I've never been a big fan of reality television. I'm not sure why. Maybe the skeptical reporter in me finds much of the content is staged and not very real at all. After all, how real are these people behaving if they have cameras poking in their faces?
Also, I don't like the carnival sideshow and intrusive aspects of these broadcasts. Why do I care about people who hoard yellowing newspapers and empty food containers, aging past-their-prime celebrities who can't get any more gigs on their own, and supposedly hip strangers thrown together to live in a house for a few weeks?
But I must admit that I've been hooked on a couple of reality TV shows recently. Both are on HGTV, or home and garden television.
On “House Hunters,” a realtor shows prospective home buyers three properties. These people then compare and contrast the homes' features, weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide how much house they can afford. Interestingly, in the international version of the show, Europeans are usually happy with the “tidy, quaint” spaces. Here in the U.S., most people want big rooms, big yards, and big garages. Never mind the big mortgages.
I bring this all up because on one recent episode, a woman was disappointed when a loft condominium she was considering did not have the floor surfaces she desired. ”I was really hoping for concrete floors,” she told the realtor. I was taken aback because I was impressed someone looking for a home would not want a hardwood floor, which is the rage right now, and instead vie for concrete.
The other show is “Bang for Your Buck.” Here, a design expert and realtor tour three home renovation projects shortly after they are completed and decide which will fetch their owners a greater return on their investment, or more bang for their buck.
Recently, they compared three $50,000 kitchen renovation projects. Two of the kitchens included granite countertops, while the third had a concrete countertop.
The designer loved the concrete variety, but the realtor did not. While the realtor did not have any qualms with the concrete countertop's aesthetics, she noted it would not garner nearly the return on investment. She reasoned that prospective homeowners almost always look favorably on granite, compared to quartz, concrete, or any other material. So a concrete kitchen countertop could lessen the value of a sale, or possibly even make a house more difficult to sell.
At least that was her reasoning, and I don't doubt there is some truth to it.
I think we can take away some good news and some bad news from both of these episodes. The good: Polished concrete floors and concrete countertops have entered the lexicon of the mainstream public. People have come to realize a polished concrete floor is not only good enough for Wal-Mart or their neighborhood grocery store, but also for their own home. And someone who can afford to spend $50,000 on a new kitchen can surely afford a granite countertop. But instead, the homeowners in this case chose concrete. (And they may not have even been aware of granite's pesky radon gas issue.)
The bad news is that the woman looking for a condominium didn't get her concrete floors, and granite still captures a much greater portion of the kitchen counter-top market. But Rome wasn't built in a day. And while concrete as a decorative element has gained inroads, more marketing emphasis is needed to make it truly mainstream. That's the reality of it all.