Monday, August 13, 2007

The Seattle Street of Dreams

This afternoon my wife gently coerced me into going to the 2007 Street of Dreams in Seattle. Ideally the Street of Dreams is a chance for home builders and designers to strut their stuff, do some good design, work with contemporary materials, etc. The wifey and I went out there with the hope that we'd get some ideas for our new digs in Tacoma.

This afternoon's experience was something of a disappointment; the houses on display were egregious exercises in conspicuous consumption... McMansions, really. Lots of marble, expensive leather furniture, humongous display kitchens which would be difficult to work in (who's bright idea was it to put the microwave below counter level?), etc. And not a whole lot of good design going on... I'm all for open floor plans, but without exception the houses had vast swaths of unused (and unusable) floor space. It was just one big box of room after another with lots of baroque trim.

But the worst part, IMHO, was the emphasis on "green building". All over the place the message was that home buyers could feel good about their purchase because of all the energy-efficient appliances and eco-friendly materials. God, where to start with that one? How about: why do you need 4700 ft.2 for 4 people? No, really. These houses were huge, and most of them had sizable grounds as well, but they had a master bedroom, a guest bedroom, and 2 kids bedrooms. 4 people, plus a couple of guests, tops.

You wanna be green? You wanna be sustainable? How about you start by living efficiently? For god's sake, the master baths in some of these houses was bigger than my living room. The walk-in closets felt like NYC boutiques. Not because they needed to be, but because they could. You want to save water, save electricity, save a tree or two? Make a sacrifice, try living in 3000 ft.2. I know it would be a hardship, but we've all got to take a hit for the team. You're perfectly welcome to live in your ginormous house, but don't claim you're being eco-friendly at the same time.

Almost as an aside to the whole experience we were able to get some good ideas about current design trends. Bamboo flooring is out, cork and hand-planed wood is in. Fireplaces are in, but there weren't any double-sided fireplaces to speak of, which I consider a shame. Instead most of the houses had these ghastly, faux-wood gas numbers. There were (sometimes multiple) wine refrigerators/cellars in each kitchen. And all of you who've been looking at the tranlucent glass tile for your bathroom, you're not as cool as you thought you were.

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