Thursday, July 01, 2010

the spectrum of possibility in architecture: one afternoon's adventure in browsing

Note: the opinions expressed below are entirely those of the author, and represent her opinion and viewpoint on things architectural. They are not a standard of measurement for anything other than her own opinion.
Once upon a time my husband declared that we would live in our house forever--he'd be carried out feet first. Determined to stay put and make this our permanent, forever home, gosh durn it! He has repeated that assertion on multiple occasions, and after the first couple of times I learned to just let him talk. He gets notions, some of which are admirable, some of which are wishful, and others of which can sometimes be downright frightening.

Lately, however, issues of health, and particularly of arthritis, have him rethinking the long term plan. Property maintenance, in particular. It's always interesting to me that when he reaches certain decisions he announces them as foregone conclusions. Not, "I've been thinking--my health isn't getting any better and caring for the yard and such is going to get more difficult. What would you think about moving to a place where maintenance is provided?" Our communication issues aren't the topic of this post, but I'm laying some groundwork here.

I'm not opposed to the idea of such a move. It has its drawbacks in terms of how I would like to experience "home," but there are advantages, as well. We are not in a position, financially, to do much about moving at this time, but exploring, discovering, and learning what it is that we want now can be of use down the road when we are ready.

Yesterday we were at a friend's house that is in a community of mostly retired people. The homes are very nice, there are several layouts from which to choose, and the prices are reasonable. We decided to drive through the community and scope out what was for sale, noting attributes like location within the community, etc., as we did so. We actually found a unit well situated, and with the floor plan that we like, that is for sale. Send a miracle along!

We left that place and drove to another area that isn't retirement-focused, but has condos and town houses. This is a golf community, which makes for some interesting settings. The "Villas" were attractive, if you overlook the fact that the garage doors face the street (this is something I learned to abhor from an early age--it's not personal). There were essentially no front yards to speak of, and except for a back deck of modest proportions and a spit-length of grass, no back yard either. The topography in this community is rolling in places and steep in others, which means that some homes looked out their back windows to a steep bank (which in some cases was reinforced with concrete---lovely!). This is a non-view, and in the winter? Yuck.
The Villages at Five Oaks
The "Villages," however, were better off. These are billed as luxury town homes, and with a few still under construction we were able to walk through. The photo above demonstrates the architectural leaning. Not a bad exterior, and some of the interior was nice, but on balance had too many drawbacks. The full, two-story unit, however, available for viewing as a model, was very nice. It was too late in the day to go inside, but we looked through windows and liked what we saw. A lot. Sadly, beyond affordable for us, but dreaming isn't a bad thing, necessarily.

As we left there and drove through the rest of the area we happened upon this monstrous, 10, 070 square foot "gem," above, listed at $1.295 million. We had to check it out. It is clearly still under construction when you get up close and personal, and especially when you look through the windows, as we did. And we were appalled by what we saw. Note the gaping darkness of a drive entrance at the rear of the driveway. That darkness leads to a courtyard, off of which are two, two-car garages that face each other. The two tall, narrow windows on the right are part of one garage.
As you pull into the drive/courtyard, this doorway is on the left.I took the picture from this angle for interest, but it disguises, somewhat, the narrow width of the door. It may be difficult to see the narrow width of the stoop and steps, as well, but armed with knowledge of building codes, Ken whipped out his trusty tape measure and, sure enough, the door and steps don't meet code. Go figure. I know I wouldn't want to navigate those steps while carrying something. Brick stairs aren't friendly to shins and knees. And then there's the funky pipe descending from above the door stoop. We think that may be to vent a gas-fueled lamp over the doorway, but other than that, its presence was a mystery to us.

Perhaps the design of this entrance was to give it an "old world" feel, like the old world nature of a driveway/courtyard that suggests the conversion of a former carriage house, or even stable. That's my guess, anyway, especially when you consider the "bricked in" look shown in the other picture. Personally I dislike a wall without windows, so that vast, bonus room space without light on this side lacks appeal for me.  Then again, maybe the architect assumed no one wanted to look out onto pavement below, or the garage across the way. We will likely never know.
Design elements indoors left us stumped, as well. Consider this space at the back of the house, with stairs leading to the aforementioned bonus room over the rear garage (photo taken through the window).  For starters, there's the asymmetrical location of the stairs vis-a-vis the wall and ceiling. If you're going to decorate your crown molding and draw attention to it, make us ooh and aah, not go, "OMG, what were they thinking?" And then, of course, there's the butt end of some other space jutting into the side of the stairway with the exposed "ledge" above it. Architectural Digest won't be calling any time soon. Don't you want to spend more than a million dollars on this beauty? I won't belabor the rest, but if you really want a treat, check out the pictures posted on the Realtor website (above, where the price is noted). It's a lesson in how NOT to market a home for sale! I've considered contacting the company to offer my services to photograph the interior. 

I know all of this has been absolutely fascinating, but since it occupied so much of my day yesterday I just thought I'd share. Think of it as coming along for the ride. Maybe this afternoon we'll go back to the model we can't afford and look on the inside. I find incentives very helpful in working toward goals.

Have a good one. It's almost Friday.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

Odd indeed. I often find it fascinating what some people consider aesthetically pleasing are things that make me scratch my head and go, "Huh?" I'm with you on this one... really odd design.


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