A Face Only a Mother Could Love

We’re thinking of physically reconfiguring our network equipment here at the house. Currently, the DSL modem and router are upstairs in my office — at the far end of the house — where they’ve been since we moved here ten years ago. Since then, things have changed:

  • The Missus no longer has a desktop computer. She has a laptop, which can use either a wired or a wireless connection.
  • We have new smartphones, which can connect to the Internet either via our carrier’s own network, OR through (much faster) WiFi if available.
  • We have a streaming-video device connected to our TV which lets us download movies and TV shows (etc.) — unavailable through our satellite-TV provider — via services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and so on. Or rather, it would let us do so, if (a) we had a reliable wireless connection at that location, or (b) the wired connection there weren’t already devoted to our satellite DVR.
  • Our newest Kindle, like the smartphones, can use either WiFi (faster) or Amazon’s own 3G “Whispernet” network, depending on which is available.

So in other words, wireless is the way to go. And for the streaming video and the DVR, if a wired connection is available then so much the better. Obvious technical solution: move the modem and the router to the living room.*

The problem with the “obvious” solution is æsthetic: the damn boxes are just so ugly. (The wires can be hidden behind shelving or, in a pinch, colored/patterned cord covers mounted on the wall.) The cable modem, eh, not much of a problem. It’s a small black box maybe four inches on a side, an inch or so deep, and can be tucked almost anywhere in or on top of the cabinets on that wall. But the router (pictured above, posed coyly on a black-velvet background) must remain out in the open, in order to offer the most trouble-free wireless access from anywhere in the house.**

So only apprehensively did I propose this reconfiguration to The Missus, who’s always more concerned than I that our household furnishings and accoutrements in “public areas” present a NonUgly™ face to the world.

Whew: I found an online source for “skins” (thin plastic patterned, colored, or illustrated decals or stickers) customized not just for the usual devices, phones and e-readers and laptops and such, but even for routers. And happily, our own brand/model of router is among the options available.

How important are household æsthetics to you?

And what parallel(s), if any, could you draw for your taste in writing, music, and other arts, in your decorative taste?


* I myself don’t have a laptop, and my desktop computer does not have a wireless network card. So will this strand me? Nope. Because we’ve also got whole-house wired connections available, via our household power lines. (We can’t use this feature everywhere… for æsthetic but also safety reasons: wires everywhere.)

** Yes, I am aware that modern wireless networks aren’t much impeded by walls and other obstacles. Feel free to be as casual as you want in setting up your own system. For my own taste, though, in dealing with technology (especially hardware) I always aim to eliminate as many variables as possible.

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  1. Oh yes, I see what you mean, she’s not overly pretty. And skins for routers! Is there nothing we can’t find out there on the interwebs?

    Well, in my case, I also wouldn’t want to mess with the feng shui of a room or space. If things are good as is, I won’t touch them, but I’m fairly preoccupied with aesthetics–which is why our router and all the accoutrements, including a clunky old desktop, are all in the basement. I’ll never go back to a desktop–it’s too convenient and much prettier (especially Mac ;)).

    The first home we ever owned–a 1940’s cape, we renovated, and decorated with lots of folk art and antiques. This was before kids, when antique shopping kept us busy nearly every weekend, and we weren’t yet thinking of childproofing. After kids, our new house took on a French country look trimmed with whimsy, walls painted in various color (not a white space left) to hide dirty fingerprints. As I get older, though, I’m drawn to the clean lines of contemporary architecture and decor, and I think that when we ever sell this dang house, I’ll be looking for something not only smaller, but more streamlined and monochromatic. And I’ve never liked anything to florally.

    Hmm… so interesting, John, I’ve never thought about the parallels, but the authors I enjoy most are those that don’t make too much use of florid language. And, I think you know, I’ve been on a mission to pare down my prose. Which is not easy! (That explains all the useless junk in this house.) There you have it: I’m good for one short and concise book. ;)

    • I remembered after posting this that I’d failed to include a link to the router-skinners. They’re here.

      My own desktop computer at home is, uh, I think seven years old. (!) I can see many advantages to having a laptop, but I believe that if I get one it will end up upstairs alongside the desktop model — and be used as a desktop model, docked, with the “real” keyboard and screen and mouse — maybe 90% of the time. I can imagine blogging with it in my lap, but I can’t imagine, y’know, writing-writing that way. And I’ll probably resist skinning it, too. Ha.

      In decor, The Missus and I diverge (but compromise) on many things and converge on a few. Our Christmas decorations, for example, are exotic mashups of “classic” (y’know, crystal, frilly angels and such) and “funky” (stylized wooden animals in Santa suits, etc.). I think we were both surprised, for a while at least, to find that when we finally bought a house it was a contemporary.

      It’s funny — you look at photographs of, say, Oscar Wilde, and you think, Now there’s a guy to whom STYLE is important. (I mean “style” in the sense of… um… embellishment, adornment.) I can’t see him living in the Gropius House, for instance. And I’d love to put him in a time machine so I could hear his commentary on Strunk & White. The guy just seemed 100% consistent in the sort of arts which he liked, across media. I’m not sure that I could pull off that consistency.

  2. I go for bright colors. My ipod and toaster are both bright red, the kitchen walls cobalt blue. These splashes of color bring to mind one of my favorite artists, Matisse.

    • When we first moved into our house — and for 10 years afterward — the kitchen colors were this interesting variety of color: one wall in a sort of aqua, one in a muted pink, one in a purple… (It looked a LOT better than I’m making it sound.) The previous owners had even found cabinetry hardware in those colors, and the drawer pulls and such were placed randomly so that no one color dominated in any one portion of the kitchen.

      It has to be said that I’m by and large oblivious to color schemes, so when The Missus announced that she was tired of the kitchen colors I did a sort of double-take. But I do understand what she meant. We just had it painted khaki, and replaced all the colorful knobs and handles with brushed-nickel ones.

      Do you dress colorfully, too?

      (It drives The Missus mildly crazy, I fear, that when I buy clothes I almost ALWAYS shoot for muted blues, grays, tans… Even when I set out with the intention of diversifying, I’m liable to settle on (say) a dull maroon rather than a red.)

  3. blah, this is a BAD topic for me! but since you ask…

    i moved into my apartment on April 15, 2011. two weeks ago, i finally hung my first piece of art. otherwise the walls are still bare. my books are still in piles by the floor where i intend to buy more bookcases.

    so… not a nester, i guess. but whenever i go to someone else’s space and see the cool things they’ve done with it, i always wish i were.

    • A life free of envy wouldn’t be much of a life. :)

      It’s a commonplace that art livens up a place, makes it seem more… umm… well, fresh. But “fresh” needn’t be the same thing as “lively” (let alone noisy). Blank walls invite free-form distraction. For myself, I find that art makes a place more comfortable, more snug, more likely to promote contemplation — more like a place where you can take your ease. It’d probably be different if we went in for clanging metal mobiles and such, but paintings and prints and photographs do good things for our (meaning The Missus’s and my, and perhaps The Pooch’s) minds.

      At the very least, you could tack up the covers of books you’ve been involved with. (Saving a wall for your own books, of course!)

  4. Well.

    We are buying our first home so decorating is the obsession here at the moment. We are always concerned with how our place looks (in a decorating sense–not necessarily in a housekeeping sense–ahem). A room without art on the walls? I never understand it. We have art everywhere. We have 16 framed pictures on one wall alone.

    My decorating style hasn’t much changed since I was a child. My mother once said, “The thing about your room, is every time I come in here, I find something I hadn’t seen before.”


    In our new home we are planning a chalk board wall (chalkboard paint!) in the foyer for a start. And no eyesores!

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