Filling a Need

When a need is recognized and then met, great design is born

September 1, 2016

Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design,” observed Modernist giant Charles Eames. Even if you’re not a fan of Case Study houses, molded plywood chairs, or surfboard coffee tables, you’d probably agree that Eames nailed it when he said that.

This month we’re focused on design that best speaks to need as we present the winners of the 2016 Professional Builder Design Awards. Twenty-seven awards in 10 categories were given out, with honors going to a diverse group of inspired projects, starting on page 38 (Photo: Mark Menjivar). 

Winners range from a site-sensitive luxury home in the Arizona desert to affordable housing in less-than-affordable Santa Monica, Calif., to right-sized South Carolina homes that pay close attention to their southern heritage yet offer plenty of options for customization. What they all have in common is their practical and intelligent response to market demand. They are filling a need.

You’ll learn about a San Antonio infill home built to give a family room to grow by hewing to the footprint of the former house, reconfiguring the driveway, adding an outbuilding, and creating more living space on the roof. You’ll read about a Methodist church on Long Island being converted into a stunning, loft-like home that will maintain the craftsmanship of the original building. You’ll get a look at modular cottages in Port Ludlow, Wash., that kept energy smarts and aging in place top of mind. You’ll see a Houston infill community with attached townhomes that offer European elegance and low-maintenance convenience for move-down buyers who want to remain in the neighborhood where they raised their families. 

Design is also the focus of this month’s Exclusive Research column, on page 21, in which we polled builders about what homebuyers are asking for. There are some notable trends. This year, for the first time, home automation and LED lighting made their way onto our top 10 lists. In the kitchen, a double island and dual sinks edged out wine storage and a computer nook. Dedicated garage storage and outdoor space continue to be in high demand. The most popular design changes that builders plan on making include provisions for aging in place, integrating solar and passive design, and building bigger showers. 

In this issue’s “Quality Matters” column, we offer foolproof techniques for floors that don’t squeak. While the solutions on page 34 don’t involve moves that are splashy or even visible, there’s no question that they qualify as important design that meets a need.


Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, has served on several design juries, and is a recipient of the 2017 Jesse H. Neal Award for excellence in journalism. 


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