Thursday, September 17, 2009

Designed to Live

My wife and daughter are practically addicted to HGTV—they watch it almost as much as I watch the Food Network (but of course I could quit whenever I want to). I’m usually fine with HGTV. I even got into the Next Design Star. I’m a sucker for almost any time of reality show competition, and really hate it when I miss Top Chef, so the Next Design Star wasn’t that different.

There is a whole category of shows that I dislike, though. Any show that is about flipping real estate or selling real estate or buying real estate (for example, House Hunters, except the international version, which I rather like because of the exotic locales)—Designed to Sell is the foremost show in this genre—irritates me.

A home should be built as a place to live, not a place to sell. I find people’s personal taste and eccentricities fascinating. If I don’t see a great deal of its owner in a home, then I tend to assume that the owner is hiding himself or herself from the world, and from me.

Each of us live differently and what’s right for me may not me right for you. For example, my wife and I are in the process of completing the design of a condo that we’re buying. It’s just for her and me, since our children are now grown, so it has some features that we want but that would not appeal to buyers.

Rather than a second bedroom, we have two studies, one for each of us. We both spend many hours working from home and have a number of hobbies we are enthusiastic about. We each need a place to get away and work or pursue our hobbies. The studies are very small but they are a place to get away. We don’t have overnight visitors, and after all, the Fairmont, Sheraton and Adolphus Hotels are all within easy walking distance of our condo if we need a place to put up guests.

There are other features that make sense to us, but wouldn’t to most people. Both bathrooms can be entered from our bedroom. The kitchen is designed for me to cook in, because I do most of the cooking. That means the work areas are a little higher than usual and all the appliances are to my specification. The laundry is entered off my wife’s study, because she does most of the laundry.

In short, the condo is designed as a place for us to live with the way we live in mind. I know that shows like Designed to Sell serves a useful purpose. Sometimes you need to sell your home and your first thought needs to be for potential buyers. I admire some of the designs in the show. Sometimes it is very good work.

Homes should not be regarded first as investments, though, or built with the next owner in mind. The monetizing of homes is how we got into much of our current mess. Homes shouldn’t be bought to be sold, or borrowed against. When you buy a home, it should be a place you intend to stay (although the future can always bring uncertainty), a neighborhood you intend to know and neighbors you intend will become friends.

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