Saturday, January 18, 2014

Four Reasons This House Doesn't Sell: Safety, Heart, Zones of Intimacy

Why does this terrific house stay on the market so long?

It was a late 80's near teardown, 4,500 square feet, great lot, great street, great neighborhood. It's a "statement" house, modern-ish, very well designed by Barry Doss R.I.P.. It's well built, well landscaped, and in great condition.

Why has it been a slow seller all four times? I've visited and I know why.

1. The grand stair does not look safe. It's the primary design feature in the entrance hall. It's where the eye goes. It seems steep and exposed. I got up and down in complete safety you understand but I never got used to it. It's a mountain couloir, an ice-fall of steps spilling through a wide mouth into the foyer. I would not know how to fix it.

2. The kitchen though spectacular is not the heart of the house. It's well designed, practical, convenient, well lit, loaded with no-glare natural light with the highest quality appliances and finishes. It's beautiful. A separate kitchen is simply how design worked at the time. But it's dated. It can never be the center of family life.

A Pattern Language: "The isolated kitchen, separate from the family and considered as an efficient but unpleasant factory for food is a hangover from the days of servants..." Pattern 129. COMMON AREAS AT THE HEART

There is no easy fix. Isolated kitchens define 20th century design. It's the biggest and most expensive challenge for successful. renovations.

3. and 4. Neither of the two master suites have a bathroom door. Listing agents know this is one of the dumbest ideas ever. They must be ready to explain that some folks will just love no-door living.

Another quote from A Pattern Language: "Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a sequence which corresponds to their degrees of privateness, the visits made by strangers, friends, guests, clients, family, will always be a little awkward." - Pattern 127. INTIMACY GRADIENT.


  1. Too bad there are no photographs to illustrate your points. I am rather a visual type person. Regardless, your essay promotes thought.

    1. Send your email and I'll email you the link.

  2. I would love the link too. Jen6425@comcast,net

  3. Send me the link! I can't wait to see the stair case.

    I love A Pattern Language, it had such an influence on my house design.

  4. A Pattern Language...................again.

    Happy New Year Terry.

    XO T

  5. I would like the link to the photos also.

  6. I'd like to see the staircase too. It's hard to imagine a steep grand staircase. Thanks!

    My email is probably in the email you receive, but if not, it is marti.thenextfiftyyears @ ya

  7. Isn't A Pattern Language just about perfect? I've been using its principles for the past 8 years as I redesign and renovate an early '70s ranch in Tucker. (I also like to pick it up and read at random, look at those photos... )

    1. Yes I do. If I find a place particularly delightful or disappointing, I can usually find an explanation in A Pattern Language. "Entrance Room" is one of my favorites.


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