Champagne Taste

A note about the title of this post:

I was going to title this post “House Porn,” but I’m really not interested in increasing my blog traffic, especially not to people who use the search term “porn.” When we were searching for our second, and current, home in Houston we asked our wise, wonderful real estate agent if she would show us some mansion with a “For Sale” sign that we noticed as we were driving by. She told us that she could, indeed, show us the house, but that people tend to have champagne tastes and beer budgets and if we fell in love with the mansion then we would never be happy with whatever house we could afford. Personally, I have always thought I have a good handle on fantasy vs. reality, but it’s true that we were nothing but excited and thrilled with the purchase of the house that has been our very happy home for 23 years and counting. Also, personally, I much prefer beer to champagne. Enough about the title, on to the post!

Last weekend, husband, daughter #2, and I went on the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Houston Home tour. This year, five different architecture firms presented seven homes constructed in the last year. From the brochure: “Houses are chosen to showcase a variety of design styles demonstrating that excellence in design is not limited by size or dollars.” Design excellence? Yes. Not limited by size or dollars? C’mon, get real. You all know how the old saying goes, “If you can’t afford something, critique it.” (No? You haven’t heard that one?) We all had fun commenting on all the homes, discussing what we liked and what we didn’t, about both the house itself and the decor, trying to decide if we’d like the people who lived there. 

Four of the homes were very modern with block-y, concrete wall construction. Husband likes the modern look, but I do not. Especially since the houses almost always stand out in stark contrast to the other homes in the neighborhood. The concrete floor is popular, along with stark, white walls. The look is just cold and uninviting to me, as opposed to clean and sleek. The one modern home that I liked was in a townhome area where most of the other buildings had the block-y look and it also had dark hardwood floors throughout with a mix of gray and white walls. So if I HAD to move into a $750,000 new, modern house in a trendy area of Houston, I would pick this one. The most unique feature we saw in any of the home was in one of the modern ones. Due to the lot size and the layout of the house, the master closet was only about 4′ x 6′. There was, however, room to go up so they installed a bright red, metal, spiral staircase and turned it into a 3-level closet. The husband commented that everything on level 3 would get tossed annually because it hadn’t been worn in a year. Or as another husband lamented, “I suppose all my clothes would be on level three.”

My favorite design element, found in three of the houses, was the sleeping porch – a large, covered, outdoor terrace accessed thru an upstairs bedroom or hallway. I think that the only time I uttered the “I want” phrase was when a docent actually called the area a sleeping porch (as opposed to the upper terrace.) Hardwoods floors are definitely still in, I don’t remember seeing any carpet on the tour. Bamboo is still the unique choice in wood, both in floors and accents, like beams. Granite countertops are perhaps becoming passe instead of de rigueur. I should’ve asked for details, but the new in material is more of a solid (both in color and composition) that reminds me of Corian, only thicker and also edged with the same material, unlike our Corian countertops that are inset in a wooden edge. Huge closets in the master, built-ins, and lots of closets in general were noticeable in all the houses. Open showers, without curtains or doors, have an appeal, but D#1 was wondering how you could have a truly hot, steamy, shower without being fully enclosed and the whole toilet/sink/shower room combo had all of us wondering how you keep the toilet paper dry. Open concept kitchen/dining/living areas are here to stay, I think, but I’m not sure I understand the need for a huge eating area, with a table that seats at least 10, adjacent to the kitchen and connecting thru an open doorway to another dining area with a twin table. That particular house was so big there was plenty of space to waste. 

I think my favorite home was the one where the docent met us at the door saying, “Welcome to the Tree House.” You enter into a foyer adjacent to the garage. If you stay on the bottom floor, you walk back into a family room with glass doors into the (normal and big enough for a dog) back yard. Toward the front of the house, off this family room, is the master bedroom. A hallway leads back from the family room to two smaller bedrooms. From the entry foyer, stairs lead up to the main living area, an open concept living/dining/kitchen with a lovely back deck. The deck looked like it was made from the eco-friendly recycled plastic composite material which I’m a big fan of. There’s also a large study on this floor and a large butler’s pantry which keeps some of the clutter out of the kitchen (which is huge and has plenty of room for clutter, but still.) Like all the houses, lots of window and natural light. I also love the location of the house, at the end of a cul-de-sac with a green belt (ok, actually a major power line easement) behind it. It’s in a part of town I’m familiar with, only about a mile from our first home. There’s a city park two blocks away and a major hike-and-bike along a bayou about 4 blocks away. Also, it was one of only two homes on the tour that was actually a family home, with children living in it, which just make it seem a happier place to me. 

So that’s how I spent my weekend, admiring other people’s homes instead of working on any of my own home-improvement projects. That, and drinking beer instead of champagne.

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