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Monday, August 22, 2011

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

When I was young and people would ask me "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I would answer "Be Cary Grant." I was serious. That guy was exactly the type of guy I wanted to be: good looking, intelligent, witty, and rich. I failed on all four.

I still love watching many of his old movies including one of my very favorites "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House". By chance that movie was on Turner Movie Classics this past Sunday. For the reader not familiar with the plot, Mr. Blandings and his family plus maid lived in a small post World War II New York City apartment. The Blandings had two pre-teen daughters who needed space to grow into young ladies. So the family decided to look for a real house outside the city. They found a run down house in rural Connecticut that supposedly dated back to the Revolutionary War. It had "character" but it needed tons of work. The location, however, was ideal and the couple decided to buy the old place.

The lucky couple taking their friend to see their new dream house. He was not impressed.

I tuned in after the movie started just as Mr. and Mrs. Blandings were showing the house to their friend Bill who happened to be an attorney. Bill complained that they had made a dreadful mistake to which Mr. Blandings announced:

Muriel and I have found what I'm not ashamed to call our dream house.

It's like a painting. You buy it with your heart, not your head.

You don't ask, "How much was the paint? The canvas?"

You look at it. And you say,"It's beautiful. I want it."

And if it costs a few more pennies, you pay it and gladly.

Because you love it.

And you can't measure the things you love in dollars and cents.

Well, anyway, that's the way I feel about it.

When I sign on Saturday, I can look the world in the face and say, "It's mine.

My house. My home.

To which Mrs. Blandings added "Our house. Our home."

We get to watch the Blandings go through buyer hell as they realize the little fixer needed more repairs than imagined. Ultimately, they hired an architect and decided to design and build exactly what they wanted: their dream house. Of course dream houses cost more than one could imagine. Simple little things eventually add up to very large sums of money. Disputes, delays, budget overruns, and misunderstandings sometimes turn a dream into a nightmare.

The house was nearly completed but the windows were delivered to another site.

Near the end of the movie we see Mr. Blandings reach his boiling point over perceived price gouging. He even suspected his wife and best friend of infidelity. Yes he paid more than he planned. And no, his wife and best friend had not cheated.

The final scene is a tight shot of the Blandings family along with their attorney friend sitting at the foot of the freshly completed home. The camera pulls back ever so high to show the new owners enjoying life in the bucolic landscape living happily ever after in their dream house.

As much as I love this movie the fact is the Blandings could have avoided all of the drama (and maybe some of the cost) had they bought a house that already met their needs. Instead of looking for a place that they could fix-up, they might have found a place that didn't need any work. Rather than feeling cheated by contractors and doubting the fidelity of his wife and best friend, Mr. Blandings could have saved himself (and family) from remembrances of Daddy not at his dearest. If you are thinking about buying a Key West getaway home, CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. Instead of limiting your search to your intended price target, increase the price a bit to see what other properties might be available. Take into consideration the costs in time, materials, and contractor fees if you were to do a renovation.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Blandings built a home they would love as a family. He didn't want a cookie-cutter apartment or have Bunny Funkhouser re-do their own apartment like something out of of a designers image of All-American blueberry pie family. No, he wanted the home in the country on a historical site that surveyed (more or less) a few acres short and at a price that the locals wouldn't pay. He got railroaded, gyped and generally taken to the cleaners by contractors, surveyors, builders, and how can we forget the well driller?

No Gary, just put on your new smoking jacket, sit back during a rainstorm and think about how much they really got out of building their own American dream. They learned a lesson and they achieved a beautiful home, more or less.

And remember - you ain't eatin ham if you ain't eatin Wham!

Gary Thomas said...

The real estate agent pulled one over on Mr. Blandings. Yep.

He spent way more than he planned. Yep.

He got what he wanted in the end. Yep.

My point was not to deter buyers from doing renovations or building new, but rather to look at other houses outside their comfort zone. There are some real good deals. You just gotta make them happen.

Thanks for mentioning Bunny. Those eastern elites have such snappy names.


Anonymous said...

I remember Mr. Zucca and the ledge. And the Shunken Mills. Never did find out what they were but if you ever get to that part of Connecticut, they are not hard to miss. And the Zuz Zuz water softner. Best lines though by Mrs. Blandings and her paint selections:

"I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin's egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don't let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green. Now, the dining room. I'd like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you'll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can't go wrong! Now, this is the paper we're going to use in the hall. It's flowered, but I don't want the ceiling to match any of the colors of the flowers. There's some little dots in the background, and it's these dots I want you to match. Not the little greenish dot near the hollyhock leaf, but the little bluish dot between the rosebud and the delphinium blossom. Is that clear? Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white. Now for the powder room - in here - I want you to match this thread, and don't lose it. It's the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it! As you can see, it's practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy winesap and an unripened Jonathan."

Or as the painters would say " Red, Green, Blue, Yellow and White".


Anyway, the film is very post WWII housing boom. If you like this type, check out an earlier film staring Jack Benny and Ann Sothern "George Washington Slept Here". No General Gates and his horse but a similar New York couple seeking the country life renovating a historic house, this time in Pennsylvania.

Old films are so hard to beat!


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.