released movie Elysium [spoiler alert] the evil French speaking space colonists (who look like Armani clad Santa Barbarans) have their computer reset by Matt Damon who, with a few keystrokes,  gives the miserable residents of Earth (represented as a third world, distopian Los Angeles!) both universal health care and citizenship.

But, the movie Elysium, while on the surface a struggle between the haves and the have-nots, still takes it as gospel that our salvation comes in the form of an orbiting space colony. The final scene shows the teaming masses of Angelinos saved from above by the miraculous intervention of nurse robots from the space colony Elysium (which, incidentally, looks both like a rotating Mercedes logo, and the cross within a the circle symbol which Carl Jung associated with wholeness).

1970s space farming.

1970s space farming.

Coincidentally, physicist Stephen Hawking, descended from his own Euro-Elysium recently to speak to a group of nurses and doctors here in Los Angeles. In his speech, according to Associated Press, he argued for getting off earth, “The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years “without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” The same article noted his previous advice to “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

A scene from Elysium

A scene from Elysium

These fantasies permeate our culture. Take also the new reality show offering participants a one way trip to Mars, as well as the ongoing efforts of Richard Branson to hurtle rich people into low earth orbit.

In answer to Hawking, Hollywood’s imaginings, Richard Branson and those unfortunate Mars reality show participants, I say we haven’t been spending enough time looking down at our feet. The fact is that earth is a paradise, space is a vacuum and Mars is a hell.

We have to work with what we have. In my cranky opinion, the future is in down-to-earth appropriate technology, not space stations.We need to plant gardens here on earth not in the vacuum of space. I’ll note that the farms in these space colonies look an awful lot like the dystopian factory farms we have down on earth.

And we should recognize the space station fantasy for what it is: a materialistic version of a heavenly afterlife, with scientists such as Hawking acting as the priests of what John Michael Greer calls the “religion of progress,” the unspoken faith that our salvation lies in an ever greater progression of shiny technological objects.

I get that we need myths. Jung recognized rockets and UFOs as sort of a machine age manifestation of archetypes of heaven and transcendence. But it’s well past time to switch out our outdated, mechanistic symbols. Perhaps we can look to the fevered imaginings of permaculture for a healthier alternative to space station futurism. Or maybe we just need to get our hands dirty, planting gardens, building swales, working to improve what we have–in other words, look at our feet not the stars and work towards a hands-on integration of the physical and the transcendent.