Thursday, 25 June 2009

It's Time to Build!

I attended an online seminar ("Stimulus and the Housing Market") yesterday put on by Professional Builder Publications. Here are a few interesting tidbits.

  1. First time home buyers can still get an $8,000.00 tax credit if you purchase the home by December 1 of 2009. There is speculation that this credit may be extended or even expanded to non-first time buyers. Let's hope.
  2. For those thinking of remodeling tax credits are available for window and door replacements and / or other energy improving strategies. You can get more information on this at
  3. The Home Affordability Index is at a record high. This means that construction costs are low and financing is still relatively cheap. If you are in a position to build or buy, this is truly the time to do it.
  4. Consumer confidence is just beginning to improve.
  5. Single Family housing is expected to begin modest recovery soon. Multi-Family is expected to lag for a while.
  6. Existing home inventory is still high, but it is going down. This is a good sign.
  7. U.S. construction spending is expected to start increasing by end of 09' or early 10'.
So what is the point? Now is really a good time to buy, build or remodel. Low consumer confidence and low demand are keeping construction costs down while financing costs are still relatively low. This is a good combination if you are in a position to take action. Once recovery starts to happen you know where construction costs are going to go.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Small but Unique, Cheap but Nice House Plans

I was discussing home design trends with a builder friend of mine the other day. He said to me that "small is the new big". This is true because people are demanding much more value in their purchases now. But they also still want quality. So how can designers and builders deliver on this? Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Build it small - but liveable. A floor plan needs to be smart in order to be functional while remaining compact. Every space should be analyzed for efficiency. Better hire a pro.
  • Keep it simple. Roof form and wall massing should be as simple as possible. This reduces labor costs and additional materials.
  • Keep it square. A square plan has much less surface area than more complicated plan shapes. That means less roofing, wall and foundation materials.
  • Keep it square 2. Square plans have less jogs. And jogs are transitions that cost money. Think about it. It is faster to build one long wall than 3 or 4 separate walls that total the same overall length.
  • 1 for 2 special. One big window is less expensive than 2 small ones. Labor and materials included.
  • Get rid of the ginger bread. A quality design does not need ornamentation but a bad design does. We call it "putting earrings on a pig".
  • Eliminate redundancy. Most folks don't really need 3 places to eat (kitchen island, kitchen nook and formal dining room). Most folks don't use a formal living room if they have a main floor family room. It's not the 1950's anymore Beaver.
  • Use the basement. You have to build that foundation anyway (up north anyway), so you might as well incorporate it into your plan.
  • Use the garage. Many times we will use the space above the garage as a master suite or family room space.
  • Question everything. Look at every building system and every component critically. Ask yourself if there is a better choice to be made. Make sure it's functional as well as beautiful and economical. If it's functional but ugly - I don't call that value.
  • Plan ahead. Get your plan completely right before you build. Work with a pro. If you get the plan right then you can build without changes. Changes during construction always cost time and money.

  • Ok, I'll stop. There are a million other great ideas. I'd like to hear some of yours. Please comment.

SEHD and Southern Living House Plans

Simply Elegant Home Designs is announcing a new relationship with Southern Living House Plans. Southern Living will be marketing two plans as seen below.

Ron Brenner, President of Simply Elegant Home Designs had this to say -
" We are so excited about the opportunity to work with Southern Living House Plans. What we are trying to do here at Simply Elegant is to make truly good home design more economically achievable for the general public, and we see this new relationship with Southern Living as a great way to do that. We think our designs are special, and we want to get them out there for as many people to see as possible. The additional exposure we receive through SL will be more valuable than many press releases."

The Marine Farmhouse is being featured this week (week of June 22nd) on the Southern Living Custom Builder program at

Paper Architecture

"Paper Architecture" is a term in our industry that has traditionally referred to buildings that we design that never get built. It seems in this current economic situation there is an awful lot of paper architecture going on.

Over the weekend I ran across this more literal example of "Paper Architecture" - that being the art of creating an object out of a single piece of paper. A single sheet of paper is cut and folded into an intricate miniature structure. Here are a couple of examples:

Before the final design is finished, something like 20 to 30 (sometimes even more) prototypes are made by Ingrid Siliakus. Drawing paper architecture designs to Ingrid is as building: first one layer, with a single shape, will be drawn and than layer after layer are added. Read More:

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

New Modern Cottage House Plan

Simply Elegant Home Designs is offering a new house plan called the "Scandia Modern Cottage". The Scandia Modern Cottage was inspired by a recent visit to an infamous Scandinavean furniture store. On that visit this designer was struck by how small spaces could be made to be very efficient and liveable and in fact feel spacious. So I decided to set out to create a design with those same qualities.

The resulting design exhibits it's Scandinavean influences both inside and out. The exterior is characterized by simple gable and shed forms, strong and simple detailing and modern window styles / patterns. The design offers an open main floor with connected spaces. The two bedrooms and a shared bath fit under the gable roof lines on the second floor. At 1178 square feet this is the smallest plan that Simply Elegant now offers. The images below depict the design.

scandia modern cottage - front elevation

scandia modern cottage - view from back yard

You can obtain more information on this plan and others at Simply Elegant Home Designs.

Monday, 8 June 2009

New Tube House Lands from Outer Space!

I ran across this posting the other day at the following link:

The home was designed by Craig Konyk of Brooklyn-based Konyk Architecture. Konyk’s submission contemplates a single-room structure with bold red neoprene rubber walls that would serve as a retirement home for the senior citizen that frequents Atlantic City’s casinos and other attractions.
exterior axonometric view

you have to love the contextual design
be careful not to fall in that hole on your way to the front door

I am really struggling with what to say about this house, so I won't bother. I guess a picture is better than a thousand words.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

New House Plan from Simply Elegant Home Designs

Simply Elegant Home Designs is offering a new house plan called the "Hudson Farmhouse". The Hudson Cottage offers an open main level floor plan with connected spaces that are perfect family gatherings. The master suite and a home office sit "around the corner" from the main floor public spaces. Two additional bedrooms and a shared bath occupy the second floor. At almost 2700 square feet this is the largest plan that Simply Elegant now offers, yet it still retains the modest massing and scale of a traditional farmhouse design. This was achieved through careful 3 dimensional computer modeling and study. The images below depict the design.

You can obtain more information on this plan and others at Simply Elegant Home Designs.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Making quick work of a reroofing project

I just ran across this interesting You Tube video.  This illustrates a nifty new way of removing shingles from a roof.  Aside from this being absolutely crazy, one has to marvel at the skill of the bucket operator.

PS - don't try this at home!