First Category: Your Nominations for Favorite Houston Design Cliché, Please

This is how it begins. We now kick off the nominating process for the 2012 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate with a category that’s been included in every edition of the Swampies since 2008: Favorite Houston Design Cliché. The winner has been different every year. Last year’s winner was “Lick ’n’ stick” fake-rock siding. (The runner-up: The New Charlestorleans Style.) In previous years we’ve had Lone Stars, “Lakes of” Subdivisions, and “Tuscanization” receive the award. What Houston building, shopping center, streetscape, home, interior, neighborhood, or yard cliché deserves recognition this year? Your suggestions for this award may be inspired from stories on Swamplot or from your own keen eye for overused detail.

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

You can submit as many nominations as you like in this category, but your choices will have a better chance of succeeding if you use the opportunity 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 made by the readers who submitted them. So be eloquent and persuasive! If you can send your own photos in support of a nomination, that will help a lot — and it’ll likely help you make your case to voters. Send images to the Swamplot tip line, but be sure to identify them and indicate what they’re for.

Comments to this post will be counted as nominations only. Nominations may be seconded, expanded, or improved. Even simple “me too” posts could help an entry find a place on the actual ballot, but they won’t be counted as votes for the winner. The actual voting in this category will begin next week. Are you ready? Send us your favorite clichés!

55 Comment

  • The three-story “modernish” townhome

  • How about all of the “urban” neighborhoods in far-flung master planned communities. Nothing says “I’m a cool urban trendsetter” like choosing to live in a bungalow surrounded by miles of grazing land.

    A perfect example:

  • Giant metal chickens.

  • @lakes of tuscan

    “We have created a community with the feel of classic Houston neighborhoods such as The Heights and West University Place.”

    It’s hilarious that they’re trying to emulate what the Heights and West U have been so adamant in tearing down.

  • Curvy, half moon roofs. I liked them at first until every damned McDonalds, Wells Fargo, and modern house started sporting them.

  • The 3 story townhome.

  • Towering townhouses with fake marble.
    Did anyone else play Caesar III (or the first two As property increased in value, so did homes, which first started as little hovels but then grew up to grand Roman Villas. Driving through Montrose and seeing this new townhouses go up next to bungalows, duplexes and quadplexes, I cannot help but feel like I am living in some grand City Sim called HOUSTON. Crimes goes down, a few amenities go in, and suddenly a brown casa becomes a shining white Villa.
    I just hope the Mayor keeps playing the peaceful assignments. I don’t think we’re prepared for an Etruscan invasion.

  • The Apartment Courtyard Motor-Court… look around and virtually all new construction apartments have ’em. From Jackson Hill, 3000 Sage, The Montecito, the new Gables by the Galleria, Gray and Waugh, Dallas and Waugh, you can’t go anywhere without seeing them.

  • Best Houston Neighborhood: The Hill Country.

  • Towne Centre’s. How many centers are there in a town?

  • Five story apartment buildings that all look the same.

  • 3 story townhome… and I have one.

  • How about the smuggest, snarkiest, I live inside the Loop in a little old pier and beam house with window units and a borrow ditch out front but I can walk or bike 5 miles to work at the record store om 98 degree heat but I have to park my Prius on the street because my detached garage fell over 8 years ago and the alley behind my joint has rats, hobos and old sofas in it so I can’t park back there anymore BUT I’m way more hip than any of you chumps living in areas I don’t approve of so I’M the best critic of other people’s homes award? Sure, there’s ugly houses everywhere and I’m sure some of the posters here live in them.

    Get a life, ghouls.

  • Might not be quite a design cliche yet, but it is well on the way. Messy brick. You know what I am talking about. The brick siding that has the mortar smudged all over it to give it a faux-historic/distressed look. I have to wonder whether the trend started by accident when some of the brick layers got a little sauced on the job, but the contractor kept a straight face and was able to sell the owner on it. Whether it works or not, what it does end up doing in neighborhoods that are in redevelopment is screaming out to the rest of the neighborhood that MY BRICK IS BETTER THAN YOUR BRICK!
    Of course, the bland, styleless pencil box multi-family complex is the obvious winner this year, but I thought I would mix it up a bit.

  • Lick-and-stick. I never realized how pervasive this stuff is until a house was built right across the street from me covered with it. Not surprisingly, there is no particular logic to how it’s applied. A house that is made of real stone has to follow certain structural rules. But fake stone appliqué can go anywhere, whether it makes sense or not. I’m surprised people don’t use it on their roofs.

  • Relocation Concierge. Aka eviction executioner.

  • “Lick and stick,” aka Formstone, makes me sentimental for Baltimore, a city where it was used to an extreme degree. Baltimore is the east coast’s Houston (very cool and seriously underrated). Love it, hon.

  • I have to go with the Generic 4 story apartment complex that is popping up everywhere. Nothing exciting about any of them, rents way too high, and generally built to a quality that you can hear all the intimacies of your neighbors. I lived at the Camden Travis St. for a couple of years. Never again.

  • I have to second Lick-n-Stick Stone Facing (even though it won last year.) It’s everywhere! Remember a few years ago: the discussion about what local Houston architecture is? Well SURELY not slate, fieldstone, river rock, etc…
    Oh boy and when it starts cracking off the walls… The adhesive is stronger than the stone.

  • French tuscan new england revival faux mixed use with center garage apartment complexes. I swear its all they’re doing inside the loop anym

  • Hi-rises with mixed glass curtain wall/concrete facades. It’s basically like someone chopped two buildings in half and combined them to form a Frankenbuilding. i.e., new BBVA building on Post Oak, 3333 Richmond, Reliant Energy Plaza

  • Why are people nominating things that have won before ? Lick and stick has already won before.

  • Bungalow renovations where it looks like a new bungalow went into heat and decided to mount an old bungalow from behind.

  • Parking structures with no aesthetic appeal. Is it that difficult/expensive/pointless to tastefully integrate them into the building they serve?

  • Stuffed animals! I saw many of those this year on S-lot, and enjoyed the menagerie. Didn’t even have to buy a zoo ticket…got my biodiversity fix third hand through a real estate blog.

  • Heights expands to suburbia. With the aforementioned Lakeland Heights subdivision out 290 that aims to mimic the Heights architecture, to Harper Woods up at the new ExxonMobil campus where homes will be “very Heightsish,”.

  • My two cliche PR slogans for Houston:

    “Houston, the town of granite countertops surrounded by plywood walls.”

    “Houston–beyond human proportions.”

  • The unimaginative, nondescript muti-family units that are being built all over the inner loop and in suburban “town centers” are a travesty. I mean really? Is the same firm designing all of them, and if so do they have absolutely zero imagination? And if not, why can’t there be some attractive architectural expression put forth at minimum on the facade, but even more so in the design and layout of the units? The residents and future residents deserve better! Otherwise they are just the breeding grounds for future homeowners that actually like “Lick and Stick” stone, Tuscanization, faux chateaux, and cheesy marble townhouses only because they don’t know better. I understand that there are a multitude of constraits, but do they all have to be so darned standardized and boring? The Camden’s, Amli’s, Alexan’s, Finger’s & Gables desperately need to do something to their new projects that gives them a sense of identity and place (hopefully tasteful, nice ones) Please?!?!

  • I second # 23…the office building with 2 facades, one of precast concrete, the other side a glass curtain wall. Seems to be a trend going on, esp. with Uptown and Greenway construction. Like the mirrored glass curtain wall buildings on the late 70’s, this design trend will look tired and over-used in about 10 years.

  • The “Mullet House.” Kinda normal in the front. WTF in the back.

  • Didn’t the Heights and every other inner city area start the same way? “bungalows surrounded by miles of grazing land.” Isn’t that how cities are supposed to grow (either up or out)? Then again, I am sure the same was said at some point about West U, Bellaire, Memorial when people started building houses “gasp” outside the city core as well. The cliche is people who think living in a particular area while bashing others makes you hip or somehow better.

  • Dare I say that Swamplot regulars have beat all these concepts to death and there is really nothing new to mock? Similarly, comments like JP’s #14 are equally tired and unoriginal. What will everybody do with themselves?

  • Heh, I forgot that lick and stick won last year. I’d like to withdraw my nomination so that we can let some other deserving design abomination win.

  • @KG and @avoid grocery stores

    Also sometimes referred to as “camelbacks”. And I second (or is it third?) the nomination.

  • Got one more, although it is more design related than an actual design cliche. The Tiger Woods Car Accident Recreation Taiwanese Computer Animation-esque building elevation renderings for new construction. A few examples:

    My thoughts when seeing these cheap-ass computer renderings are:

    1. An HSPVA student could do a better rendering by hand in exchange for a bag of Dorritos and a bottle of Mountain Dew.

    2. Where is the joystick? Worst game of Frogger ever.

    3. Buyer beware. If this is the best rendering the builder is willing to spring for. . . .

  • I nominate the ubiquitous, indestructible, smelly, and poisonous sago palm. They’re the ugly equalizer – you find them in every neighborhood – old, new, inner loop and far flung suburb. Taste is subjective, of course, but please don’t eat one.

  • I nominate “the simple yet elegant loft look for non-trendy commercial developments.” What the heck is up with the new Washington Heights Walmart? When I go there to purchase my cheap crap made in China, I expect a gaudy blue facade, not this: And I’m sorry, the brown brick and steel at that Taco Cabana doesn’t make me hungry for Mexican food as much as hot pink and teal walls with adobe tile roofing.

  • My wife and I call those “Humper Houses” where is looks like a McMansion has mounted a Bungalow. I cannot imagine how the interiors feel like anything but 2 separate bulidings…

  • I’ll humbly (ok, this is Swamplot, so scratch the “humbly” part) nominate facades featuring a hodgepodge of materials. Weathered brick! Stone! Wood! Faux Stucco! Different Stone! … all on the front of some not-quite-McMansion.

    Builders, for the love of Kinky Friedman, please hire an architect who has at least taken a freshman architectural history class.

  • Overly complicated roofs and high pitched roofs. If you didn’t already know, Houston doesn’t get a ton of snow. There is no need for having a steep roof. Anything slightly above flat would be enough to shed the rain.

    Also I’ve noticed that all new developments in the burbs seem to require a hybrid gambrel/hip roof with three gables for good measure. When it comes to roofs, simple is better, less is more.

  • Design cliché’: Knockout roses. These roses are very tough and need little water. It seems commercial and civic planters love knockout roses for that reason, and indeed a mass planting of them can be quite lovely at times. The problem is their ubiquity, and the fact that after dropping their first blooms they become scrawny and leggy, produce crappy looking miniblooms, and require severe pruning, labor that commercial and civic planters can afford only, say, once per year. Different types of knockout roses vary in color only slightly, and in any event the only ones commonly used are the bright pinkish reds, so there isn’t the variety you see in azaleas. Knockout roses provide easy and lazy landscape solutions, and discourage even thinking about native plants that would be nicer and just as easy to maintain.

  • Anything that results in the ubiquitous Houston Zoning argument.

  • Definitely second the monoculture of sego palms, knock-out roses, and (wait for it) crepe myrtles in every Houston garden. Why don’t we also throw the Bradford pear in there for good measure and we’ve got some Houston “staple” landscape plants, even though none of these are even remotely native to our region. Don’t even get me started about crepe murder.

  • laminate flooring, it’s really not just like wood floors and when it’s in
    stalled on stairs (4 story – roof decked townhomes) it’s makes everything feel Rickety!

  • Chef, an interesting background note about Knockout roses is that the hybridizer, a fellow by the name of William Radler makes 50 cents on each and every one sold. Since his patent was granted in 1998, it has become the best selling new rose introduction in America. And made Mr. Radler a very wealthy man!
    I do agree that they have become way overused in the marketplace, though they look better than the red tip photinias, burford hollies, and waxleaf ligustrums that were Houston landscape staples on the ’80’s and ’90’s.

  • Ilove lofts in Houston especially after the owner moves in and decide there is too much light and no privacy. Also the glare is unbearable and everything starts to fade. The search for window covering starts but where exactly do you hang them from and what fabric looks good from the outside in such copious amounts. Then they start sagging from the weight. Opps not so chic and very un trendy.also two of the biggest couches from restoration hardware are not the right scale. Too small. Let’s leave lofts in new York where they belong.

  • I will re-renominate the “CamelBung” (a unique Houston design style in which builders add a 3000 square foot camel hump to the back end of a 1200 square foot bungalow in order to placate misguided Heights Association preservationists who then claim to have “saved and renovated” an old house). Say what you want about the Charlestorelean design, at least it reflects a little imagination. The CamelBung merely adds a nondescript box to the back of a nondescript bungalow. (See 1615 Columbia for a brand new still-awaiting-a-buyer $900k sample atrocity.)

  • Roof top terraces

  • Industrial chic.

    Is there a new restaurant that isn’t boasting their “laid back industrial chic interior”?

  • Townhouse “neighborhoods” with no extra parking for guests, or old neighborhoods that have become “townhouseized”, with no parking for others left on the streets, in a city with no decent mass transit and a no habit of using cabs. Its going to be a mess when the density keeps increasing and the infrastructure to support it doesn’t exist. We ain’t NYC!

  • old school: HAHAH. I seriously just spit out my coffee laughing at the link you sent. That is hilarious. It looks like it was done in MS Paint. To be honest, I was expecting something pretty nice that was being bag on because that’s sort of what we seem to do on swamplot…. But that “render” is comically bad.
    reminds me of the Seinfeld where the guy “photoshops” George’s boss back into the photo

  • I’ll cast my vote for the hump-house. While I like the idea of adding some SF to modernize some of these older homes, it’s often done to a ridiculous degree. The Columbia listing is a great example of what not to do (IMO)

  • Re: the 1615 Columbia listing: