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Archive for May, 2011

     Yeah, I know, this may be a little extreme and definitely absurd, but it does, in a sense, characterize who we were.  We had become gluttonous, self-absorbed and way too concerned with collecting stuff.  Now a days – things are entirely different. There has been a shift in our culture of monumental proportions.  We as a collective group are looking at things  through New Eyes  and it could not be more prevalently revealed than in the current design styles of our Homes.  In fact, I believe that what we are experiencing runs so much deeper than a mere trend.   We could actually be in the mist of an era of  epochal significance.  One that could potentially mark this  generation for centuries.  In the same way that  the 1920’s and the 1950’s had such a lasting  impact, so to will the 2010’s  & 2020’s find their own degree of resonance.

     Enter Transitional Design.  Literally – this is the design style that has been sweeping the nation.  Originally inspired as a response to decades of overindulgence.   Where having more was the answer to everything.  I believe that people were instantly drawn to the transitional movement because it was in step with the corrections that they were making in their own personal lives.  De-cluterring had become the mantra of individuals from every walk of life.  Everyone was looking for a way to simplify their lifestyles and rid themselves of the needless baggage that they had been accumulating over the years.  Initially, transitional design felt a lot like the modernist era of the past.  But then, a shift  took place.  It became very personal. 

     I could show a picture here, but, all you need to do is pick up any magazine that features homes and lifestyles and you will see what we are talking about.   Look to what the luxury home market is asking for, those that can afford to implement any form of lifestyle under the sun,  and you will see what is taking shape in the minds of individuals all across this great land.  So what is it?  Transitional design can loosely be defined as a mixture between traditional and contemporary styles.  It has been known as “updated classic”, “classic with a contemporary twist” and “new takes on old classics”.  It is a look where elegance is achieved through clean lines and simple yet stylistic detailing.  One that is stripped clean of superficiality.  It is an un-cluttered design style where everything has its place.  There is not a hint that extra do-dads remain hidden behind closed doors.   It is one that is well-organized.   It embodies our true spirit that lives free of “stuff”.  And through this heightened level of elegant detailing, purposeful organization and  specific personalization, something greater has begun to emerge.  These spaces are beginning to become authentic to the core.

     This is where I believe that this movement will gain lasting power.  Homes will become highly personalized.  People will be less interested in filling their homes with random stuff.  Instead, they will be very intentional in sculpting their homes into something that is a true reflection of who they are.  They will spend as much time contemplating items to be removed as they will in deciding on new pieces to introduce.  Homes will reflect our new lifestyles.  They will be “light”.  They will be “Lean”.  they will be places of creativity, inspiration, strength,  and integrity.  Everything Right Now is colliding into a masterful depiction of this meaning of Home.  The Green Movement will transform into what is expected.  The banking reformation will establish responsiblity at every level .  People will be encouraged from the real estate community to express their individual tastes.    Thus, Authentic Living will be the lasting result.

     25, 50 to 100  years from now, when we have lost our way again.  We will harken back to a time of substance.  One that will allow us to re-group and gather our bearings.  And, I believe that this era will be our inspiration.  That alone makes this a truly exciting time to be in this real estate, architectural, design, home building and remodeling industry.  So, what do we name it?  What will we call this time of refined elegance?  This time of responsible prosperity?  This time where substance matters?  This time of Authentic Living?

     I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts.

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The End of Schlock

    Schlock.  What a crazy word.  Yiddish, I think.  The dictionary has it as:  – noun – Something of cheap or inferior quality; junk.  Or – adjective – Cheap, trashy; a schlock store.  I came across this term while reading The Elegant Solution by Matthew May.  I became hooked on his work after reading “In Pursuit of Elegance”  If you are the least bit interested in design at all then this book absolutely needs to be on your shelf.  Fascinating Read!

     Anyway, this fun, simple and descriptive word has spurred some considerable thought and conversation about the emerging direction of our remodeling, homebuilding and real estate community.  The world has certainly changed and what is taking shape is very refreshing.  We’ve all heard the debate and I know I’ve spoken a ton about the events that led to our downfall.  Of course, everything becomes a lot clearer when looking back upon it.  But what is Cool is that today’s homeowner’s are starting to ask for more.  As a builder and one who has put out a fair amount of Spec Inventory, I have been well aware of the mantra preached within the homebuilding realm that you should never build what you want, but rather, what the client is asking for.  The trouble with this approach is that most clients were following the wrong direction.  They had been convinced that their homes had better match or “compare” well with all of their neighbors and this became the primary motivator.  So the focus was set on acquiring the correct amount of options.  Items on the checklist that will bring the greatest ROI.  From the builders perspective, in order to introduce these new features, and stay price competitive, another area would need to be cut.  Things like HVAC systems, floor coverings and windows were all on the cutting room floor.  We looked anywhere and everywhere to trim costs.  Just ask the poor painter or framer what he felt about those days.  It was not uncommon for some of these guys to actually lose money to have the privilege of working for certain contractors.  Check out the latest blog post by our friends at Energy Vanguard to hear their take on the topic.

     But today is a New Day.  Buyers are customizing their homes.  Actually making them a reflection of their true identities rather than that of the bulk of generic housing shoppers of the past.  They are also becoming highly educated.  They want to know that they are making quality decisions.  They want to know that the design will remain satisfying for years to come.   And, they want to know that the project will provide them pleasure.  Ultimately, it needs to be sustainable. 

     One way to know for sure that this is actually taking hold is to look at what the major product manufacturers are doing.  Let me shine the spotlight on Marvin Windows for a second.  They have developed, and patented, the most amazing new manufacturing process that will enable these windows to virtually last forever.  The tensile strength of the material used for the frames is actually greater than that of steel.  The expansion and contraction rate is equal to that of glass.  That is 833% less than vinyl; and for that matter PVC.  Because the material is so stable, they are able to apply the most durable finish on the planet to them.    

This technology is so revolutionary, that Marvin is planning on converting all of their lines over to this type of construction, including their highest architectural series, in the very near future.  That is where the true testimony begins.  That is where aesthetics and sustainability come together.  I absolutely love this approach because now one of the most beautiful lines of windows out there is being built to the highest standards of performance available on the market today.  To learn more about Marvin and this technology, please visit the good people at www.avimarvin.com.

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Elegance in Mind

Surprisingly Powerful    

“A great piece of art is composed not just of what

 is in the final piece, but equally what is not.  It is the

discipline to discard what does not fit – to cut out what

might have already cost days or even years of effort -

that distinguishes the truly exceptional artists and

marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a

novel, a painting, a company, or most important

of all, a Life”.

                                                                     Jim Collins

     I would be remiss if I did not  add a Home to the list here.  For me, a Well Composed Home is by its very nature Elegant.  I also believe that you can not have a Well Composed Home without possessing a Well Composed Life.  The two go hand in hand.  And Yes, you will probably find me posting comments and interests surrounding the Well composed Life on this site in the very near future as well. 

     One of the really cool things about my current role where I am employed is that I get to assist the clients with the development of their project.  In doing so, I get the privilege of viewing a lot of Homes.  Some are truly exquisite to go through.  Everything  is connected.  Each room is tied together with the next and the owner’s true personality is reflected through and through.  For most of the homes though…Not so much.  They rarely possess a continuity of style.  Multiple themes are played out and the home lacks identity.  The spaces tend to be cluttered, confusing and completely lacking of any connection with its owner. 

     I think the true nemesis here is not the individual occupant but rather a system or “checklist” that we created so that we could easily compare one house to another.  We have fallen for the lie that in order to protect our investment and to make sure we get the maximum return, we must build our home with everything that our neighbor’s has.  You should not express your own personality at all because the future buyer may not approve.  So, we adhere to the 5 bedroom, 4 1/2 bath, bonus room, keeping room, media room, office, 3 car identical model as every other house in the cul-de-sac. 

     You would think that this drama would not be nearly as prevalent in the remodeling realm, yet somehow, this doctrine still governs a lot of the design decisions out there.  What’s worse, in attempting to make the home appealing to everyone, it will inevitably have a tendency to miss the mark all together.  Two projects immediately come to mind.  Both homes having been built in the ’60s, 3 bedroom / 2 bath.  Both well maintained.  One magnificently composed.  Each room feeds off of the ambiance of the adjoining one.  The architecture, furniture, artwork, accessories…they all speak to the personality of the owners.  Everything is in its place and yet it is not sterile in any way.  In fact, it is very comfortable.  Regardless of ones personal taste, I would think that anyone could see themselves living in such a space.   The other home, is somewhat “typical”.  Nothing wrong with it, it just seems to blend in.  In working through the design process, a lot of concern has been placed on how this option or that one would play out in a re-sale environment.  We have struggled with making the home function properly in order to obtain the “most desired” mixture of elements.  Hopefully we can steer it in such a way as to bring everything into cohesion once it’s complete.  I have faith in these owners. 

     Creating a Well Composed Home, as in any form of art, takes a lot of skill.  It requires a well-trained eye.  It demands a solid understanding of the owners true self.  And, it takes a lot of courage to allow the Home to assume its authentic identity.  I believe that it is safe to regard the owners of the first home as true Artists.  They knew not only what to include, but, more importantly, what to leave out.   Absolutely Elegant.

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