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Guest Blogger: Time Capsule

This week we’d like to thank good friend and guest blogger Doug Reed for providing us with some wit and wisdom. If you want to learn more about Doug and read more of his writings, click here for transport to his website (no time travel required).

Those of us mature enough to have lived through the 1980’s remember the movie Back To The Future.  Watching that movie again is like traveling through time twice.  There’s the time-travel in the plot, of course. The trip back to the Eisenhower era with poodle

skirts and tail fins, but that’s not what really grabs our eye.

Look at the “modern” Reagan-era scenes. Rotary phones! Console hi-fi sets! Vacuum-tube televisions! Didn’t we know in the 1980’s that our living rooms would look ridiculous in thirty years?  Surely the filmmakers didn’t intend to make a museum piece. They simply meant to show a typical modern 1985 home.

Look around your room now. What’s going to look quaint and outdated in thirty years? This computer/iPad/phone that you’re reading this blog post on will belong in a museum someday.  There was a story in the news last year about an elderly woman who passed away, leaving behind the key to her Paris apartment. As the storm of World War II gathered ever closer, she fled the city. From that time, until her death seven decades later, she diligently paid her rent but never returned to the apartment.
Her elegant rooms gathered dust and cobwebs as time, technology, and fashion passed them by.  Her makeup jars, filled with powders and dried-out paints still waited by the mirror.  A Mickey Mouse doll from the black-and-white days sat patiently by her dressing table.  A packet of love letters, carefully bound with a ribbon, spoke of long-forgotten passion between the woman’s grandmother, Marthe de Florian, and her paramour, the painter Giovanni Boldini.

This story made such news over the discovery of a portrait of Mlle. De Florian, hidden from collectors for over a century. The portrait fetched 2.1 million euros at auction. We should all ask our grandmothers if they had flings with famous painters.
What intrigued us was the notion of all those furnishings, appliances, and decor lying undisturbed. The trappings of everyday life trapped in amber.

Another story recently featured a couple who inherited a country estate in Wales. While cleaning out the basement, they moved a pile of unwanted belongings and uncovered the entrance to a kitchen dating back to the 1830’s.  The kettle was still on the wood-burning stove.  The production crew on Downton Abbey surely spent a mint recreating the servant’s kitchen for television. Here was the real thing, jelly moulds and all, sitting behind a pile of debris.

Back when the servants were bustling about, preparing meals for the Lord of Cefn Lea, they didn’t think of how they were working in a prototypical working example of a manor house kitchen. They were simply moving through the stuff of their everyday lives.

Googling “time capsule homes” comes up with a whole page of houses which went unrenovated for decades, and are now on the market in all their mid-twentieth century glory.

For most of us, it’s not practical to close off whole wings of our homes, but it’s intriguing to imagine how our descendants will view the commonplace items of lives. It’s tempting to put a few familiar items in the back of an obscure cabinet, just for the fun of telling our descendants that we were here. This is what our lives looked like as we lived them in houses that travel forward, one year at a time.

Check out retrorenovation.com for more!

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