We’re happy look­ing to fu­ture but our hearts lie in the past

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver

IN the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Sandy, along with the ac­counts of hu­man suf­fer­ing and in­di­vid­ual hero­ism, came sto­ries of com­mu­nity spirit and co­he­sion and self­less neigh­bourli­ness show­ing that out of ad­ver­sity really does come some good.

More sur­pris­ingly, we have be­come aware of just how many af­fected homes had been equipped with back-up gen­er­a­tors. Un­for­tu­nately, many of them could not click into ac­tion in the ar­eas af­flicted with power cuts be­cause they had gen­er­ally been in­stalled in base­ments that were com­pletely flooded with water or, even worse, raw sewage. Th­ese gen­er­a­tors had orig­i­nally been in­stalled to pro­vide power for heat­ing and light and in New York’s sky­scrapers, op­er­ate the lifts. How­ever, for many house­holds, they could be used to charge up mo­bile phones, iPads, lap­tops and com­put­ers. Th­ese pro­vided both com­mu­ni­ca­tion links with the out­side world and a source of in­for­ma­tion.

This ap­petite to ab­sorb mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in this way is a per­fect ex­am­ple of our will­ing­ness and need to em­brace moder­nity. We can’t get enough of it and it seems that we can’t live with­out it. In streets and shops, on buses and trains as well as in the home, a mo­bile phone or tablet is rarely far from our fin­ger tip con­trol.

Oddly enough, at the same time, there is a pow­er­ful de­sire to look back and em­brace the life styles of ear­lier gen­er­a­tions. Just con­sider the pop­u­lar­ity of Downton Abbey on tele­vi­sion, at­tract­ing an au­di­ence of over nine mil­lion, or the num­bers of vis­i­tors to our stately homes where we can see how peo­ple lived “down­stairs” and “up­stairs.” Don’t for­get that Na­tional Trust mem­ber­ship now ex­ceeds four mil­lion, many of whom make reg­u­lar vis­its to coun­try es­tates and some of our grand­est houses at­tract huge vis­i­tor num­bers: Chatsworth House 716,000 and Cas­tle Howard with al­most a quar­ter of a mil­lion, both dwarfed by Lon­gleat with over 1.3 mil­lion vis­i­tors.

We look at th­ese his­toric homes with ro­man­tic or nos­tal­gic eyes but al­ways with fas­ci­na­tion and even adu­la­tion. Their in­flu­ence on house build­ing ar­chi­tec­ture has been enor­mous. Just think of all the neo-Ge­or­gian houses that have been built in the past 30 to 40 years or the mock Tu­dor house build­ing in the 1930s with front fac­ing “Tu­dor­bethan” black and white tim­bers. Pon­der how few mod­ernist or In­ter­na­tional Style houses were con­structed at the same time.

Our de­sire to suc­cumb to moder­nity while look­ing back into his­tory does not in­di­cate any in­con­sis­tency. On the con­trary, this helps gives us an un­der­stand­ing of our place in the present. We buy into the de­vel­op­ments of to­mor­row’s tech­nol­ogy while re­spect­ing the past. Not sur­pris­ingly, then, our homes may be filled with the lat­est gad­getry but you will also find an­tiques, pho­to­graphs and sou­venirs from grand­par­ents and re­pro­duc­tions of Im­pres­sion­ist paint­ings. The most ex­pen­sive paint­ings bought in auc­tions were Por­trait of Adele BlochBaner by Gus­tav Klimt, painted in 1907 and sold for $135m, and The Scream by Ed­vard Munch cre­ated at the end of the 19th cen­tury and sold for $120m. Clear signs that some­one sees huge value in old masters. Qual­ity and good de­sign sim­ply sit com­fort­ably to­gether any­where. A me­dieval ta­pes­try can look at home in a Ge­or­gian man­sion or mod­ern fur­ni­ture can be stun­ning in an old farm­house. So next time you hear some­one look­ing at a fine ex­am­ple of con­tem­po­rary de­sign ut­ter the cry “I can’t put that in my house!” have the re­ply ready, “Oh, yes you can!”

If you need a re­minder of just how use­ful the old can still be, look no fur­ther than those wind up gramo­phones that belt out scratchy mu­sic with­out any elec­tric­ity and with no need for a backup gen­er­a­tor. Or a pen that will still write what­ever the weather.

Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver are own­ers of The Home store at Salts Mill, Sal­taire, www. the­home­on­line.co.uk

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