Trend reports from most media outlets—this one included—usually advise builders and consumers on what types of features are hot and desirable, and what they should use in their homes. This is not that kind of trend report.

We thought we would take a different approach this time, so we called up some of our old (and new) architect and builder friends and asked them what kinds of features and products they are avoiding in their homes.

“Recent residential real estate market volatility has revealed quite a few more ‘don’ts’ than we had previously encountered,” says architect Bill Moore, president of Sprocket Design-Build in Denver. “The current market has really not tolerated or rewarded many features, and all buyers and appraisers are largely concerned with is square footage–based value, which is undoubtedly bad for architecture.”

Indeed, the market has already killed many of the “custom” features that became almost standard during the boom when everyone had access to easy credit. The days of frivolous add-ons are gone (for now, anyway), but what about those things that builders and architects do every day? For example, some architects and builders are advocates of separating the garage from the house. It frees up the space you need to heat and cool, and it reduces the risk of exhaust contamination in the house. But this will be a hard sell. Home buyers are accustomed to attached garages and will give them up when you pry them from their cold, dead hands.

And there are more. We’re not here to judge, but we are almost certain that you are using some of the “don’ts” listed here either because you don’t agree with these professionals, the features don’t bother your buyers, or they are acceptable in your market.

Either way, we’d love to hear from you. Are there design features you are avoiding in your market? What do you think of our list? Drop us a line in the comments section and let us know.

What Not to Do

Bill Moore, AIA
Sprocket Design-Build
Denver
www.sprocketdb.com

Gadgets. “This would include additional appliances and systems that take a fair amount of energy and planning but return very little usefulness. Included in this category are in-wall vacuum systems, built-in espresso makers (especially in areas other than the kitchen), beer tap dispensers, independent ice-makers, extraneous TVs everywhere.”

Using every green product. “In a rush to be green, many folks are buying silly products and incorporating systems, when thoughtful design would be much more appropriate and green….  A recycled product is not nearly as green as not using a product at all. A smaller home is a greener home.”

Roof Decks. “These should be used sparingly and judiciously. The cost to install properly and the risk they create to a builder, architect, and homeowner are considerable.”

Beware the spiral stair. “These look great in architectural renderings and lend a bit of charm, but they really function poorly and once owners live with one, I have found that their opinion of it degrades rapidly.”




Donald Jacobs, FAIA
JZMK Partners
Irvine, Calif.
www.jzmkpartners.com

Fireplaces in the master bath and master bedroom. “Rarely, when installed, have I ever heard of anyone using them more than a couple of times in the first year and then never after that.”




Ed Binkley, AIA
Ed Binkley Design
Oviedo, Fla.
www.edbinkleydesign.com.

Powder room close to kitchen or dining room. “Not very appetizing for diners or users.”

Direct view of master bed wall from living/public section of house. “This necessitates the door staying closed or the bed staying made and the room straight.”

Inadequate corner space. “Window jamb minimum of 8” from a corner for window treatments or 18” to 24” if furnishing is to be in the corner.”

Overlapping door swings. “Use more pockets with good hardware. They don’t require one door to shut for another to open.”

No daylight visible from front door. “Seeing daylight will lead you through spaces.”

Stairs that bottom out at front door. “Just plain bad chi.”

Bed walls on same wall as access door. “Always have bed wall opposite the door.”

Oversized tubs in master bath. “You get much more use of an oversized shower, especially if it has access to an outdoor private courtyard.”

Too many places to eat. “Do we really need a dining room, breakfast room, breakfast bar, and outdoor dining areas? Delete or put spaces to better use.”

Oversized kitchens. “It’s not just about the triangle. It’s also about the work zone. Understand how the kitchen should work for multiple cooking and entertaining functions. Pay attention to the Food Network.”




Peter L Pfeiffer, FAIA, LEED AP
Barley & Pfeiffer Architects
Austin, Texas
www.barleypfeiffer.com.

Cars in your house. “Attached garages are a major cause of poor indoor air quality, especially in homes with central air conditioning and forced air heating.”

Chemicals (such as those automatically dispensed via the built-in-the-wall termite and insect repellant systems). “Stop using chemical pretreatment for termites under the foundations. I strongly suggest permanent termite barriers in the form of a stainless steel mesh such as the Australian TermiMesh system."

Commercial stoves and over-sized exhaust hoods. “The products of combustion from a gas stove do affect those with multiple chemical sensitivities, so look into the resurrection of an old 1970s idea—the induction cooktop, which is closer to 85% efficient in terms of usefully applying its input energy into heating your food.  Also, oversized exhaust hoods can depressurize a home causing back-drafting down chimney flues, etc.—so you could end up replacing those fishy kitchen odors with bad air sucked in from your garage or down the chimney.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.