Page E1.1 . 15 February 2012                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Staying Put in Style

by Duo Dickinson

There are over 80 million single-family homes in the United States, and it's estimated that 18 million of these are "under water," meaning the mortgage is larger than the value of the house. Millions of families feel trapped, living a life sentence of domestic frustration in homes that do not work for them while being unable to move to solve the problems they confront on a daily basis.

This series, like the book it is drawn from, offers tangible hope for getting the home you want from the house you have.

Families now have to focus on the homes they have rather than assume a lifelong leapfrog up a never-ending path of escalating home values. The newly imposed long-term commitment to our homes is closer to the historic norm than the distorted housing markets of recent years. Families are rediscovering the traditional tether to home sweet home as a specific fixed place rather than a movable stage set for our belongings.

Staying put is far closer to the American tradition of the family home as part of what a family really is.

Since World War II, people have never stopped spending on their homes. I have been an architect for 30 years, thriving through three economic cycles, from boom to bust and all the transitions in between. For every other housing bust, one or two sections of the United States escaped the general downturn: oil money saved much of the South in the early 1980s, the tech boom saved much of the West in the late 1980s.

But the present depressed state in housing value is truly national, just as the last decade's housing bubble was a national juggernaut of overvaluation and irrational exuberance. Because of its massive scale, this period of reduced expectations and great consumer fear is a longer, deeper, and more depressing malaise than any of the other building busts since World War II.

Having designed about 600 homes over these three decades (new, remodeled, or completely renovated), I know that housing consumers can be deeply depressed, but they are never hopeless. Our houses are just too important to us — personally, culturally, and economically — to have a general economic condition pull the rug out from acting on our fondest hopes.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want by Duo Dickinson, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press.

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Additions and renovations can enhance the livability of a home and improve its functionality in keeping with the changing needs of the household. In this kitchen, a wall was replaced with a dropped beam (upper left) and a blank exterior wall was replaced with windows, increasing connectivity to both the rest of the house and the landscape.
Photo: Mick Hales Extra Large Image

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A new master bedroom and a new roof over the entrance were added to this Cape Cod-style home.
Photo: Mick Hales Extra Large Image


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