December 20, 2010
What’s Wrong With This House?
Fast Houses, Slow Homes and How to Tell the Difference
by John Brown & Matthew North
Did you know the fast food epidemic is equally applied to new home building? How often do you really use that extra living room, fondly remembered at grandma’s house with plastic over the seats? Or have you figured out furniture placement around that weird corner of the house? Apparently in the industry, this is called a Fast House. In their book, Brown & North describe this epidemic, and more importantly, how to spot a Slow Home. As I read to apprise myself of adopted Lexis values, I’ll detail the differences…
Chapter 1 | Fast Houses
In the 1940s, when the home-cooked meal saw its replacement by processed fast foods, so did the home building industry see the same effects: sprawl of standardized, cookie-cutter, suburban houses. With growth in every corner of our Saskatoon, it is not surprising to see this effect catch up to us… but how healthy is it really?
The fundamental problems as we look at a new home to purchase are often masked; we do not discover the awkwardness until we’ve lived in it for a few months, at which point this industry tends not to have a return policy to fall back on. Brown & North describe 20% of homebuyers move within the first three years of purchasing a new home, often due to dissatisfaction with the way the house functions. This lack of functionality tells us the homeowner is in a Fast House, instead of a Slow Home.
Top Clues you’re in a Fast House:
Street of Dreams: model homes victoriously stand on the largest lots in a cookie-cutter land. We are made to believe the optional features of a gourmet kitchen, hardwood, sport garage or spa bath are really customizing the home to suit our needs and creativity. In reality, your house will look like your neighbours’ after choosing from the limited selection.
Redundant Spaces: we’ve got the family room and living room, dining room and kitchen eating nook. How often do you really use all these spaces; they’re like the good dishes –they only get pulled out for Christmas. Instead of multiple rooms, each concept could be properly set within a single space so as not to repeat functions within the home –after all, you can only use one at a time.
Colliding Geometries: the most grand of features, like the off set staircase, or the angled entertainment corner. Although they catch our attention, these pieces often break up spaces in a floor plan and are difficult to work, move, and place furniture around.
Supersized Features: a study library (which is really just another room) or an oversized staircase (who hangs out there, anyway?). Although the grandeur of these features gives the allure and lure of a high-end, fancy home, the builder usually ends up compromising quality for quantity; More usable rooms are compromised in space and features.
While these features can attract us to a house, none of this fills the longing we feel for a real sense of home. There is a bright side, though, in a Slow Home. I’m proud to discover the belief in this concept by the Lexis team, and look forward to helping build Homes, not houses. Over the hurried holiday season, I’m off to read the next chapter, and analyze how slow my own home is… will report back.
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