Shifting The Suburban Paradigm

MoccasinOctober 3, 2011

I hope Scott is hanging around, because I'd like to hear his take on this article.

Link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shifting the Suburban Paradigm

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great article!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 2:33AM
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ML- Good article! Thanks for sharing. It seems the problem may be that builders don't see the demand for the type of housing the author is describing. Just like many builders aren't aware that most people want universal access in their homes...and we still get split level housing, with stairs at the entry or no main level powder room.

As buyers get more vocal about their demands (or just quit buying what's available) builders will have to adapt or go out of business. While smaller homes on small/no yards are one option, I think many people want yards, just smaller, more efficient homes. Many people still have to drive to work and let's face nice as 'walking communities' look on paper...what happens when that neighborhood gets run down (as many do after a few decades). Do we want to walk, then?

Anyway, lots of interesting ideas that will lead to plenty of discussions, I'm sure :)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 12:20PM
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Great remarks there, Lav.
Speaking of stairs right at the entry is a pet peeve of mine too. How do they think folks will ever get furniture into the house, for pete sake?

And not everything we do in our daily lives requires separate rooms for it. Sometimes, just an alcove or a window seat with shelving around it, can serve as a quiet spot for reading and a feeling of a library, or maybe an office.

Speaking of "office" I do not need an office, since I really do no "work." However, I do need a STUDY, which is a much more general place in my mind, also a kinder way of describing what I really do. I muddle about in all sorts of projects, which require me to study about the options in front of me.

Then a nursery for a new child is only a nursery for a short while. Some how, it can be more than a simple nursery even from the beginning. The baby does not know what is around it, but the room is really for the adults who come to tend the baby. The baby does not personally use his/her closet, or the rocking chair, or the chest for storage. If it is a well lighted and happy place, the vibes of that can come into the baby's awareness without a special designation of "nursery."

We are living in our homes so much differently than we once did. Builders need to think about that a little bit more.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 4:43PM
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Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

This sentence hit a note with me "too many homebuilders are inexplicably committed to the status quo".

From the time dh & I married, getting him to accept a new idea (of mine) was like banging my head into a wall. If it was building, dh wouldn't even listen. His dad was a builder, very much in demand, and dh built the way his dad had, and his dad built the way he had been taught. Dad was resistant to Phillips screws when they first came out. Why? Because he was used to the slot heads. Once he finally made the switch, he was a fan though.

When dh quit working as a subcontractor and went to work for a paint company, he had set ideas there too. When I did my first faux finish wall in 1986, dh said it was a fad that would never last. It took him a couple of years to come around, and even longer to start actually listening to my ideas. We still butt heads when building something, but more like the partners we were supposed to be all along.

I have finally decided that some people just don't know how to think outside the box, or open their minds to new ideas. Dh wasn't blessed with an imagination and I wasn't blessed with a lot of common sense. So we make a good partnership now.

With builders, I'm sure there is also the concern that people won't go for the new innovation and they will have wasted money and stuck with a product that won't sell. Also, new technology is expensive and I bet 80% of buyers can't afford it. A good compromise would be to build houses 90% traditional, 10% new technology, AND with the ability to convert the rest as the homeowner could afford it.

For example, build a house with the traditional electrical system, and wire it for a solar system.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 12:49PM
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good points marti. I think a lot has to do with the cost. for materials and retraining. they have their 'set' way and can do a lot in their sleep... and I think they do from some shoddy work being done.

they don't want change that will cut into profit.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:11PM
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Yep, it usually comes down to the bottom line.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 10:36PM
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And politics. There's plenty of that in the homebuilding industry.

This is an interesting article that rears it's ugly head in concept every 5 yrs. or so. Well, anyone can custom build a house with an architect. If they don't like what they see in the market, then build. Oh but wait a minute, our society wants instant gratification & mass appeal, just like their music. Move In Condition. Granite Countertops. SS Appliances. Hardwood Floors. Good's the offer. To find a home with charm one needs to live on the edge of a ghetto or in the country. Neither one appealing to our modern aesthethics. So we go for cookie-cutter center split suburbia McMansions with faux stone facades & plastic decks & fences. Walk or bike to work??? Um, no...what about hockey practice & dance classes & the grocery??? Might as well take the car for all the errands after work. It's Go, GO, Go.

As much as I enjoyed the article, it seems that the writer may be an old hippie still trying out his theories. A liberal always needs to marry a conservative to find the truth that lays in the middle.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 1:24AM
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FABULOUS ARTICLE!!! So much to comment about. I lived in AZ for 3 years... built a FULTON home, referenced in the article. Now they say you get what you want! In 2000, your walls were 'swiss coffee', your light fixtures what they installed, the same with appliances. There were no options... change what you want after you close on the place! And living in the desert, with sun and heat a serious issue? Of course there are no overhangs... that costs $$$.

Back to beautiful KS in 2003. I bought this little 60 yo cottage... a 1100 sf ranch. It had potential, it now has charm. The garden that I have created with love and endless labor will become a problem, however. I cannot do now what I did initially at 61. It becomes more than just simplification.

With our aging population, new housing needs go begging. Personally, I would not enjoy dense condo/senior living. I want something ground level, and would require SOME personal and PRIVATE outdoor space for relaxing and light gardening... not in pots! Give me no lawn, but a concrete patio to hose clean, and 20'x20' to garden, and I would be good to go. I like neighbors, but chats can be on a front porch. I am social, but appreciate high fences for privacy. I like animals, but do not want to hear barking. In these later years, I crave peace and quiet, within my property boundaries. My sweetheart, roses, birds and butterflies, my books, cooking... these are my daily mainstays of life.

This sort of home community does not exist in the KC area. Perhaps in the coming years? But as the writer suggested, builders and lenders are anything but innovative. Such a shame...

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 11:12AM
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kitykat, I'm with ya all the way in your comments. There are no such "retirement" communities like the ones we wish for in my area either. Should we become homebuilders???!!!

I also do not want a zero lot line slab house "patio home". UGH. They have the size lot I want mostly, but they are lined up like soldiers with no personality.

I am at a loss. I've been looking for 3 yrs. I have designed a house that I think would be perfect on the perfect lot. But I'm not sure that I could handle the stress - I am partially disabled with fibromyalgia & arthritis & am 58. As time goes on, I will be totally disabled. Stress is not something I can deal well with & I am easily confused by too many details now. Yet I don't want to "settle" in my later next home will be my last & I don't want to compromise all the elements that you describe.

It is a dilemma.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 2:37PM
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Kitkat, I had to look to see if I was the one who WROTE THAT.
Yeah, it is that close to my experiences. Except no Arizona for me.

And InteriorStylist, you sound very professionally involved and I like the old hippie you mentioned as the writer. Some ideals just die hard. Hopefully dreams can come true one day though. If you don't do your houseplan now, you won't ever do it. Maybe you could deal with the stress, physically, but do you really want to? My DH is 20 years older than you are, and he is at the tail end of his project years. He is doing a reno of our bathroom by himself, and I am freaking out about it, since his way of doing things is like it was 40 years ago. Sigh......

But if you don't do your plan now, can you make your adjustment to the place you choose to live without those features? Or can you perhaps find a general contractor who will listen to you? Do you think you might find a studen in some architectural school who will be willing to learn to listen to you? I mention this because a neighbor of mine had a granddaughter in school, and their project was to design and build a small home for disaster victims. This is along the lines of "Katrina Cottages" and small blocks of houses (maybe 3 or 4) sharing two or three city lots. The Sarah Susanka firm also does innovative design for small home lovers, and for handicapped people too. Universal design homes, if you will.

The common denominator in the posts above responding to this article would be QUALITY OF LIFE. We all need a good quality of life. Getting is is another matter.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Another missing ingredient is affordability. The adult-type patio or villa homes here come with pool and clubhouse, lawn maintenance and snow removal. Many are very large and upscale... marketed as a 'turn-key' lifestyle. I don't want or need to pay for this stuff!

How many older people would prefer a neighborhood 'association' that instead would handle exterior repairs/roofing/painting... the sort of stuff that is difficult for seniors to interview/evaluate/reference and get their $$$ worth?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 4:54PM
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kitykat - a friend of mine moved from AZ to KS in the 2000's!
I'm SE of phx ... and Chandler... in the country on the way to Florence. bought a little over 2 acres. city people followed out here when developers bought up cheap desert (beautiful) land and scraped it clear to put their houses on... ugh!
i knew i'd rather be in a mfg home on acres than a regular house 12' from a neighbor. i've never regretted it. only how long it took to get to the 'double wide' from the temp small one i started in.

just trying to fix it up is very stressful - not that i can do much myself. that itself is frustrating!

I figure it's my last place. the land IS desert so not much upkeep there. but i have a view of the mtns, can see the stars at night and see people ride their horses past me...

my place is up about 3' but i'll get a ramp maybe this next yr. long before I'm really in need of it I hope. the height helps w/critters and the view but will be more difficult as the yrs go on. I'm also disabled so steps aren't a picnic now - lol!

this winter i'll put together some planting boxes at about waist height for next spring so I can grow some of my own veggies.

I want my space as long as I can have it!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 3:00AM
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Steph, I was in SE Gilbert, gated community, close to a dairy... phew!!! The only good thing there was watching the sun rise over the Santans each morning... an incredible light show I will never forget! I hated the dust storms, the annual summer cricket invasions, the ever-present glare, the everywhere shades of brown/tan/beige/greige. I hated the traffic, the heat, the on-the-surface-friendly inhabitants. I know many love the desert, and I still have a few contacts there, but I am a transplanted Californian who embraces my adopted state wholeheartedly... I love Kansas!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 10:34AM
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Kitkat, never having lived or even visited the desert areas of the country, I cannot speak first hand. But it would be hard for me to do without trees and green gardens and lots of water everywhere I turn. The sign at the state line says, WELCOME TO ALABAMA THE BEAUTIFUL. The year I spent in Texas working during a bad drought in 1982, I almost cried when I crossed the state line and read this sign.....leaving behind the dust of Texas and seeing all the lush dark green vibrant with was very moving to my soul.

Never been to Kansas, but I have been to eastern Iowa, driving up US Hwy 61 most of the way...the old "blues" highway....just so I could see more of the geography not visible frorm the Interstates.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 3:35PM
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moccasinlanding, I have a lot of architect friends & my hubby is a I'm all set on the resources - it's more a matter of time I think & finding the right house that's in the right setting. We are considering building my dream home, but again it's a matter of the amount of energy I have doing it. I have certain "requirements" that I just can't seem to find altogether. I don't want to live in a development. I want a small wooded, very private lot. I'm sure it's out there & that I will find it. I would really like to live in our Finger Lakes region of NY, but of course THAT issue is commute time for hubby, especially in the winter. He's 9 yrs younger than me, so he's a lot further away from retirement than I am.

I like Sarah Susanka & she has been a breath of fresh air in architecture & her philosophy. But a lot of her houses are still too big. And she has really gotten into the sustainability thing, which is fine, but I just don't see her evolving in the thread of thought that I am. I've found 100's of floorplans on in the 1500-1700 sq ft range that I want...none are as good as mine LOL...but I enjoy looking at floorplans & architecture & houses for sale, etc. and I could see many of those homes integrated in what I have in mind as a "community" for the lack of a better word. It's kind of a hobby extension of my interior design work I guess.

With my illness & age, my interest has taken on a new dimension...beyond my own... with affordable & desirable - what I call the "New Desirable" housing for seniors as kitykat has expressed so well. We don't want to live in old people's homes or "retirement communities" as they are now. I'm in this exploration stage since I'm newly semi-retired in the last couple months, & I'm not sure how far I'll take this vision for me & others in the same situation. But I think it will be an interesting journey. And I love hearing that others are thinking like me & kitykat.

We may just start a revolution LOL ...or at least an evolution. We'll see...


    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:58PM
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kitykat - ah... SE gilbert. not too far from me. I shop at a few stores there - just on the border of QC. I'm in the Santans.
the dairy farms are being bought up by developers - have been for yrs. Most of G (newer) has been built on dairy farm land, orange groves or precious desert land. houses piled on houses. many about 12' apart on the sides. not much more in land in the back of them. put up fast - and cheap.

wasn't so long ago E of Gilbert rd / Chandler Blvd was all farm / desert - few houses. There were yrs that intersection was the last gas station til into town of QC.

had an old friend who sold off his dairy farm (maybe early 90's) - got blooming millions for it. was in about Riggs and McQueen. he died a few yrs back - was in late 80's or so. one of the old timers.

i grew up in the midwest. lots of green grass and trees. my 1st visit to the desert I knew I wanted to live here. went back, sold the house and moved W within the yr! never regretted it. I LOVE the desert dirt (not the storms tho) and plant life. and the mountains. every time I went back to visit I was shocked at the green - and humidity! and lack of mountains and blue skies. I couldn't wait to get back to the desert.

I even loved the heat. That has changed since I got sick tho. the heat is harder on me each yr. the last 13 yrs I've only had a/c in my bedroom - am so looking forward to having whole house a/c next summer. wasn't sure I'd survive this yr - but I did - lower temps have arrived again. thing is, I can't really tolerate the very cold either - that's anything under about 40 these days.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 4:37PM
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So I just saw this article, & it touches on what we've been talking about here...interesting. Maybe there ARE people out there in the industry thinking this way. I'm gonna call a business associate who is a high end home builder here & set up a lunch to talk about this idea. Home building is pretty much at a standstill here...we didn't even have a Homearama this year cause everyone was afraid to build houses that they couldn't sell. But anyway, I'm going to talk to her about going in this direction for her next project development.

(I love writing out my thoughts here cause it makes me commit to them instead of just tossing them aside for another day.)

The thing that I disagree with in this article is thinking that 2100 sq ft is a 'small' house. I'm gonna push Sue to go to the 1500-1700 sq ft route.

Do you guys think that this sq. footage is desirable??? I need feedback to take to Sue.


Here is a link that might be useful: What Homes Will look Like in 2015

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 9:46AM
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Jeana, found your link to be an interesting piece of work. And then my DH told me I needed to drive a few blocks from this house up in New England, to some prime land that was recently sold by heirs of a children's author. All around, really tall tall trees, it was a gorgeous hillside lot with many big rocks, etc.

Well, They moved some car-sized rocks up to the edge of the road, have hauled in many truckloads of red fill dirt, have cut down ALL THE TREES, and are putting in this monster of a mansion which has little cupolas and dog houses jutting out everywhere. What a disaster. And not far down the road is the most gorgeous little story book cape built by the original Boston cape builders which still looks pristine nestled among its trees and beautiful natural looking gardens. I sigh when I look at it.

So apparently not everyone is feeling the economic crunch, nor have they awakened from the McMansion nightmare. What a pity to drop that rotten egg amongst all the great New England homes. Class will tell, won't it.

I hope you find your business associate willing to listen to your ideas. They have to wake up and try a new approach to home building. And I think the 1500-1700 sq foot home is more in keeping with the needs of today's families. The 1500 sq foot home is 500 larger than ours, but then I did reclaim the Teahouse/garage as prime separate space. Almost 500 sq feet there especially if you count the loft.

I think people built garage apartments during WWII to house defense workers because so many homes of that era included them. Not a bad idea, really, but some cities are afraid it will increase population density, and won't issue permits for such spaces if it includes sewer, power, and water. I'd think a guest cottage much better than a guest ROOM. Especially if it is separated by a breezeway which keeps it as part of your main house. Something to think about to get around the permitting process.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 10:23PM
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I am enjoying the discussion here. It is interesting to hear others' ideas of a good retirement home. We have worked on this home, preparing it as our retirement home. The top-of-the line HVAC, improved insulation, easy-to-use kitchen with raised DW, ramp out front, ramp from the kitchen to the family room, user-friendly linoleum flooring. Next is a new roof, and I hope that we can afford a maintenance-fee metal one. They are used mostly in the retail buildings here, or on homes in the country, but I think metal would help with snow accumulation problems.

A retirement community was recently created nearby from an old (1960s), unproductive hotel! It was a sprawling space, with conference and convention rooms and a pool. Now it has retirement apartments ranging from totally independent to assisted living. There is an on-site Urgent Care that is open to the public, but also serves as a first-line emergency medical facility for the seniors from 8 am to 10 pm. Of course, you are living in an apartment building, no private green space at all. It does seem nicer than many of these places, with the glass atrium garden and pool, though. I guess I think of it as the place to go when we no longer can keep our own home.

Here is a link that might be useful: Windemere Park

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 10:29AM
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Nancy, for my money, having a private gardening space is a must. Even if it is just container plants, I want to be able to include living growing blooming things in my life.

However, the Windemere Park website tries to be all things for the retirement needs. It even walks your dog, and has storage available. It might be cheaper to have off site storage when you want to keep your large possessions, not that you'll ever use them again, but to pass along to your heirs when the time comes. IMHO, IF YOUR HEIRS WANT THEM, it is good to gift them before the very end of life. Give them a chance to say "thank you."

It is always a burden on your heirs to do away with your possessions anyway. And new homes will be smaller, and we all have horror stories of what happens to our homes when we make room for things relatives leave us in their wills!!!
We have hard enough time without factoring in THEIR CLUTTER.

In fact this might be the topic of another thread. So don't be answering it here. Look for it. MAKING ROOM FOR INHERITED STUFF

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 11:57AM
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I looked at my home builder's friend's website, just to make sure that they haven't yet built a community that I'm dreaming of. Almost to my chagrin, they haven't. They built a high-end community that I think THEY think is down-sized - but isn't. And the starting price is $600,000. It is almost a condo community, only the houses are separate. Yet they're still too big & lined up like soldiers.

I too want a little piece of land that accomodates a very small garden, a water feature, a fireplace & a seating area. I was at a home show a couple years ago that incorporated all this within a very small footprint with no grass. I would perhaps even like a Japanese rock garden with only container gardening added. It was perfect. This would be PLENTY of upkeep, but I would rather have THAT upkeep than an acre of grass. That would be my trade-off.

Tomorrow I'm going to post another article from another magazine. Gotta go to bed...


    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 1:47AM
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That Windemere Park looks great, but it's kind of pricey at least on the independent apartment end. Are they allowed to have cars at all?

I just heard of a subdivision of independent retirement houses in a nearby town that I am going to check out tomorrow. I want a smaller house, more energy efficient, but with enough space that I can have flowers and not be crammed next to a neighbor, AND I want a garage. That's a lot to ask of a retirement house which is probably why there aren't any around here.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 5:42PM
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Jeana, yeah, I see what you mean about the builder's friend's website not quite getting the point. It isn't always about actual square footage, but about including adequate space for different functions in the home.

I think many builders lost direction after the great room became the TV room, and they just dropped a dining table in there with it. A lot of space for just TV and eating. You could have the window walls inside the room which allow someone to stay within the family circle visually, and yet remain in a quiet zone. What Sarah Susanka calla an "away" space. Or maybe someone is listening to music while the family is watching TV. Or then homework is going on privately but not forcing that member to choose between time within the family circle and getting lessons done.

However, in my case, I'd want to have a way to get away privately, to do my sewing which gets all trashy looking, and I don't want anyone messing with my STUFF. And I need a place to do my not house painting. So that is why I really love my Teahouse. Where I can have my plants and birds and music all around me, play on the computer, paint on my primed canvases, sew or cut fabric on a huge rolling table 34 inches tall x 39 inches wide x 8 feet long. That Teahouse is the best part of our little old stucco cottage. Even with all the spaces taken inside it, the house is only 1000 sq feet at best. But it is beginning to LIVE BIG.

Jeana, when you find other items to share, do you want to make new threads? Feel free to do what you like. Make yourself to home, as they say. :)As you can tell, we LOVE new adventuresome ideas.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 10:36PM
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Will do...thank you. I've been working on a design project today - will try to get this other thread started tomorrow.

I'm feeling some great stuff here...


    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 12:12AM
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