Your Nominations Please: Favorite Houston Design Cliché

All this week, we’ll be introducing the nominating categories for the first-ever Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. The awards cover the best and most of Houston Real Estate in 2008, surely a landmark year in the ever-expanding story of Houston’s ever-expanding landscape. To make these awards the best they can be, we need your input!

The first category: Favorite Houston Design Cliché of 2008. Which oft-repeated feature or element of Houston buildings, shopping centers, streetscapes, homes, interiors, home decor, neighborhoods, or yards has achieved the singular status of Houston cliché? Which is most deserving of special recognition this year? Your suggestions may be inspired from stories covered by Swamplot or from your own observations.

Nominations for this category are now open! Enter your nomination in a comment to this post only or — more privately — to the Swamplot tip line, with the subject line “Nomination: Favorite Houston Design Cliche.” Nominations will be accepted for one week, after which the best-presented choices will be opened for voting.

You may submit as many nominations as you like in each category, but your choices will have a better chance of succeeding if you use your nomination to make your point in a clever and convincing way. When the actual awards are open for voting next week, each selected nomination will be introduced with some edited bastardization of the arguments readers have made in the nomination — so be eloquent and persuasive! Submitting photos in support of your nomination is encouraged — illustrations will likely help make your case to voters. Send them to the Swamplot tip line; be sure to identify them and indicate what they’re for.

Please keep in mind that the comments to this post will be counted as nominations only. Nominations may be seconded, expanded, or improved, but simple “me too” posts won’t be counted as votes for the winner. The actual voting in this category will begin next week. Stay tuned!

24 Comment

  • I nominate the zebra skin rug, as seen here and here. Nothing says “welcome home to Houston” like having the skin of a dead African wild animal spread at your feet.

  • Nominee: so-called Venetian plaster effects.

    Reason: Mimicking the rough, unskilled trowelling of 500 years ago is not
    1) cool
    2) original
    3) fast
    4) cheap

    And it collects dust.
    Enough already. Forgivable only in stage sets and theme restaurants.

  • I have so many favorites…how can I choose? I’ll narrow down to two:

    1) “Keystone” details on all wood buildings
    2) The “Tuscanization” of every new “luxury” townhome/ apartment complex/ shopping center

  • There are a lot to choose from but my “favorite” cliche is Fake Western Cowboy Ranch design.

    Because noting says Houston like custom designed mini lampshades branded with your initials, a saddle in the corner that’s never been on a horse (or better yet, one that HAS been on a horse and is now a lamp) and old spurs trapped under shadow glass in the coffee table.

  • The blue “FEMA” tarp. It is ugly, cheap, and ultimately temporary, though unlike much “design” here it doesn’t pretend otherwise. Bonus points for actually being functional.

  • I second the blue tarp design!!

  • How about complete and utter disregard for human scale in all building types?

  • Nominee: The red or multicolored Spanish tile roof. I’m particularly bothered by this because it used to be one of my favorite design elements in older architecture around Houston until it got so incredibly abused by McMansion builders.

  • Nomination:

    Corrugated sheet metal used as an exterior wall surface. It was really fresh and edgy in 1985. Now, driving through Rice Military or the West End is like going to a mini-storage place where all the customers drive BMW’s.

  • I second JenMathis’ “The ‘Tuscanization’ of every new ‘luxury’ townhome/ apartment complex/ shopping center”
    Enough already. I long for clean, straight lines and the abolition of crown mouldings and too-fancy wrought-iron bannisters/balcony railings.

  • In the vein of Tuscanization, how historical styles are used to create theme-park strip malls a la west ave – an art deco development… any number of tuscan developments… whatsa better word? the venality of historicism?

  • I’d also like to put in the complete neglect of real street life seen all too often – again west ave, but also the pavillions, boulevard place, etc etc..

  • The idea that you need to see how many different materials can be on the exterior of a building. Corrugated metal siding with wood accented windows, plaster panels, metal and glass stairways, brick piers, etc. argh.

  • I will say the two-story entrance ways on McMansions. To me, nothing says, “I have a bloated sense of self-worth” than one of these ginormous and utterly non-functional sallyports. They look all the more ridiculous when the front door is normal sized. The best (i.e., worst) of them are no wider than the double front door, go up at least two stories, and are topped with an arch, giving them the outline of an enormous phallus–no doubt reflective of the owners of these monstrosities!

  • Stucco’s not *too* bad; unless it has a useless keystone detail in it- ZING!

  • Tuscanization! Ripping off a Southern California ripoff.

  • Towers. Nothing is more place making than a tower in the crotch of a strip mall with bloated Italianate surround details on unopened openings. Developers, if you’re going put a tower in the project, at least make it accessible to more than the birds you want to keep out! Not everything is tower worthy. Keep your towers in your pocket for just the right and appropriate moment.

  • I agree with the “Tuscanization” of new home construction

  • I’d like to go more specific while jumping on the tuscanization bandwagon and nominate TURRETS as a design cliche. These suckers are popped onto nearly every new home going up in Bellaire to add to their “European appeal.” Swamplot had an entertaining article about some of these design flaws which you can see here :

  • One man’s turret is another man’s tower. Turrets or towers, both are penetratingly wrong poking through the Houston horizon.

  • For most grandiose project: the Titan and Diamond Beach Galveston

    For best delayed or cancelled project: Titan, Diamond Beach, and the Sonoma

  • For most grandiose project: the Titan and Diamond Beach

    For best delayed or cancelled project: Titan, Diamond Beach, and the Sonoma

  • “Tuscanization” has to be the best description I have heard in a long time. Nothing says “cheap” like a column and some fake stucco. I am afraid Houston will eventually melt!