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Great Homes in the NYT
Old 09-09-2009, 08:54 AM   #1
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Great Homes in the NYT

It is always fun to read a glowing article in the Times about an obscure travel destination and smugly think to yourself: "Ha! We were there long ago", but this is ridiculous. Today's Great Homes section in the Times features the bachelor pad I built for myself in 1983/84.



If I recall correctly, the lot was $20K and the total construction cost was $80K. Construction was a nightmare. The builder was in way over his head. He was a small builder of spec homes and wasn't up to the specialized construction the architect demanded. He lost his shirt on the deal and almost went bankrupt.

Subsequent owners converted the garage to a master suite (The article gets it wrong here. The master suite and third bedroom must be on the lower, not upper, floor.), installed parquet flooring, and painted it garish colors. The bridge to the front door used to have solid railings (matching the decks on the back) and they let the landscaping go to h*ll, but it otherwise looks pretty much the same.

I sold it in 1991 for about $200K. Shoulda kept if for a rental, but who couldanode.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:02 AM   #2
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It's beautiful! I love the setting, and it must have been a great bachelor's pad.

I have heard that it is best not to know what new owners do to one's home. $200K in 1991 was not shabby.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:53 AM   #3
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Oops! Your "not shabby" comment made me realize that I sold it for $130K, not $200K. Senior moment.

I think the $200K number popped into my mind because the current owners (the third owners) took the unusual step of contacting me when they were negotiating for it and I learned the sales price. That is probably when I had my first "I shoulda kept it" feeling.

I had installed an antique art-deco chandelier in the dining room which became a point of contention in the sale. The buyers wanted it to convey and the sellers wanted to keep it. Seems like the real-estate agent told the buyers that the seller had inherited the chandelier from her grandmother!

You are right about it being best not to know what later owners do.
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Old 09-09-2009, 01:25 PM   #4
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I see that the taxes are $11K--more than double the taxes on the California and Massachusetts homes in the same article. I know there's no state income tax in TX, and it's apples to oranges anyway, but ouch at seeing that figure.

But very cool house and how cool for you that it's featured in that article!
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Old 09-09-2009, 05:14 PM   #5
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I love, no LOVE your old pad! It is very bohemian but in a stylish way. I enjoy looking at the NYT homes and also get a kick out of house and garden tours. I am going on one this Saturday...a historic homes and buildings tour to benefit the local historical trust.
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:27 PM   #6
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Must be really bizarre to see something you created out there for the world to critique.

Seeing it now, do you regret ever selling it?
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Old 09-10-2009, 08:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DangerMouse View Post
Seeing it now, do you regret ever selling it?
If I had held onto it even for one more year I would have made a lot of money on it, but who knew? Other than that, no regrets. That was another life. I built that house when I was 27 and pretty full of myself. I wouldn't be comfortable living in such a look-at-me place now.

And yes, it was quite a shock to see it in the Times.
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:20 AM   #8
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Was the design your idea or the architects? For some reason I find it really bizarre that this house is in Texas as it does not fit the image my mind has of that State. Mind you I have never been there, my conception of Austin is purely from what I have seen in the media.
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:55 AM   #9
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Dangermouse,

Thank you for asking. The design was the brain-child of my architect, but developed to satisfy the constraints I laid down. I talked with several architects before selecting one. It was obvious that most of them just wanted to build the house they already had in mind, regardless of the setting.

The lot is typical of older neighborhoods, only 54 feet wide, but 120 feet deep. It had remained vacant because it sloped rather steeply down from the street. There was a nice view of the downtown skyline once you got above the trees.

This is what I told the architect:
1. Wanted to see view from upper floors.
2. 2 Bdrm, 1300 sq. ft. max. (It ended up 1400+)
3. 2 car garage, not facing the street.
4. 9 ft ceilings

I was very impressed when he came to the lot and actually climbed a tree to see the view. He produced a Sea Ranch inspired three story house with entrance on the second floor. (Bit of trivia, the Sea Ranch architect, Charles Moore (not the guy who did my house) also lived in Austin.) You can't tell from the photos, but the house's stairwell is in a half-circle turret of 4 ft radius, and the facing corner is a matching quarter circle. The house is bent at a 45 degree angle to fit in the narrow lot and allow room for the driveway to go past the house and enter the garage on the bottom floor. He cleverly tucked bathrooms and closets into the rounded corners. All of the rooms except for the two-story entry way are normal, rectangular spaces.

We went back and forth on the design for weeks, and I think he ended up producing 3 complete sets of plans. All in all I ended up paying him $10K, including fees for construction supervision and it was the best $10K I ever spent. He knew exactly hot to handle the contractor and building inspectors. He knew the building code backwards and forwards and I saw him stand down the building inspector more than once. He was pushing the height limit, so he had all of the relevant sections of code at hand.

It was a great house to live in, but I was never entirely comfortable with a house that clashed so severely with the surrounding neighborhood of 1920s bungalows, and boy does it seem dated to me now. It might as well have 1983 spelled out in neon above the front door.

Austin, like just about any other place, has examples of all sorts of architecture.
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Old 09-10-2009, 03:30 PM   #10
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I can see the resemblance to the Sea Ranch style of building. Smart move on the architects behalf to put the bathrooms on the curved part of the building as I think it is important to have normal walls on rooms where you need to place furniture. We recently looked at a hexagon shaped house and it did not work at all because the walls were too short to place furniture against and most of the rooms required beds to be placed at angles which ate away at the space.

Sounds like it was $10k well spent. Using an architect certainly gives a feeling of individuality which must make a house stand out.

I think part of my misconception was seeing the trees so lush. For me, in my mind, Texas is supposed to be so dry and full of scorpions and chiggers, but looking at that picture you could be a number of places.

Have you custom built any houses since that time?
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Old 09-10-2009, 04:32 PM   #11
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I think that architect did a fantastic job, especially for the money. What a great house!

Quote:
Originally Posted by IndependentlyPoor View Post
boy does it seem dated to me now. It might as well have 1983 spelled out in neon above the front door.
That doesn't seem so bad to me! But then, I live in a very conventional non-custom 1972 house. So, 1983 seems new and modern from where I sit. Frankly, I think it is striking and fits in with the lovely setting so nicely. It is hard to imagine that you managed to get such a great house to fit on a lot that is not much bigger than my present tiny 50x100 lot. When I retire, I am moving to a cheaper area and plan to get a home on a much wider lot.
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DangerMouse View Post
I can see the resemblance to the Sea Ranch style of building. Smart move on the architects behalf to put the bathrooms on the curved part of the building as I think it is important to have normal walls on rooms where you need to place furniture. We recently looked at a hexagon shaped house and it did not work at all because the walls were too short to place furniture against and most of the rooms required beds to be placed at angles which ate away at the space.

Sounds like it was $10k well spent. Using an architect certainly gives a feeling of individuality which must make a house stand out.

I think part of my misconception was seeing the trees so lush. For me, in my mind, Texas is supposed to be so dry and full of scorpions and chiggers, but looking at that picture you could be a number of places.

Have you custom built any houses since that time?
Where do you live Not even knowing, I will bet that the average rainfall of Houston is more than where you live...

Here is Houston by month:

Month Precipitation
Jan 3.68in.
Feb 2.98in.
Mar 3.36in.
Apr 3.60in.
May 5.15in.
Jun 5.35in.
Jul 3.18in.
Aug 3.83in.
Sept 4.33in.
Oct 4.50in.
Nov 4.19in.
Dec 3.69in.

Just shy of 48 inches a year....


Edit... just saw Silicon Valley... so I win
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:52 AM   #13
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Wow, that is a lot of rain. I had no idea that Texas was so wet, though I guess it does kind of go hand in hand with hurricanes. You made me curious as to how much rain we actually get here as we just relocated and see that it is 19" in San Francisco. We moved from San Diego where it was only 9" a year. I must admit I have gotten so used to never seeing rain that it doesn't even occur to me that it happens.

I have only been to Texas a couple of times, San Antonio where I just hung around the Riverwalk so never saw what the housing was like, and once in Houston where I attended a conference at some country club, so I really have no idea what Texas is like.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:57 AM   #14
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Quote:
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]I have only been to Texas a couple of times, San Antonio where I just hung around the Riverwalk so never saw what the housing was like, and once in Houston where I attended a conference at some country club, so I really have no idea what Texas is like.
Texas is unbelievably huge, and wildly different in climate, terrain, and people throughout the state. So, it is difficult to make generalizations about the state that will hold.
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