Thanks for speaking to the meaning of architecture in "A Disservice to the House" (click here). A well-traveled friend once commented that, when he travels to other countries, he realizes how money-conscious Americans are: We know "the cost of everything and the value of nothing."
One conversation I routinely have with potential clients is to think of how others will view the decisions that were made during the construction of the building. Good decisions (decisions that lead to an environment of integrity) will lead to value in the property. Decisions made solely to reduce cost will lead to an environment of lower cost—and lower value.
People respond to well-designed environments, whether they understand good design or not. Through my experience, decisions made to "increase return on investment" usually lead to discord in the built environment; building cheaply is not the same as building economically. Brain power focused on good design will usually uncover an economical way to build something with design integrity.
As architects we need to keep our eyes on the ball.
Ed Rahme, Architect
Kennett Square, Pa.
I just read your editorial on the housing boom. Rarely do I have time to respond or even react to written comments about such broad-based topics. However, in this case, I wanted to tell you I believe your point is spot-on.
I took the liberty of forwarding your insight to many of my clients who have placed their projects on the back burner, rationalizing that given the context of the marketplace, the construction might place them out of the current market.
Wonderfully stated. Keep up the good work!
William E.S. Kaufman, AIA, LEED AP
WESKetch Architecture + Interiors
You write with great wisdom and honesty in thought. I appreciate that.
Thanks for your incredible insight!
Thank you for an excellent column regarding our perceptions of home values. I've been looking for a way to convey this message to prospective clients. You've done so brilliantly.
As a design/build firm that's focused on remodeling, we are often hit with the question of ROI for a given project. Most of our projects are for clients who 'want what they want' and can afford it, but there's still the need to allay their fear of making a 'bad investment' or poor financial decision. As your column illustrates, if we merely look at the house as an investment, there would be no need to do anything more than maintain it or fix things when they break. The real value is in enjoying our lives while we can.
Thanks for your insight on why a person's home is important. As a residential architect, I cannot tell you how many times people include items in their renovations for the sake of resale. The oversized, jetted, bubbling, square-footage-monger bathtubs are the biggest culprit. I encourage my clients to think of their own needs as their primary priority and resale as a distant second. I have never bought into the "must-haves" or "that's what everyone wants." I think good design trumps all.
R. Craig Cox, AIA
Cox Architecture & Design
I love this article! I wish you would publish it not only here but in mainstream media, where homeowners can also be reminded of the true value of where they live.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to dig into that mini wine cellar of mine, pick out a fine bottle that I've been saving way too long for who knows what, kick up my feet in the home I love, and enjoy the moment.
Thank you for your opinion on the merits of our houses. We work in the residential arena, particularly designing what we call "re-racks"—often not expanding the footprint, but reconfiguring/massaging what's there to try to solve the "wish list." People talk to me all the time about dollar value and how it impacts their decisions on what they do to their homes and what the comparables are in the neighborhood.
Although this is a part of the equation, I often reply with, What is the value of living with something you love every day and that impacts how you feel, work, play, and raise a family? If clients are planning to stay in their existing homes for "X" (fill in the blank) number of years or more, this philosophical notion of distilling what's important down to a meaningful program helps put things in perspective.
Rick McDermott, AIA, NCARB
Kansas City, Mo.
Your thoughts on "a disservice to the house" was something we should all think about. I know that over the years I have looked at the "house" less as a home, and more as an investment.
Not a wise thing to do. Thanks for your input and helping me re-think that a house should be a home first and foremost.
Laughing Lobster Design Co.
I find it interesting for you to say what you say in the article, although I have to respectfully disagree.
Building a house, I think, is like buying a car. It's got to look good and perform. More now than ever, the house needs to be energy-efficient while fitting everyone's individual budget. So how can you not think of a house as an investment?
I think it would be foolish to have a Prius budget and end up buying a Lexus.
Thinking about the house design as an investment strategy (and not just the normal issues of form and function) is, in my opinion, fun and exciting and will result in a better product.
The reality is, with energy costs going up, more and more clients are looking at the bottom line and seeing how their return on investment will add up. Sometimes, it means sacrificing some of the nice things in the beginning so that the things that are hidden underneath the hood will pay off.
Frankly, I admire those who can afford a Lexus, a Mercedes, or even a Bentley but choose to drive a Prius instead. It's an acquired taste, but so is fine wine. I think the Prius is a beautiful car, but if you can afford a Bentley kind of a house, something akin to a Tesla (high-performance, all-electric car) would also be very nice.
Benjamin J. Horten, AIA
Thanks for another inspiring piece of reading. You are so spot-on so much of the time!
Keep those brilliant articles coming. I really enjoy your column!
Dale Robart II
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Greed—the new drug for the 21st century—I believe is the fuel by which we spend. Connectivity, social networking, exposing potential or 'probable' value has never been easier or quicker to get to market, and as a result, we are exposed to more opportunity (or bondage) than we have ever been. We have little to rely on in the way of experience, cuts, bruises, and even some deep scars as armor against the plethora of advertisements and sex-appeal marketing. Immediacy has taken the place of careful thought and evaluation; our time to review, research, and answer a call to duty or to opportunity is lightning-short—not by our own specification, but usually by the greedy needs and wants of a company or a person seeing financial opportunity given a particular situation.
Is all of this bad? Well no, but it needs to be digested in small amounts. Am I saying take time in making decisions? No, make decisions swiftly (being educated and doing one's due diligence requires speed these days) but change them slowly. Use tools in your own toolbox, acquired from your years of experience, along with the appropriate tools of those close to you if need be, to get the "scoop." Unfortunately, all we seem to do as a nation is foster that which we know and are accustomed to—quick, immediate, grab and run, look out for one's self first, time is money and finally, it won't last long.
We have forgotten to teach the basics to our kids. Nowhere in the country do we teach our youth to make money. We teach them about money but not the high road in making it. Acquiring money should be for a higher purpose. If we taught how to make it, we would spend less of our mental time in fearing its loss. We tend to horde rather than give willingly and abundantly; create more for the greater good and we will never run out. Money is meant to be moved, traded, changed hands; it provides no value if it remains locked up, it must be in motion; we just need to stop a bit and see where our money will do the most good, not just for ourselves but for the greater good. If we truly reach that plateau, we will no longer want out of fear or risk loss due to being late to market; we will be appreciative for what we have and what we are able to contribute.
That I believe is what's missing—not lost just misplaced—from society's DNA. We need to get it back.
Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects
Great work on the housing boom/home worth piece! Your insight is right on the mark.
Designing to the pure energy of people and place without the filter of perceived values is the way to go.
Thank you for a well-thought-out and clearly stated commentary. Houses became a commodity—a product, not a home.
We hope the bursting housing bubble will return reality to the American housing market.
Thanks for your words of wisdom. This housing adjustment is hard but so necessary.
Mary Ellen Winborn
I wanted to write and thank you for the always-interesting viewpoints and focus of your editorials. The current one regarding homes as investments has been a concern for a long time—my clients are primarily retirees planning their last home, but the market here is saturated with many who invested in land and homes in hopes of a short-term big gain fed by ever-increasing real estate values. The idea that homes are family sanctuaries is lost on many.
A hopeful sign is a friend I ran into a few days ago. He lived in his home for 10 years before I designed a master bedroom, family room, and kitchen addition on it for his growing family. That was 15 years ago, and his home has, indeed, been a sanctuary.
Thanks, and keep up the fine work.
Bernhard Thuersam, CPBD, NCIDQ
Shoreline Design Group
Thank you for your insights on the "relative" value of our home (and hearth).
Over the years, I've taken time to read and review ra. It does a really good job of sharing and challenging our multidisciplined (contractors, craftsmen, engineers, suppliers) professional aspirations, frustrations, and the simple day-to-day life in this sector of our profession.
Keep up the great work—and the great graphics!
Michael O'Sullivan, AIA, LEED AP
North Hill Developments
South Pasadena, Calif.
As always, I enjoyed your editorial.
In addition to the great points you make, I would like to include another perspective for your consideration. There are those that have looked at the current real estate situation and concluded that we should just stay put, shying away from other "product on the market" because they just don't have the same spirit as those created by previous generations. This introspective analysis has, in some cases, confirmed we are where we want to be. As the saying goes, "an unexamined life is not worth living," so is true for a home (not house).
Many people I talk to have opted to embellish their existing home and pursue a vision they have harbored for over the years rather then pursue a quick fix, abandon it, and move on. In these cases, we are putting in new kitchens because we want to, not because our Realtor is suggesting we must to increase the home's appeal. To which I say, amen.
ORG Home Solutions
Thank you! I just read your thoughts on how "Cynical, strategic choices squeeze the soul out of a house." It was like drinking a glass of clear water in these muddy times.
Kochman Reidt + Haigh Cabinetmakers