Now that he had perfected one castle, the builder thought it wise to build 100 more, of identical beauty, to attract prosperous citizens. To that end, he drained much of the king's treasury, and barely kept his head. Best Defense: Stay Current.

Stale Won't Sell

Design evolves. Some ideas last, but many become dated, and that is a sure path to extinction.

By Christina B. Farnsworth

Stale design sells about as well as stale bread. Outdated architectural designs lead to serious declines in sales and reputation and to extinction.

But there are other hidden risks related to not keeping up with design trends that endanger builders, among them is the threat of being shut out as a preferred builder in the newest master plans, missing unserved market niches or failing at them, and being excluded from proprietary energy programs.

"One of the ironies of design," says architect Bill Kreager, "is that details considered old-fashioned sometimes return. The architect's basic responsibility to the builder," he says, "is to thoroughly understand the market."

Fatal FlawsContents

J. Robert White of Scheurer Architects studies home remodeling projects as inspiration for some of the best-selling, niche-targeted designs in the nation. "What owners are doing to their existing homes gives insight into what they might want in a new home," he says. His advice to some of his builder clients is to leave the room names off their plans because flexibility rules today.

One area of flexibility is the garage. Given the right plan, the space can house either a car or a person--serving as guest suite, home office, or whatever else, based on the homeowners' needs.

10 Biggest Design Snafus

1. Streetscapes with little architectural variation2. Garage doors that line up like toy soldiers dominating the streetscape

3. Poorly proportioned shutters as applied decoration unable to protect the windows they frame

4. Bland colors and materials

5. Too many colors and materials

6. Ignoring outdoor-living potential

7. Boxy, small-room floor plans

8. Inflexible floor plans

9. Too much space wasted on circulation

10. View of any toilet from a public room, especially if seen by visitors from the front door

Kreager says today's successful plans have generous open spaces rather than chopped-up little rooms. But he cautions that national trends must be tempered by regional variations. What works in Seattle might not work in Chicago.

It is also important to note how lifestyle has changed. Kitchens, for example, Kreager says, "need convenience-food preparation areas." Builders are now grasping the importance of wiring for connectivity, but Kreager reminds us that there should be an extra empty wiring conduit in place to make it easier to run whatever comes next.