Here they are, straight from your submissions: the official nominees in the first category of the seventh annual Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. That, of course, is Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Thanks to all of you who contributed! These awards wouldn’t happen without you.
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Here, then are the 2014 nominees for favorite Houston design cliché:
1. Minecraft Windows. “Oversized rectangles installed in-plane with stucco. They are eerily dark and shadowless — a favorite of 5th-grade designers. Some of these houses have actually scared me when I came upon them.”
2. The Painted Brick Flip. “A technique once used occasionally to mask flaws in the brick of older homes has quickly become the sine qua non of any Ranch flip. They all seem to come in shades of gray, with brown or black shutters. It brings to an otherwise maintenance-free exterior all the advantages of having to paint every few years. On one house I saw they got a little crazy with the paint sprayer and painted over the bottom of a couple of the street-address numbers, but didn’t bother to replace them. I guess they didn’t want new numbers eating into their margins. Someday, when gray is no longer the new neutral, people are going to want their brick back. Maybe if we called used brick ‘reclaimed brick’ it might be cool again, and people would stop painting over it.”
3. The Side Porte-Cochère. “A result of the quest by developers and builders to maximize square footage (aka profits these days), this strange appendage has begun to infect many new-build single-family homes inside the Loop. That extra room you always wanted but didn’t know where you’d fit is now suspended over the driveway. Awkwardly perched on often spindly legs, these rooms make the house look like a dog lifting its leg. Under some of them, there might even be enough clearance to open a car door.”
4. The Trying To Be Like Austin. “Sure, a rash of Hill Country limestone still regularly infects Houston building projects, but the bigger problem is the notion that Houston has to have [insert idea here] because Austin has one. Remember the ‘Houston needs a Barton Springs‘ campaign? What about the Galleria Whole Foods’ Beer-On-A-Trike? This purportedly pro-Houston, anti-Austin infographic? The 2,572,154,847 Torchy’s Tacos that opened in Houston this year?”
5. The Midrise Woodframe Apartment Building, aka the Texas Donut. “With advances in woodframe construction, pretty much every new inner-loop apartment development consists of a five-story wood-frame structure around a concrete parking garage. While the facades and ornamentation may differ from project to project, the basic construction is always the same. The parking garage is pushed to the interior, so you can’t see cars from the street. The facades are some mishmash of ‘traditional’ materials, and there is ‘articulation’ in the facades and/or rooflines. The repetition of windows and entrances is ‘human scale.’ Just on a 2-mile drive from Yale and Sixth to Waugh and Gray, you’ll pass six such projects, either in process or recently completed.”
“These new mega-complexes going up inside the Loop all look the same: hulking, sunlight-blocking cubes with no exterior doors, little or no green space, and tiny, useless balconies (if they have any at all). Some even appear to have windows that don’t open. Attempts to make the exteriors look ‘luxurious’ don’t hide the fact that they are depressing human beehives. Something inside me dies a little every time I drive by one of these complexes.”
6. The Crape Myrtle, the Bradford Pear, and Other Overused Non-Native Trees. “Bradford Pear is the main offender. Other popular choices are Crape Myrtle, Chinese Pistache, and Chinese Elm, not to mention a pretty significant number of palm trees. A staple of the typical Houston strip center — or house. I always wonder why people keep planting all of these, when so many attractive natives are available.”
7. The Oak Tree Stump. “An emerging cliché, especially around fast-food franchises and new-home sites.”
8. Monochromatic Interiors. “Brown for the ’burbs. Gray for the urban ’burbs. Every freaking room the same freaking color. Let’s recognize ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for what it is: a raunchy update of the romance novel, not an interior design movement. What is the point of having a sprawling mansion if every room is the same damn color?“
9. The Townhome Farm. “The momentum of residential housing inside the Loop has finally started to push out many of the odd industrial sites that are sprinkled all over our Inner Loop neighborhoods, a task made easier by the lack of zoning. This has freed up properties inside the Loop that can actually be measured in acres. Of course, the townhome was the perfect way for builders to redevelop a single-family-sized lot or small strips of land inside the Loop and maximize the square footage within the space constraints. But what do developers do when these space constraints do not exist with larger lots? They just keep cramming them full of townhomes. The result looks like developers simply planted townhome seed on a large vacant lot and grew a crop of townhomes.”
Now: You tell us. Which one of these oft-seen nominees deserves the title of Favorite Houston Design Cliché for 2014? Let the voting begin!
- How To Vote in the 2014 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate [Swamplot]
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2014 [Swamplot]
Images: Carolyn Foug (1712 Marshall St.); HAR (4403 Arnell Dr. painted and unpainted; 1510 Marshall St.; 5308 Woodway Dr.); Swamplot inbox (Torchy’s Tacos on 19th St.; tree stumps on North Blvd. at Kirby Dr.; townhomes on Clinton Dr. near Sydnor St.); Alliance Residential (2626 Fountain View); Sotheby’s International (crape myrtles at 6127 Riverview Dr.)