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The "Frankenhouse": Designing in the Era of Pinterest and Houzz

Online idea exchanges like Pinterest and Houzz are great resources for inspiration. There's so much information on these sites that is easily gathered, collected, and used by clients to create wish lists of images that need to be included in their "dream home".

However, as an architect, I feel it is my duty to point out to my clients and all of you: Use with caution! The disparate images served by search terms may represent homes from all over the country -- or even all over the world. They are beautiful and enticing -- and they may be Photoshopped. There might be an exterior from a shingle sided home in Maine, a fossil stone fireplace from Texas, a cute built-in bed nestled under the eaves of a gambrel roof and a wide plank pine floor from Pennsylvania. All great pictures individually reflecting unique homes appropriate for their settings. Collectively, if we were to incorporate all of these elements into one "dream home", we'd be bringing to life a "Frankenhouse": the combination of incongruous pieces of house never meant to be assembled in one state, never mind in one home.

houzz builder

So many variables go into the design of your home. The site’s solar orientation, views, prevailing breezes, and aggregate climate together with the client’s functional requirements are just a few I use in the initial plans for custom homes. My initial design is then "from the inside out" and once the plans are working well, I develop the elevations.

Another aspect not generally addressed in the Look Book social sites is budget. While I put together a plan for the given site, I match it with the client’s budget. The formula is "form follows function and finance". It's a system that works pretty well and really hasn't had to change much over the past 20 years -- until now. A growing percentage of my custom residential clients are computer savvy and start their planning on Pinterest and Houzz, but then expect their composite Frankenhouses to be the end solution.

I like Pinterest and Houzz -- they are great idea generators and they are a great way for architects like myself to showcase their work and reach new clients. But consider this my Public Service Announcement: Please use these images as guidelines, not absolutes. And let your architect adjust them to fit all of the other variables already at play with your custom home.

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