Archive - Real estate RSS Feed

Holiday Cottages

A Thatched Cottage in the Cotswolds

If you’re travelling in the UK anytime soon, you should consider doing what many of the English do when vacationing in their own country and rent a holiday cottage. Nothing better captures the essence of rural Englishness than spending a relaxing week a small hideaway in the Lake District, or a traditional thatched cottage in the Cotswolds. A week spent rambling through the countryside, sipping ale in a cozy village pub, and generally living the country life, such are the things of which memories are made.

Of course, if you’re one of our English readers, and you’ve managed to acquire a holiday cottage, which can only be used for a few weeks a year, then you might consider letting your holiday cottage via a listing agency such such as RentMyCottage.com which will help you match you with paying visitors.

Naturally, you’ll need to do some work to make sure that your holiday home is suitable for visitors. Not only must everything be in fine working order, but need to make sure that the furniture accords with your visitors’ notion of what is appropriate to the setting. Starkly minimalist or Danish modern furniture won’t help your guests capture that true English spirit that so many desire.

At the same time, modern travellers are a demanding lot, so even though your furniture may be suitably rustic, you’ll probably need the most up-to-date appliances in a kitchen well stocked for the self-catering culinary tourists who are so common today.

How Attached Are You to the Homes of Your Past?

Is it unusual not to feel any particular attachment to, say, the house you grew up in? Maybe it’s because we moved so frequently and the houses we were in seldom belonged to the family, but I can’t say I feel any particular attachment to the houses, apartments, and neighborhoods of my past. I can look back fondly on some of the places I’ve lived as an adult, but it’s not like I ever stayed long enough to put down roots. Now that I own a house – or slightly over 20% of a house, I guess – my plan is to stay put barring any amazing job offers across the country or natural disasters. Which means my children will spend their entire childhoods in this one wee house, in this one suburban coastal neighborhood.

Will my daughter and my future children feel a strong attachment to our house and our town, our beach and our neighbors, looking back fondly once they’ve moved away?

Out with the old?

I don’t even know if their memories will be accurate. As with all things, I can imagine that there’s a tendency to view the past through rose colored glasses, so a house that was falling apart becomes charming and an apartment that was cold and drafty becomes full of character and quirks. I can already feel myself doing just that with the apartment in Brooklyn that was in a hub of gang activity and surrounded by who knows what else. The finish on the floor was flaking off and would give me splinters. There were critters. But the view from my windows and the fire escape was amazing and there was a shop nearby that made the most amazing fresh doughnuts and another shop that sold fried chicken sandwiches on sweet buns for a buck. It was hell and it was heavenly, both, and I’d never want to go back to it.

Tell me about some of the homes of your past… do any of them still tug at your heartstrings and make you feel wistful?

Hauntingly Beautiful Images of a Downtrodden City

How amazing are these images of Detroit’s downtown captured by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre? It seems like a ghost town or the corpse of a city – and an eerie reminder of Detroit’s glory days, since so many of the structures they photographed are were obviously magnificent in their heyday.

Like so many of the visuals that comes out of this sad city, it’s depressing. But still kind of hauntingly beautiful.

You can see these and more in Marchand and Meffre’s book Ruins of Detroit – which is the result of a five-year collaboration started in 2005.

The Elusive Small-House Utopia Is Still Pretty Big

If I say ‘small house,’ what comes to mind? A super wee micro-house or something like this? Or do you think of a structure containing roughly 1700+ sq. ft. of floor space? Because, hey, it’s not a McMansion, so it must be small, right? I got to thinking about this subject after reading The Elusive Small-House Utopia, an article about Builder magazine’s latest concept home and what it means for building trends in general.

That concept house, the Home for a New Economy designed by Marianne Cusato, measured in at the size of the average American home built in 1980, or around 1700 sq. ft. Then the housing market went insane, and soon it became not unusual to see newly built houses hovering out the 6000 sq. ft. mark!

When Cusato sat down to devise the Home for the New Economy, she tried to consider how families actually use their living areas. She started with a simple, symmetrical three-bedroom plan, excising extraneous spaces — the seldom-used formal dining room, for instance — while enlarging windows wherever she could and adding a wraparound porch. A result was a house that was compact, comfortable, bright and energy-efficient.

Sounds tasty, right? But at 1700 sq. ft., does it really seem particularly small? Maybe I’m just coming at the article with a bias – my house tops out at 1100 sq. ft. and we think that might include the finished basement – but even when I hear that in 2007 the average American house surpassed 2500 sq. ft., 1700 still sounds like a lot of space for the average family. Not huge, but big enough for comfort.

“Everybody hates the Calvinist sacrifice; they just don’t want to hear of it,” says the architect Andrés Duany, a founding father of the New Urbanist movement and a mentor of Marianne Cusato’s. Duany argues that the sprawling homes of the last decade actually met a need, albeit imperfectly, by reproducing internally what suburban communities lacked: an exercise room substitutes for a park, a home theater for the Main Street cinema. Buyers will only accept smaller homes, he says, if their surroundings compensate them.

So let me ask you, my lovely readers, what you think small means when it comes to housing for, say, a family of three? How much space does a person really need, anyway?

Buy It: Steven Cojocaru’s MCM

Have $3.95 million just sitting around burning a hole in your pocket? Love that classic old school modern look? Then have I got just the property for you. Fashion critic Steven Cojocaru’s mid-century modern home is apparently up for sale, though you can lease it at a mere $20k per month.

What does that buy you? 3,850 square feet, first of all, under high pitched-roof ceilings with sweet exposed wood. There’s plenty of glass to let the outside in, and gorgeous exposed brick in the living room. Then there are all the “little” details like an orb fireplace, amazing bath tubs, and the neutral decor that might surprise some at its understated tastefulness.

And how about that infinity edge pool, mmm. Those are so awesome when done right. I tell you truly that while I usually go in for a bit more color and a lot more black, I wouldn’t kick this particular real estate out of bed. How about you? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Why?

(via)

It’s Rich O’Clock?

Looking for an apartment that’s a little different and have a spare $25 million laying about? Then you’re in luck, because the most expensive apartment in Brooklyn may still be on the market! The apartment was created by David Walentas, father of Dumbo, in an old but rather nice industrial building that he converted into offices and later, into condos. Renamed the ClockTower building, for obvious reasons.

most expensive apartment outside

Those being the four gigantic clock faces that adorn the tower, which coincidentally is where the most expensive apartment in Brooklyn is located. That’s right, in addition to a whopping 3,000-square-foot main floor and a 2,300-square-foot second floor, you get a 988-square-foot open loft, high ceilings, and amazing views from 14-foot windows that overlook the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor.

Oh, and you get the joy of always knowing the correct time, so long as you’re good with reading clocks backward!

most expensive apartment

Note that I do not have a free $25 million laying about, but I’ll happily move into the most expensive apartment in Brooklyn if anyone might be so kind as to donate the fundage. Heck, I think those clocks are so cool that I wouldn’t even mind if they went tick-tick-tick, and that’s saying a lot since I’m rather obsessive about ambient noise.

most expensive apartment brooklyn

Note, too, that the buyer of the apartment need not worry about the nightmare of having four terribly big clocks each showing a different time. According to Walentas, the four clocks are electronically synchronized to show exactly the same time. That time being, of course, not rich o’clock, but rather poor o’clock.

New England Style

I, along with a husband, a baby, and five cats, live in what is known as a Revival Cape Cod. People who aren’t from the Northeast (especially those from the left coast) may read that and scratch their heads. It’s not that they don’t have Cape Cod architecture, from what I can tell, but rather that they aren’t in the habit of calling the houses Cape Cods or just Capes.

Our Cape is in good company, when you considered that we’re in New England the architectural style originated right here in the 1600s. These little symmetrical one-and-a-half story cottages weren’t called Capes until the 1800s, however, when the Reverend Timothy Dwight IV, president of Yale University, made a visit to Cape Cod and coined the term “Cape Cod house.”

Cape Cod Architecture

Nowadays one finds Capes with many different dormer styles, like shed dormers, gabled dormers (also known as dog house dormers), and recessed dormers. And yet there’s something about walking into a Cape Cod. I grew up in one and have found that I can walk into most Capes and know where the bathroom is and where the kitchen will be. The one difference is the fireplace orientation — historic Capes had a large central chimney that allowed for fireplaces in multiple rooms, while revival Cape Cods usually have a single fireplace with the chimney on one side of the house. My Cape? It has no fireplace at all, though I hope to rectify this someday.

HGTV’s Front Door put together a list of the defining features of traditional Cape Cod architecture that reads perfectly, so instead of rewriting it I’ll just excerpt it here.

Large, central chimney The large, central chimney is located directly behind the front door, with the rooms clustered around it in a rectangular shape.
Steep roof Cape Cods have steep roofs to quickly shed rain and snow and a shallow roof overhang.
Captain’s stairway “The second floor, often kept for boarders or ‘seafaring’ men, was accessed by a narrow stair, or ‘captain’s stairway,’ which has incredibly steep risers and shallow treads to minimize the use of the first-floor space,” explains David Karam, an architect and builder from Brewster, Mass.
Shingle siding Weathered gray shingles are one of the most recognizable elements of a classic Cape Cod, but newer homes are built of brick, stucco and stone

Most of the Capes you’ll see today are revivals built after World War II as affordable housing for returning Vets, which might not have been the case if Boston architect Royal Barry Willis hadn’t reintroduced the Cape Cod as a modern housing option in the 1920s. These are a great first-home option for those who are happy living with about 1,000 sq. ft. of living space since they tend to cost less than larger houses. Ours was quite reasonably priced and when we fix up the upstairs properly will have two whole stories rather than one and a half.

Super Cozy? Or Super Crazy?

Living small. Small space living. Whatever you want to call it, there are people doing it all over the world. Some get into small space living out of necessity — usually because either the money or the space simply isn’t there. Others do it because they want to see how low they can go when it comes to their ecological footprint. And I suppose there are those who think that 175 sq. ft. is plenty, thankyouverymuch.

Zaarath and Christopher Prokop appear to be just that, according to the NY Post. They work a lot, they don’t eat in, and they don’t host guests, which is why they had no qualms about buying a microstudio — possibly Manhattan’s smallest — for $150,000.

microstudio in new york city

The kitchen is used to store the few articles of clothing they keep in the microstudio, with most of their clothes living at various dry cleaners. Oh, and the couple’s two cats eat on the counter. There’s naught in the fridge other than espresso and champagne. A queen bed takes up a third of the microstudio, and the bathroom is the size of a small closet. At a mere 14.9 feet long and 10 feet wide, you can bet it feels a little claustrophobic.


“I’m amazed we can fit two people and two cats in there,” Zaarath said. “But it’s harmonious at this point. I have friends who say they could never live with their husbands in a place this small. It’s a good thing we like each other enough to live there.”

The only other resident of the microstudio is the couple’s Roomba, which must scare the bejeezus out of those poor cats every time it’s turned on. On one hand, I applaud Zaarath and Christopher Prokop for making the most of the space they can afford — they’ll apparently be able to pay off the $150,000 in a mere two years. On the other hand, they seem a little self-congratulatory about their knack for small space living.

Dreaming of an Ocean View

It’s my birthday today, and I’ve decided that for the big 3-0 what I’d really like is an ocean view. Unfortunately, an ocean view will add oodles of cash to the cost of a house, which means we’re stuck living within walking distance of the sea. Woe is us, right? That doesn’t mean I can’t dream of an ocean view…

ocean view cottage

I’m not picky or anything; something like this will do quite nicely, thank you.

beach house

Perhaps with an exterior rather like this? Something where I can walk out my front door and smell the sea air or even walk directly into the ocean.

beach house interiors

And an interior like this would not be remiss! Though as I said, I’m not picky at all. (via)

Hint, hint!

Is Your House Making You Fat?

Studies show that while homeowners aren’t any more or less happy than renters, they experience more negative feelings related to their domiciles. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that female homeowners weigh more than female renters.

Researchers discovered homeowners, on average, outweighed renters by 12 pounds. In addition to excess weight, female homeowners were also carrying around more aggravation, making less time for leisure, and were less likely to spend time with friends.

Apparently the researchers controlled for age, as it would seem logical to assume that homeowners are on average older than renters and people tend to put on weight as they ride the chronology train into the future.

fat house
Fat House by Erwin Wurm (2003)

Alas, age has nothing to do with it. Researchers speculate that homeowners spend less time doing things like socializing with friends, walking, and playing sports because they are too busy fixing roofs, installing new wainscoting, and walking the aisles of Home Depot looking for deals on pedestal sinks for that half-bath they plan to install one of these days.

The findings present a chicken-or-the-egg question for social scientists, who are unsure if home ownership causes these patterns or if people prone to less sociability, less interest in leisure activities and higher stress are simply more attracted to owning homes.

Full disclosure: I am a female homeowner. I may be carrying around an extra pound or two, but not necessarily twelve. That said, I walk every day. And I wasn’t all that social to begin with. But this smacks to me of one of those “correlation does not imply causation” situations.

pirates are cool

Page 1 of 212»