To greet you on your return from what we hope has been summer splendor, our September issue focuses on winning design and designers.
Thanks to our resident design mavens Amy Albert, Shelley D. Hutchins, and Jennifer Goodman, as well as extended family members Bruce D. Snider and Cheryl Weber, this issue is chock-full of ideas that play well, not just among a jury panel, but in real-world sites, actual circumstance, and among flesh-and-blood people who live, work, worship, and play in those places.
This is how it should be. Projects need to be the soul and lifeblood of BUILDER; they come of you, our audience, and they stand both in a moment and out of time, like a glimpse around the corner. It’s what you have grown to expect and should continue to demand of BUILDER. The magazine should provide a stronger-than-gut sense of what’s coming and what should be brought into the field of focus in the form of ideas, innovation, important developments, opportunity, and improvement.
Let’s look at what presently consumes our field of focus. It’s a big question wrapped in a two-word package: What next? We’ll address the question, but not before we call to mind a sharp little turn of phrase from a best-selling novel we managed to read during our own summer reprieve, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. (Yes, we’re a year behind the rest of the world in many things.) Among a handful of lines that nag after reading the book, like a sinfully delicious chocolate treat, is this one: “The magic point where every idea and its opposite are equally true.”
The ring of this phrase could hardly be more felicitous for home building’s trillion-dollar-plus ecosystem of stakeholders.
The question of what’s next has an answer, but its opposite may well be equally true. What’s inarguable, in our minds, is that recovery is happening. One need only look at the fact that the economy has added more than 200,000 full-time payroll positions for more than 12 consecutive months, and that the housing economy has delivered at least an equal number of homeowner-borrowers from the bondage of an “underwater” mortgage during the past two years.
As a result, more people earn enough to buy a home, and more people have equity enough to sell a home. Problem is, both market conditions and new qualified mortgage and ability-to-repay bank regulations have, in effect, shut out a lot of people from getting a mortgage to buy a home. While part of the sector has healed, part of it is still massively disabled.
So, the housing market’s been quick and highly skilled at meeting the needs of discretionary buyers, but not so fast at responding to those who have to cobble resources from more than one place to make the dream of homeownership work.
Again, then, what next? Are millennials a pent-up homeownership market waiting to happen in a big way, or are they a tamped-down generation who’ll make rentership the new American dream? With 77 million Gen Yers, both statements could be equally true. And what happens when, as tends to occur in the lives of young men and women, “boy meets girl?”
What will now slow dramatically are further increases in house prices, which have worked to surface so many people from upside-down mortgages. But as the economy continues to put more people on payrolls, this most fundamental of fundamentals will build momentum on the demand side.
Which circles us back to design. When architect Michael Woodley talks about the “MoHo” trend in home design, he’s referring to “modern-homey,” an idea and its opposite baked into one. When we begin to see economy, density, and sustainability sync up, we’re seeing what had been considered to be opposites attracting. When we look at how design works to counteract malaise, mediocrity, or paralysis, we can appreciate how it belongs in our peripheral vision as a critical part of the answer to what’s next.