How to Avoid Monotony

Beware: Many of today’s buyers can spot cookie-cutter homes faster than you can say “1950s Levittown” 

June 26, 2018
Alternate elevations

Building better, faster, and smarter is a tall order anytime, but it’s a taller order than ever in the face of current material and labor shortages and rising prices. This month, starting on page 40, Professional Builder’s House Review design team shares efficiency expertise: Five different takes on how a single floor plan can assume varied elevations. (Illustration: Larry Garnett)

Emphasis on compelling streetscapes and cohesive communities helps make where you build a great place to be. But doing so demands a focus on a pleasing blend of homes with varied proportions, colors, and materials, notes Larry Garnett, Professional Builder senior contributing editor and House Review’s lead designer. Garnett, who has been designing homes for four decades, got his first job by sketching multiple elevations for one floor plan during the interview, showing his potential employer how to offer a best-selling floor plan multiple times on the same street.

There are limits, of course, to working this way. The plan must remain the same; variety comes not just by changing styles, colors, and materials, but also rooflines—an aspect of elevation design that Garnett warns builders not to dismiss because “it’s usually where the eye travels first.” While moving from hips to gables is key, so is variation of pitch, a strategy that helps disguise plan repetition and strengthen a given grouping or neighborhood. “There’s nothing as monotonous as a new subdivision with rooftops that look like they came from the same cookie cutter,” Garnett laments. This month’s feature includes designs by Garnett himself, as well as Scott Gardner and Donnie McGrath of GMD Design Group, Todd Hallett of TK Design & Associates, Seth Hart of DTJ Design, and John Guilliams of KGA Studio Architects.

Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find other smart strategies for efficiency and for differentiating yourself from the competition. Contributor Charlie Wardell, who wrote this month’s cover story, "Close Relations," set out to learn the secrets of builders who attract top-notch trades and maintain great relationships with them. His story offers a four-point action plan, as well as advice from those who have seen marked improvements. (Spoiler alert: systems.) 

Finally, at a time when prospective buyers show up for appointments armed with Houzz scrapbooks and Pinterest pages, “Prominent Fixtures” by contributor Wanda Jankowski explores current trends in fittings and fixtures for baths and kitchens to help keep you up-to-date on what most catches a buyer’s eye. Enjoy the issue. 

editor-in-chief

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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