Two Paths On The Way Home
The vast majority of American homes have a “traditional” and namable identity. Whether it’s “Colonial,” “Arts and Crafts,” “Shingle Style,” or “Bungalow,” the broad brush of History paints 90% of the homes that are built on spec in America today. The bottom line in all of this is pretty simple: the more repetitively reproduced those homes are, the more predictable their designs are and the cheaper they are to build. The cheaper they are to build, the more people can be seduced into buying them. In this world, all specific client preferences and adaptations are relegated to an “options” list – similar to a potential upgrade for any appliance, whether it’s more memory in your laptop or a GPS in your car. “Design” is limited to a plug-in sensibility one step up from Ford’s “You can have it in any color you want as long as it’s black.” Ultimatelly, the design motto for the vast majority of for-profit spec home builders is: “You can have it in any style as long as it’s traditional.”
The public face of a customized alternative, architects and custom architectural design, has a hype all its own: fine arts “Modern” – “contemporary” in real estate broker parlance: its “My way or the highway” messaging is directly akin to high-devotion preservationist antique homes – where history reels in and overrules creative accommodation of the way you live. The cost of design services alone deters most people from even considering the option of an architect.
Creating better homes and open aesthetics happens when buildings are style blind. Functional layout and response to the site should create a home’s shape, and how it presents itself to the world. Style should be the last element that is considered in the design of any building – it is the needs of who uses it and the requirements and opportunities that the site presents that should essentially shape every building that is built everywhere. But unfortunately, it is easier to set building design to the default setting of “style.” – whether lockstep adherence to “tradition” or following an architect’s tone-deaf muse. Whether political or aesthetic, “Correctness” tends to reject people for ideology.
But there is another way – a middle way – listening to the twin realities of what is, and what is desired, and acting with confidence that your needs come first and your home adapts to them: but you need knowledge to get to the bottom line of what you value: Good designers will charge less if you know more and you hire an engaged consultant versus an empirical designer.
In the end, its up to you: if you have more fear than discomfort you can go along and get along. If you hate where you are enough to spend more than the minimum, any investment can use advice of counsel. If you are ready to throw caution to the wind and express a central value: finding joy in your home – partner with a designer and builder who share your core commitment, versus just cashing in.
Its a tough time for risk: but that makes the rewards all the more ecstatic….