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Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 in review

I'm reviewing the year and see that despite the wounded state of the housing business, some interesting projects have come my way. Additions, some large homes, some starter homes, in a variety of styles and arrangements. It started out with a playroom addition to an existing home which was being undertaken in conjunction with a pool and deck area. This project by Monogram Custom homes was completed in time to win an award from The builder's association at the end of the year. The photos showing the dramatic pool and swim up bar tend to overshadow the rather modest addition, but it just goes to show what can be done to your backyard. Another addition for a master suite over an existing garage in Bucks County, and a similar project in South Jersey were other concerns in the spring. An interesting project was putting a second floor on a 50 year old ranch house, adding 1400 s.f. over the house and garage. It's just now being finished up. A Sunroom addition to a home built several years ago in Bethlehem was just started and is now being finished up, as is another large custom home by Monogram

On the builder front, there seemed to be a place for spec homes in the 2800 s.f. range which could sell for around 350k. I made a couple of plans for builders who had a bit of success with these. The only other spec which seemed to work was a bilevel on an in fill lot, selling for mid 200's. I posted a photo of this one a couple entries ago. An interesting project, which hasn't sold yet, was for a log sided house in Medford Lakes, NJ- an older community with strict architectural control standards. They wanted an all log home. We started with a proven floor plan and re-did the elevation to give a more rustic appearance. High water table meant no basement, but we added a walk up attic which could be used for storage or a bonus space instead. Thanks to John Haeberle for working with me on this one. Also on the builder front, I did a preliminary plan for an 1800 s.f. single home for one of the builders in town. He needed it to try to add some breadth to the price range of his offerings while maintaining some consistency of value across his product line.

A carry over from last year was finishing plans and marketing information for a local developer of single family homes. These ranged in size from about 2000 to 2800 s.f. with masters both upstairs and downstairs. A couple of each have been sold so far.

On the custom home front, the projects have been varied as well. Erwin Forrest Builders brought me a couple of first floor masters to do, one quite large, over 4000 s.f. with a detached garage as well as an oversized attached garage. This one actually wound up the the 5000 s.f. range. Its in the stage of finals now. The clients are working with Nancy Carroll, an interior designer who I happened to sit next to at the builder awards banquet this year. I'm sure this one will come out spectacularly, perhaps an award winner next year. The other is smaller, closer to 3500 s.f. and has just started to be framed. An interesting plan, it deletes the typical formal dining area, enlarges the nook into a sort of sunroom-dining area open to the kitchen and great room. This idea is coming to me more and more, as the former dining area becomes a study or playroom. The first time I did this was for Hersh Ruhmel in his own house. A great idea whose benefits are being understood by a wider part of the marketplace every year. Greg Harris from Omega homes is adopting it in a plan for his own home being designed now.

On the conventional two story side, I did a plan for a builder in Montgomery County that wound up at 3200 s.f. This has a very efficient envelope, but couldn't be "cookie cutter" (wife's insistence) I used a casual traditional style with some arched features which satisfied them. Slat shutters, vernacular dormers, stucco, stone, and board and batten seem to make this look appeal to both European and Colonial style fans. This plan kept a two story family room and foyer, but I did similar layouts for other homes this year where these favored features of yesterday were deleted in favor of bigger (or more) bedrooms, second floor laundries, or stairs up to finished attics. You pays your money and takes your choice.

What else? Well I did some twins with master down layouts, some upscale twins with 12' ceilings in the family room, elevators, and upstairs master suites. I did some tiki bars and covered pavilions. There was a nice plan for a 2000 s.f. cape cod for a young couple, which could be expanded to 3600 s.f. over time by finishing the basement and over the garage. I drew an as built of an existing kennel, laying out a large open covered area for a dog playground with mounds, tunnels, and a section to make videos for owners to see how much fun their pup might have during the day. Doggie day care to the extreme coming to you soon. There were a couple carriage house/ garage projects. An 1800 s.f. ranch for one of my developers. Working with an architect and a design-build client, there are some cute 4-plex apartments in the works, as well as an 11,000 s.f. funeral home which is meant to have a "house" flavor (hence my involvement). Interesting.

On the awards front, builders were again quite successful with plans I drew. Howard homes won for a spec home selling for 540 k on a 150k lot. This is a nice Colonial plan with good detailing, about 3500s.f. Besides the previously mentioned addition and pool, Monogram Custom Homes also won for a bath remodel as well as an exquisite 1.5 million dollar custom home. Some photos of that are attached. It was designed back in 2009 and there is a blog entry from then with a plan. I was involved with a total of 4 winners this year, 6 last year, 3 the year before, 4 in 2008, 5 in 2007. A total of 6 different builders. It is a great way to get exposure, so give me a call if you want to get involved with a winner. I am now 1st V.P. in LVBA, active in the government affairs committee as well as the business of the board. We are working hard to try and maintain as friendly a business environment as we can in this day of excessive government regulation. This year there have been some substantial wins in this regard, involving sprinklers and the make up and process of the RAC committee which is involved with new code adoption. Supporting the builder's association is a key component in insuring continuing the momentum here.

All in all, it hardly seems like a year which should prompt any complaints. I suppose I'll sign up for another tour.