Two words--three, depending on how you feel about hyphens--have changed my life and net financial worth: Mid-Century Modern. If you’re a fan of “Mad Men” or martinis you probably already know about Mid-Mod, this rekindling of love for all things Fifties—sunburst wall clocks, tail fins, Tang, and, most significantly, the suburban ranch house.
This infatuation with the brawny, ebullient time following the war when America was in love with space travel and clam dip was not in play twenty years ago when we were house-hunting. I was pregnant and in the thrall of that state’s intractable cravings for salty food and real estate. Two seconds after the stick turned pink the walls of our once-cozy 800 square foot bungalow began closing in on me. Far worse, the formerly charming elementary school down the street morphed into a scene out of “Deliverance.” The second I imagined my offspring going there all the children devolved into six-fingered throwbacks picking head lice off of each other. Panicked and desperate to save my only begotten from marrying his cousin, I hit the Multiple Listing Service with a vengeance. Fortunately, my mental implosion coincided precisely with the late-eighties collapse of the Austin real estate market. This allowed a couple of sorry sub-primers like us to obey the realtor’s credo--Worst House, Best Neighborhood—and weasel our way into a top-flight school district. The house itself—a suburban ranchburger of dun-colored brick with trim the color of old coffee—was almost beside the point. Two distinguishing features barely saved her low-slung anonymity from total invisibility: She had been built by a Melville scholar in 1960 who’d equipped Ranchburger with nearly 150 linear feet of built-in bookshelves. And she was in our price range. I.e. insanely cheap. This helped us ignore the gold-flecked Formica counters, ancient Venetian blinds, and Sputnik-inspired light fixtures. Once our son was born and the house hormones...
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