Spartan Split Level

When my friend moved to Colorado Springs about 3 years ago, I helped him look for a house. He had a set amount of money to spend and a kind of house he was looking for. The kind of house he wanted was nowhere to be found, so we moved on to second choices. His agent — a friend of mine — and I (and almost everyone I knew back in the day ) grew up in one particular neighborhood. I had no idea how Colorado Springs had grown in the meantime.

He bought a 1960s split-level house with clerestory windows and a lot of updates — water heater, furnace, tile. To me, it is a beautiful, somewhat luxurious, four bedroom house. I love it. He might have liked something else better, but in that market, there wasn’t much room for deliberating for a few days over a home purchase.  In reality, the house — and I — are rather passé.

Since then I’ve seen the houses many young families buy today. Enormous über houses with small yards, two stoves, two dishwashers, 9 million bathrooms, his’n’her offices, and several hundred bedrooms.

I woke up a few mornings ago in the pretty light of the master bedroom of my friend’s house. He mostly lives in the basement which has a big bedroom, family room, and bath. I looked at the big closet with its folding doors. It was not a his-and-her walk-in closet with a sofa inside. Just a closet. I imagined a guy getting ready for work putting on a suit or an Air Force uniform. I could see mom packing lunches for the kids and the kids walking to school. Same family as today live in an über house, but with different expectations.

There’s an incinerator in the backyard.

And then I thought, “If we don’t have open trade with China, and we have everything made in America (which is really OK with me except for agriculture, automobiles, electronics and other things) this is how upper-middle-class people lived when I was a kid.” This would have been the house of an Air Force Colonel or even a Brigadier General or a civilian making $20k back in 1966. Median income in 1968 was under $10k.

1966 luxury is Spartan living in 2018.

14 thoughts on “Spartan Split Level

  1. You said it. I do not understand the women that long to live in these big houses. My first thought when I moved and even bought was how can I clean it? Are there any stupid corners that cannot be reached, and where does the dust settle? Big rooms – no thanks, I do not want to do a marathon every day etc. etc. I suppose men just have cleaning ladies or do not bother about trivialities like that.

    • I have no idea how they work it out or why they’d want to put so much money into that when there’s a whole world out there to see. I think small and comfortable home base and airplane tickets 🙂

  2. Our house is called a split ranch, so essentially, when you enter the front of the house, you have to go up or down. 12 steps, but only 6 is either direction. I don’t think our house was ever luxurious, but it is aside from seriously in need of a cosmetic update, it’s a very comfortable house. At this point, about twice the size we actually need, but for 10 years, the kids lived downstairs, so it served it’s purpose. Now, there’s just storage there … and one guest room with a really excellent mattress and closet … and all the “stuff” that runs the house — boiler and hot water heater, well-pump pressurizer, chest freezer, dehumidifier … and of course, the oil tank. It’s a very easy house to live with, too. Everything is square. Not strange twisting corners or closets that head for Narnia. It’s just bigger than we need, has too many stairs and WAY too many trees! It was always a middle-middle class house, though. Rich people around here buy old houses and restore them. The nouveau riche buy McMansions so poorly designed, it leaves you wondering if an architect ever had anything to do with it.

  3. My home was built about 30 years ago. It is a modest 2-bedroom townhome. There was a huge building boom in this area at that time in this area. I wondered at the time where the money was coming from to support the mansions I saw being built. And then came 2008, and many foreclosures — it was all paper money and paper luxury! And I am downsizing now, hoping to move to a smaller place on one floor.

    • I think I have the perfect house for a retired single woman. There’s room for company, but because of the configuration of the bathroom, only someone from the olden days (20s and 30s) could adapt. My mom had a great townhome, well 2 of them, she bought one in the 70s and the other in the early 80s.

      I just wonder why people think they need all those rooms and multiple everything.

  4. If I had the money and the space I’d have a different room for each hobby. I’d have a computer room/library, a photography room/studio, a hiking/camping room, a workout room, maybe a hunting/fishing/shooting sports room and a science room. But I don’t, so all that gear and all those interests either gets packed into odd corners of what we have or I do without.

    OTOH, I’d need a larger plot of land for a house that big. Or multiple stories. So many people fill their plot up with a big house and leave the legal minimum yard space. Where are the puppies and children supposed to play? Where would you put your garden and tool shed? Very sad.

    • I just want a 10 x 10 shed with windows, a door and a porch in my yard for an art studio. I had one in CA and it was the most wonderful, magical thing. It was only a few feet from my house but it felt a world away. It was like a medicine bundle made of plywood with a skylight.

  5. When I was younger, much more naive, and not yet a father, I used to think I wanted a big ol’ monster of a house. But within a year of purchasing our first home, I realized what a massive responsibility (read: headache) it can be, and after having kids, I could only scratch my head in puzzlement that I’d ever wanted something bigger. Universe willing we all live so long, once the kids are gone, I’ll be looking to downsize. BTW, Martha, thank you; Martin of Gfenn arrived today, all glossy & fresh-smelling! I should be able to start reading it sometime next week! Thank you!

  6. We call the big houses that take up most of the house block McMansions. I can’t see the attraction. Maybe people don’t really want those type of houses but that is all that is on offer in the new housing estates? I wonder…

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