Monthly Archives: January 2012

Colorful homes (or why beige is no longer a color)

Most suburban developments consist of architecture filled with color. These colors range from sand to taupe, khaki to cream, and for the more exotic locales cafe au lait to ecru. But you have to believe that sooner or later we’re going to run out of synonyms for beige.

Color reveals a specific taste, a focused mindset on how a person views the world, an attraction to an attitude and lifestyle. The problem with color is that not everyone shares those tastes, views, and attitudes. We typically live in a particular home for a short duration, so when the house goes up for sale a significant amount of money can be lost be the seller simply because a prospective buyer doesn’t like the color.

(Side note: If Stalin was brought back from the dead, and then dropped off in the middle of a typical suburban neighborhood filled with beige homes and conservatively colored minivans in every driveway, would he have thought the Soviets won the Cold War?)

Color is light, and light is good. Like them or not, the owners of these homes (another link) should be commended on their bravery for revealing their tastes, views, and attitudes.

(Another side note: I have to believe the Heidelberg Project belongs to Flea.)

Starbucks and shipping containers

Finally, the two things that the U.S. has too many of–Starbucks and shipping containers–have finally combined into one.

Using shipping containers can possibly be a future trend for small businesses (or large businesses that require a small commercial footprint like a Starbucks) for its low cost, its potential for being mobile, and its ability to be placed almost anywhere (think of a coffee shop or a drive-thru grocery stand in a mall parking lot).

A mobile architecture for a mobile society.

Do-it-yourself architectural dialogue

The Holy Grail. The Ark of the Covenant. The missing sock from the dryer.

Man has embarked on many a journeys seeking the truth. For the last fifteen years I have also endured a search for truth, although honestly the amount of effort I’ve put into this search is equal to Indiana Jones looking for his seat in a movie theater.

The truth I sought did not relate to a higher being, or the origin of my existence, or even that really nice fleecy sock that’s been lost (the kind of dark brown one with the nice stitching–yeah, that one). No, the truth I sought was why architects sound so stupid.

If you ever wanted to speak like an architect and sound somewhat intelligible without stating anything meaningful, then the following is for you.

(Warning: A person saying these statements within a medical environment [such as a hospital, clinic, or daytime soap opera] may subject the speaker to a series of post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing. Consult someone wearing a black turtleneck and black-framed glasses before using this sheet. Common side effects include perplexing stares from people, humiliation, and the enjoyment of music by groups that no one has ever heard of before. Discontinue using this sheet if you experience self-doubt, an urge to roll-up in the fetal position, or a strong desire to spend your entire paycheck in a bookstore.)

 

 

 

 

Less stuff

Less stuff–the answer to all of our woes? So the argument made in this presentation is that less stuff leads to more happiness. Now the cynic out there may take a poll asking one hundred homeless people to figure out the level of their happiness, and then graph that level of happiness and compare that with “home-advantaged” people. And that comparison may lead to the discovery that homeless people, although they own fewer things but consume a more considerable amount of soup, are not any happier than other people. And even if they were happier the cynic may try to hypothesize their happiness is based on a soup-induced delusion with no real connection to reality. But that’s the cynic (and probably the lobbyists for the Campbell Soup Company).

The optimist (who also enjoys a nice heaping bowl of Campbell’s Soup, especially the 100% natural Select Harvest line) would argue that the fewer things a person owns, the less of a slave he or she is to those things. We’re conditioned to think, through marketing and peer pressure, that our desires are actually our requirements. We HAVE to own $90 jeans; we HAVE to give our loved ones a Lexus for Christmas; we HAVE to use up a hundred percent of what the bank agreed to loan us to buy the biggest house that we can’t really afford.

Less isn’t about living a homeless lifestyle with homeless things, eating nothing but soup (unless it’s Campbell’s Soup Slow Kettle Style soups, which carefully combine unique ingredients in creative ways). Living less is living with more quality; living a non-disposable lifestyle.

Now this non-disposable lifestyle doesn’t quite align itself with the capitalistic economy we currently have. (How can a tire company survive if it sold tires that lasted 200,000 miles?) But that’s okay. It’s just something we as a society will deal with (and thrive with) when we’re happy.

Home of the future — 2015 edition

Despite there being a whole lot of pessimism in the architecture and construction industries today (thanks a lot Mayans), we will someday need new homes built. I know it sounds like a farfetched idea that somehow the current building stock won’t last us for another hundred years, but these new homes will need to be built adapting to current trends in design and energy use.

I came across this article on Yahoo! about homes built in 2015. Yes, 2015 sounds like this futuristic time when cars will fly, all diseases will be cured, and people will be able to share their music libraries between two different iPods. How different will our homes be in this future?

Probably the most obvious, due to many outside forces, is that homes will be smaller. Less to heat, less to cool, less to clean, less volume to fill up with crap, and less to build. Humans can definitely get by with less than 2,400 square feet of space, but Americans may have a harder time than most other cultures. But there are many “design devices” that can be used to make a smaller house seem much larger, such as increased window area (which will have to be cleverly shaded when the sun is not wanted) and placement of windows, and more open-space within the interior. Higher ceilings (but not too high) also work incredibly well. (They allow warm air to rise above the occupants, and simply make a room feel larger.)

Other design attributes listed from this article:

Spacious laundry rooms–as long as the laundry room is serving as another space, such as a hobby space or as a space to practice your jai alai.

Master suite walk-in closets–sure, just go against everything I said about smaller spaces.

Porches–an exterior space that, with the correct placement of decently sized exterior doors (like a Nana wall), can make an interior space feel much larger. It also adds a connection between the resident and the rest of the neighborhood by providing a place to enjoy your home while potentially meeting neighbors walking by. And it looks like the Cleavers house, which corresponds to my theory that architecture is slowly resetting itself back to 1950.

Eat-in kitchens–the death of the formal dining room means having another place to eat other than a tv tray next to the couch.

Two-car garages–come on, who doesn’t want a garage large enough to do doughnuts inside of while driving a Mini Cooper? Or at least an alternate space to play jai alai when the laundry room is occupied?

Ceiling fans–sort of like a fashion designer saying that the future of pants is a button with a zipper? The point is that we will become more dependent on efficient means of cooling like a ceiling fan than on air conditioning. We have an automatic response of turning on an A/C when the temperatures eek past our comfort zone. Our future society will need to learn that it’s okay to be 85% comfortable.

I look forward to a future of doing doughnuts in my garage learning to live more sustainable.

Homes with amazing staircases

The following are some impressive images of residential staircases.

Of course I’m more partial towards the one with a slide, but the library stairs offers a great use for storage and an impromptu place to sit and read. The last stair shown, called the Ribbon Stair, has an interesting aesthetic but is missing the one design item in stairs that most locales outside of the U.S. don’t seem to require–the handrail. (It’s not that people outside of the U.S. have better balance than Americans, they just have fewer lawyers than us.)