BEAUTY, WE'VE ALL BEEN TOLD SINCE CHILDHOOD, IS in the eye of the beholder. Thus everyone is entitled to an opinion on the quality of residential architecture, from hard-boiled journalists, to soccer parents driving through a new-home community on a Saturday morning, to professionals who have walked models to Pluto and back.
The irony is that creating a beautiful or simply irresistible home, as our cover story suggests, requires a great deal of professional aptitude from several disciplines. That's why we sought out special talents in the fields of architecture, construction, land planning, technology, and merchandising to glean their trade secrets for this month's special feature. We hope our coverage inspires you to strive for beauty in every home you build.
BENEATH THE SKIN There's way more to an appealing project than meets the eye. Sure, the architecture needs to incorporate proportions that create a sense of beauty: The windows need to be in the right places, the building forms should flow together, the roof needs to work, and the architectural elements can't overwhelm. But the home also needs to make sense in its environment, the landscape, and the community.
For 10 years we've been telling people in the pages of BUILDER that people don't buy houses, they buy into communities. People decide where they want to live based on trees, amenities, proximity to work and shopping, and who already lives there before they decide what house they want to live in. Green space—parks, trails, undisturbed landscape—plays a huge role in these decisions.
You may have only one chance (with exterior architecture) to make a first impression, but great interiors can seal the deal by unleashing a latent lifestyle dream. That magic occurs, more often than not, when interior designs are developed in conjunction with the architecture. Merchandisers can enhance living spaces, especially when given an opportunity to review window locations and room orientations.
Great impressions can go up in smoke with the wrong product selections. What happens when your target buyer, impressed by a great Arts and Crafts façade on a $750,000 home, realizes the interior doors are hollow-core? Or that the faucet in the model bathroom is as cheap as the one he just replaced at home? Or that the beauty of the kitchen cabinets is only skin deep?
DOLLARS AND SENSE Good design doesn't have to cost more, but it nearly always sells faster. Creating the simply irresistible home is mostly a matter of getting proportions and material selections right. The best housing is almost always touched by architects given the latitude to do more than value engineer. Architects are as important to the success of a project as plumbers and system integrators.
As a builder, your interests should align with those of the customer. As the legendary architect Jack Bloodgood used to say, people aspire to a home that they can return to each night with pride, one that their children, once grown, will be proud to point to as the place where they grew up. They not only want that—they deserve it.
You know good design when you see it. The building proportions, the location of the windows, the angle of the roof—they all just seem to work. The lot feels connected to its surroundings. The floor plan conjures up a way of life you now realize you always wanted. Not only could you imagine living here, but you could take pride in having your family and friends come to visit.
Maybe you saw that Newsweek article a year and a half ago about how great design has infiltrated nearly everything we buy, from the towels designed by Martha Stew-art at Kmart to the faucet designed by Michael Graves. The one big exception, the article noted, was the most expensive thing that most people ever buy—a home.