Extreme childless home makeover

Extreme childless home makeover

Since we’re moving in the next 8 months or so, I’ve been perusing the real estate section of the newspaper more often. Unfortunately, many of the homes that get the highlight treatment are ridiculously expensive “dream” homes. But the details of many of these homes reveal something about our society and culture.

Take this 1880 farmhouse in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. I’m taking a guess that for at least the first three-quarters of its existence, this was a home for families, a place that held more than the current “ideal” of 2.2 kids. In fact, it was probably mainly bedrooms, kitchen, and eating space. Not anymore as this $849,000 house has 1,962 square feet of living space but now only has two bedrooms. Check out this description of the current renovated splendor and the uses to which the rooms have been put.

Entering the blue-clapboard house from the street, you’ll come to a covered front porch that leads into an 8-by-6-foot cherry-wood foyer outfitted with a window seat and coat closet.

To the right, a 13-by-13-foot home office boasts recessed lighting, two windows and a floor-to-ceiling built-in with 20 shelves.

Nearby, a 6-by-5-foot half-bathroom features cherry-wood floors and a pedestal sink.

The home’s 21-by-13-foot living room offers cherry-wood floors and a wood fireplace with a new marble border. Built-ins can accommodate a flat-panel TV and a stereo system.

This elegantly designed room segues into a U-shaped, 16-by-13-foot architect designed kitchen. [Description of the kitchen’s top-of-the-line appointments snipped.]

The home’s 15-by-12-foot dining room features cherry-wood floors, cathedral ceilings, built-in cabinets, a contemporary designer fixture and three skylights.

A restored staircase leads to the second floor, which hosts the home’s two bedrooms.

The master suite includes a 14-by-13-foot bedroom with wall-to-wall carpeting and even a shoe closet.

An en-suite 8-by-8-foot master bathroom […].

An adjacent 9-by-6-foot vanity/laundry room […].

The suite also includes a 10-by-9-foot walk-in closet […].

Down the hallway, the home’s 13-by-13-foot second bedroom features […] a deep closet […].

A nearby 9-by-8-foot guest bathroom boasts […].

I count room for at least six bedrooms on the second floor, five if you want a bathroom up there. What does it say about our society when we put so much stock in material goods? Our investment is in stuff, instead of kids. Shoot, the closet is almost as big as the master bedroom!

This is not a home designed for a family that welcomes as many children as God may send them. (Insert obligatory apologia that God does not choose to bless every couple open to life with many—or even any—children. I’ll stipulate that.) But if you check out the old homes, at least in the Boston area, the ones that originally had six or seven bedrooms, most have either been subdivided in condos and apartments or had extreme makeovers that create more room for our excessive capitalist consumption than for children. The new homes are hardly any better, with giant McMansions sporting massive great rooms, dens, and TV rooms, but hardly any space for bedrooms. The assumption these days is that sane, responsible parents don’t have more than two children, and soon it will be even less.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
12 comments
  • I wonder if there were six bedrooms or three larger size rooms on that second floor.  I mean with three bedrooms up stairs 6 boys and 3 girls would have more than enough room.  Do I sense a bit of the “new” view slipping in without realizing it?  Why would every child need their own room or even close to it?  I know a dad who is now in his 70’s who slept in one bed with his brothers until each left for the service.

  • Well, those would be three very big rooms on that second floor then. Each one of those three rooms would be about 185 square feet including closets. That’s something like 10’ x 18’.

    And why only 9 kids? What about the 12 child farm family? Is that more “new” thinking on your part? smile

  • I lived in JP for 15 years. I gotta tell ya…there’s some pretty freakin’ nice houses there.

    Curse you Berklee College of Music. I should have used my student loan to put a down payment on a triple decker back in ‘87. (But how was I to know? People dealt cocaine out of their mouths only 4 blocks away! Ah…the good ole days…Public Enemy blasting out of every Olds 98…)

    Shout outs to my homies at Our Lady of Lourdes. And the Midway. And Pat n Mario at Forester’s Liquors. Pour some beer on the curb for Blessed Sacrament.

    Is The Drinking Fountain still open? Best.BostonBarName.Ever.

  • Albert: That’s why it’s called “Plain”. It wasn’t because it was featureless. Parts of Boston we now consider city were once very pastoral. They used to graze cows on Boston Common. And don’t forget about the Utopian communes.

    Tony C: I lived in JP until I was four and was baptized in Blessed Sacrament.

  • I gotta tell you, I can’t understand why someone would want a place this big.  If you have a lot of kids, it may be kind of a neccesity, but someone with the 2.2 would have to do a lot of work to do to keep it in good shape, time that I think most people would prefer to have to themselves for more interesting pursuits.

  • Gee, my husband and I always wanted a farmhouse so we could raise our crop of kids. God blessed us with four…and while they’re not a cash crop (unless you count the money flying out the window), I am certainly trying to make them the laborers for the harvest.

  • 10X9 closet??? That’s two bedrooms in our current, 1750 square foot home.  I’m actually wondering how they fit all that in 1960 sqft?
    OTOH, big rooms like that are very goood for cosleeping, or using as a dormitory for one’s big family.

  • Jamaica Plain is really different now than it was in the 70s-80s, when I knew some large families there who attended St. Mary’s in Brookline. (Yay, St. Mary’s! I loved it there!!) I don’t think anyone could have predicted how the real estate has skyrocketed in Jamaica Plain, or in Roslindale, where I have always lived.

    It’s true unfortunately that people have fewer kids now, of course, but the location of this home isn’t really ideal for families either, for several reasons, most notably the suboptimal public schools in Boston. If this house were picked up and plunked down in the ‘burbs somewhere, it probably would have been renovated in a way that would be more attractive to couples who desire larger families. So, among other things, this house is also a reminder of the unfortunate reality that Boston isn’t really a super-hospitable place to raise a family any longer.

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