Inconceivable Concept

When houses are this open, there’s nowhere for me to hide. 

I hate getting sick, and I especially hate getting a cold in the summer when I should be outside enjoying the sun now that it’s decided to shine in the Pacific Northwest. One minute I was taking my morning walks through the countryside, and the next I was in bed with swollen sinuses and the accompanying pressure.

When I could stand it, I read, and then I’d take a break and work a crossword puzzle. One of my biggest fears at this stage of life is finding myself trapped in front of a television during the day. One day could lead to two, the third day might not seem so bad, but watching Drew Carey a week later as he gives the actual retail price of some unnecessary item would indicate that a new routine has set in. I might atrophy by winter!

At some point, however, you need a break from reading and improving your brain. You simply want to sit back and be passively entertained. Thankfully I had some things recorded, but what was I to do after I watched it all? There’s rarely anything on the Food Network. I don’t care for competition shows where the cooks are told to create a four-star dish using a veal shank, a radish, and a package of Laffy Taffy.

I flipped over to HGTV to see if there were any new trends in home renovations. A very tanned blond woman who held her hair back with gilded sunglasses was pushing for subway tiles and white cabinets in three separate kitchens that she didn’t intend to keep, and a contractor on another show ripped down a dining room wall in a Victorian manse to “give it that open feeling.” The makeover resulted in guests being able to see one’s refrigerator from the front door, which is surely what every Victorian architect fully intended but never got around to.

The reoccurring theme, I found, was “open concept.” It could have been the sinus pressure, but I wanted to call the satellite company and cancel the subscription—or perhaps toss the TV off the deck—if I heard “open concept” once more.

I get the idea that we want to feel less cramped in our spaces, and in this era where one no longer employs a cook to toil away behind a swinging door, we run the risk of missing something witty our guests might say while we check the lamb. Even though I live in that open concept plan, I still cringe at the thought of my guests having to stare at a dirty kitchen while eating on the good plates.

To me, open concept means extra work because I have to clean the kitchen before the meal is finished cooking. I have everything put away before the people arrive so that my workspace appears as tidy as some 1950s sit-com kitchen. The food looks as though house elves prepared it and it appeared out of nowhere by magic.

After the third house-buying show, I realized a familiar theme in the open concept clamoring. The cries came from parents of small children who have not yet learned that their babies are going to grow up one day.

“Oooooh! I really like this open concept floor plan!” said the mother of a five- and three-year old. “That way I can keep an eye on the kids while I’m in the kitchen, and then they can do crafts over there as I make dinner.” Somehow, while I was doing whatever I’ve been doing for the past generation, it seems that children now require constant supervision lest they wander off to another room and fall prey to any number of household dangers.

“Oh, I don’t like those stairs!” the mother exclaimed. “Clara Makayla might get her head stuck in that four-inch space between the railings, snap it off and come tumbling down to the first floor and mess up the white carpet. Oh! I don’t like that white carpet either. We’d have to take that out.”

Time after time I kept hearing from these parents who wanted massive amounts of space in their new houses, but were afraid for anyone to have a minute alone in any of the rooms. Growing up, we had one of those 1970s kitchens for the liberated woman who went to work and didn’t want to be crowded when she got home and heated everything up in the microwave. We had a den off the kitchen, but I was encouraged to go outside and play with the dog. As long as I didn’t take any crazy risks, no one expected to see me until the appointed hour.

Why do young contemporary parents think that their kids are going to jump over the second floor railings, take a nap in the dryer, or crash through the patio doors if someone isn’t there to prevent it? Have they forgotten that they had a little sense at a young age? There are early childhood studies that have proven for decades that kids aren’t going to step off the top step and think that the floor continues level in front of them.

“I just want to be with my kids when I’m cooking.” The last time that happened in America was in the days of the one-room house where children remained close at hand because they were stand-ins for modern labor saving devices. Fetching water was replaced by the faucet, stoking the fire was replaced by a knob, and poultry comes featherless from the grocery store. You no longer have to rely on child labor to get dinner on the table, so let them go off on their own and put those walls back up.

It is my sincerest desire that when these kids become adults that they turn out to be introverted loners who see the value in fine old homes with kitchens hidden away from the casual observer (if there are any still left by then). They’ll also need antiques to fill these houses, and I’ll be ready to sell my stuff at that point and make a fortune.

© 2018 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, especially the two featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at:


3 Replies to “Inconceivable Concept”

  1. Addressing the dream you outline in the last paragraph of your badinage on the “open concept” — May the gods speed the day, Dear Boy…may they speed the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all at first do not want to be exactly like our parents when we have kids…just because. But early on I realized Mom and Dad had it right. Each room in our SF home was an entity in itself…the large kitchen by far being the most welcoming and best gathering place for friends and relatives. Mom and Dad were, like my brother and I, overly tidy, let us say. But that didn’t stop them from the warmth radiating throughout our small home, my home. I tried to do with our girls what my and Don’s folks did, and that was give them space to run and play inside and outside – let them do their identity-seeking children “thing.” I think it worked. And to be perfectly honest, I needed a break from the girls just as much as they needed one from me!

    Liked by 1 person

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