Why American Soils Turned Gray

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Today, our editor Amanda Mull answers my questions about her recent article exploring gray floors, house flipping, and how America fell in love with HGTV.

But first, here are three new stories from Atlantic.


“A Financial Year and a Credit Score”

Amanda Mull really doesn’t like gray floors. Of course, part of her dislike is aesthetic – “the reality is that gray isn’t that versatile”, she told me – but she’s more concerned with what floors to tell about we. “In my work, I often take something that has become very mainstream and try to figure out why it’s happening,” she said.

Isabelle Fattal: When you shared your recent story on Twitter, you wrote, “May I interest you in my grand unified theory of the US housing market as explained by gray vinyl plank floors and barn doors.” Tell us your theory.

Amanda Mull: These types of doors and flooring (essentially faux wood with gray finishes) are especially popular among people remodeling homes as investments, whether they’re house-turners or homeowners.

Gray finishes are pretty cheap and have big upside potential in the rental or resale market because that’s what people see when they walk into a home. And gray floors were never popular until the last 10 years, so if you, as a renter or a buyer, walk into a house and see gray floors, you’re like, “Oh, someone just redid this place. “It gives him that new feeling.

Isabella: How does the feeling of newness, even in a place that is not Actually new – has it become such an important part of interior design?

Amanda: Novelty is really important in the lives of American consumers, especially over the past 15 years. We’ve seen this focus on the latest in all categories of consumers. Most people know this from the fast fashion business. The things you have seem disposable, as they cost very little per piece, and there’s a constant barrage of new things available that are also very inexpensive. You get to the point where you feel like having something for a long time is a fool’s game.

In the living space, the reverse has happened. As a country, we have really slowed down the construction of new housing, which has created price issues. Accommodation is very expensive and what you get for your money is deteriorating. When homes are older and the buying or renting public is used to newness, if you can create a sense of newness inside those older homes, you can charge more. A lot of it ends up being surface-level things that don’t improve the livability of the home or even necessarily make it a more aesthetically pleasing space.

Isabella: How do potential buyers or renters get fooled into talking about “updates” that aren’t actually improvements?

Amanda: What people are trying to do when looking at a place they might live in is just to determine if it’s functional, and that can be hard to assess on a surface level. So people tend to look around and think, Alright, well, the appliances are new, the floors are new, this thing should last a while.. Many people who have moved into newly renovated apartments eventually discover Oh, it wasn’t done right Where This was made using the cheapest materials.

Because of the precarious housing situation many people are in in the United States and the difficulty in getting your offer accepted, you have this feeling of scarcity. In those situations, gray floors and a tile backsplash, and you’re like, OK, someone did something about it; write an offer or apply before someone else sees it.

Isabella: You write that “all told, almost a third of US home sales last year went to people who had no intention of living there.” How does the current economic moment affect the house flip trend?

Amanda: I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that gray soils are a physical manifestation of the economic realities of American life. For many people, home ownership is a path to financial stability, and it’s the most common path in America. Because housing is a good investment, many people are interested in it who are not interested in living in the houses they buy: Especially since the United States is not building much more housing, it is a really attractive asset for institutional investors, property managers and pinball machines. There are many people who are dissatisfied with their career and their salary and are looking for something else to do that is profitable.

Isabella: Your article is titled “The HGTV-ification of America”. Why do you think home improvement trade shows are so popular?

Amanda: The biggest thing that made me want to write this article is the amount of HGTV I’ve consumed in my life, which is frankly embarrassing. I find it incredibly entertaining. It is interesting to see how people perceive their home – their private domain – and how our homes become what they are. And it’s interesting to fantasize about what our homes could be, with a little elbow grease or a home equity line of credit or whatever.

Some of the most popular shows on these networks are about big home improvement products, and more specifically about flipping. They became very popular in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when there was a lot of distressed housing available for very, very cheap. If you’re a bit of a do-it-yourselfer and you’ve done stuff in your house, you watch enough of those house shows on HGTV and think, I could do that. I got a drill and a credit score. I don’t think all the blame for this lies with HGTV, but they do run an instruction manual on how to do it.

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Today’s news
  1. Rail freight companies and labor unions have reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike.
  2. Tennis champion Roger Federer has announced his retirement from the ATP Tour and Grand Slam tournaments.
  3. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping, thanked Xi for ‘balanced’ approach to war in Ukraine; he also said Russia was ready to address China’s “concerns”.

Dispatches

Evening reading
(Christophe Furlong/Getty)

What They Don’t Tell You About Hypoallergenic Dogs

By Sarah Zhang

As someone with a dog allergy who has nonetheless been around many dogs as a trainer, foster parent, and owner, Candice has learned not to trust the promise of a “hypoallergenic” dog. She’s met hypoallergenic poodles and Portuguese water dogs that shouldn’t trigger her allergies, but did. But she’s also encountered fluffy, long-haired breeds like huskies and spitzes that barely trigger a sneeze. “I’ve had more trouble with short-haired dogs,” she told me. This includes her own Belgian Malinois, Fiore, with whom her symptoms got so bad that she started allergy shots. Fernando, Fiore’s equally hairy full sister, though? Everything goes well. No reaction!

Candice – whose last name I don’t use for reasons of medical confidentiality – isn’t the only one who doesn’t see any rhyme or reason for the dogs she’s allergic to.

Read the article completely.

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PS

Amanda recently wrote about why non-American candy is superior to American stuff, so I asked for her current favorite. “Licorice Strawberry Panda from Finland,” she told me. “It tastes amazing, has a perfectly chewy texture, and isn’t sweet like a lot of American versions of red licorice.” (If you’re in the New York area, she buys it at Perelandra Natural Foods in Brooklyn Heights.)

—Isabelle

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