Architectural designer Andrew Dratch and architect Jerry Gloss are with KGA Studio Architects in Boulder, Colo.
Courtesy KGA Studio Architects Architectural designer Andrew Dratch and architect Jerry Gloss are with KGA Studio Architects in Boulder, Colo.

My grandmother often said that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. At age 12 this meant nothing to me, but in light of current market conditions, it now makes sense. It’s easy to blame diminishing home sales on new competition, an ineffective sales staff, unfavorable pricing, or today’s No. 1 fall guy, the recession. But blame isn’t productive. As building consultant Al Trellis observed recently, “There is little we can do about the economic conditions, but we can specifically address the issue of product desirability.” Do people want what you’re building? There are still buyers out there and sales being closed. The trick is figuring out how to indulge them with creature comforts that feel luxurious at a price point buyers can afford.

Product design is typically crafted in one of two ways: from scratch, based upon a new concept with a specific buyer profile, or through an “additive” process where an original plan is tweaked over time. In a hot market, we see a great deal of additive design where plans are “up-sized” and “up-featured” without regard to true value assessment or a pricing threshold. That’s where we were in the years leading to the collapse.

In a cold market, when sales are tough and buyers are fixated on price, those additive plans become an albatross. Removing fluff and excess is necessary, but we also have to be careful not to strip the home of its charm and appeal.

The plans here illustrate a 2,906-square-foot model that’s been retooled for costs and updated with value-added spaces that improve the home’s livability. Simplifying the structure allowed the square footage to be slightly reduced by 40 square feet.

Hole in the Heart The two-story volume space in the middle of this plan eats up heating and cooling costs without providing usable floor space. And the standard, three-car garage footprint precludes the option of a smaller lot.
Courtesy KGA Studio Architects Hole in the Heart The two-story volume space in the middle of this plan eats up heating and cooling costs without providing usable floor space. And the standard, three-car garage footprint precludes the option of a smaller lot.
 

More With Less Shrinking the central atrium creates space for a play area and a laptop niche at the top of the stair landing. The laundry room that previously cluttered the owners entry off the garage is relocated upstairs next to the master closet.
Courtesy KGA Studio Architects More With Less Shrinking the central atrium creates space for a play area and a laptop niche at the top of the stair landing. The laundry room that previously cluttered the owners entry off the garage is relocated upstairs next to the master closet.

Original

The outside wall position of this fireplace blocks the view of the backyard and requires a full-height chimney, which adds cost.

Showy but nonfunctional, this extended foyer wastes space that could be put to better use elsewhere. The formal living room next to it is seldom used.

Outdoor living space is key, but this side patio isn’t useful. It’s too far from the kitchen and isn’t accessible from the family room.

Retooled

A new flex room can serve as a secondary study, guest suite, or master-down bedroom. The adjoining bath is better located for privacy.

An optional covered patio off the kitchen, nook, and grand room helps to expand the home’s usable living space.

The fireplace remains, but it’s moved to an interior wall. This eliminates the added masonry cost of building an outside chimney.

Rotating the kitchen allows for a small storage closet off the butler’s pantry that can be optioned as a mini wine cellar.

With a two-car garage as the baseline, this plan can be built on a smaller lot. The threecar version becomes man option for larger lots.

Courtesy KGA Studio Architects
Courtesy KGA Studio Architects

Original

Long circulation areas and diagonals create extra corners, making framing more complicated. One casualty is a master closet that’s on the smallish side.