"Is the size of your lawn a status symbol or a societal bad habit?"
In 18th Century Europe, expansive private lawn spaces began to appear, and the look was copied in the 19th Century in America, by past presidents, and then by the wealthy immigrants displaying their new status in society.
This private estate lawn ran contrary to the shared public park movement championed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who helped create north-eastern communities with smaller lots and communal parks. He later went on to design Central Park in Manhattan which acts as a natural relief from the dense city dwellings, and is every bit as good today as when it was first built.
After WWII, the federal government financed low cost mortgages and the advent of production housing communities were established along with America’s suburbs. The homes in that era were adorned with reasonable private lawn sizes and corresponding modest home sizes.
The size of homes has doubled in the past 50 years, along with the size of the private lawn. Lawns currently cover a land area larger than the State of Texas. The non-edible lawn is the largest crop grown in America. At a cost of 200 gallons / day (73,000 gallons / year) for the average lawn, that is a tremendous use and cost of water. Is Texas far behind California’s water rationing where water shortages have caused rationing and billboards asking residents to embrace brown as the new green.
Furthermore, today’s two income households and smaller family sizes have less leisure time to maintain those private lawns, and prefer to hire the lawn care if they can afford it.
So the question we should all be asking ourselves, is the size of our private lawns worth the costs and hassle? Perhaps, smaller lawns and shared park spaces are a better model.
At Grenadier Homes, part of our mission is to do what is right for everyone we touch and everywhere we build. As a result, we locate our smart sized homes on smaller lots in planned communities with shared park spaces and other shared amenities. We use drought tolerant native perennials in our landscapes. With smaller lots and professional management our homeowner’s experience significantly lower water bills and lower lawn maintenance costs.
We thank our homeowners for helping us contribute to hopefully making the world better for tomorrow’s generations.
Written by: John Egnatis - CEO of Grenadier Homes
"How the Great Room Became the Center of Your Home"
Over the last sixty years, the size of our homes has dramatically increased, but what drives that and what purpose has the square footage increase served us and our families? Today in our blog, Grenadier Homes is exploring the history of how the “Great Room” became the center of our homes and why the concept is here to stay in modern homebuilding and design.
The Post War Home Explosion
The American Bungalow of the post war era was an efficient home that had human scale proportions and it had a distinct set of rooms: dining room, living room, kitchen, bedrooms and porch, and a set of stairs leading to an attic which, may be finished or unfinished. It was designed for the family at the time: a Nuclear Family with a go-to-work father, a stay-at-home mom along with two kids. In fact, it was very suited for its time, as life and families had more defined roles.
As the construction of homes became mass produced in the 1970,s builders of larger scale developments began to produce more home for less cost, and as a result, the home naturally grew in size. This competition for size literally became the idiom of "keeping of with the Joneses" as builders added more rooms for the changing demographics, incomes and lifestyles.
Enter the SoHo Loft
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, SoHo (South of Houston Street) was an un-named neighborhood that was illegally housing artists in poor conditions. The old buildings however, were cheap and available with the steep decline in business leasing the big spaces. On the inside, the designs were naturally big and open as they were previously created for industrial warehousing, garment manufacturing and other light industry. Courageous activists helped to save the areas from the wrecking ball and a huge highway project. Once deemed a real neighborhood, demand for the spaces increased and allowed the gentrification of the spaces into lofts. One of the most famous lofts was featured in the 1980s movie GHOST and this captured tremendous excitement for the design as the wide-open living spaces were truly GREAT.
The Birth of the McMansion
In the 1980s, the term McMansion was coined as homes grew even larger in size and their facades mimicked European castles on the outside. On the inside however, builders were busy creating the Great Room, and it was the signature space in the McMansion.
The great room combined many rooms: living, dining, and kitchen and side areas for other purposes and it was placed centrally in the home so that it became the epicenter of all family activity, and in other words, a soft-version of the SOHO loft.
Later, as movies could be rented or projected in the home, the great room was also created upstairs for the kids and later a media center was added for special purpose viewing, playing games and sleep overs.
Soon, outdoor living became more prominent in home designs and added to the competition of features to lure new homebuyers. The previously useable outdoor spaces quickly began to compete with the great room for attention and use.
In the last few years, the size of the American home has started to shrink again, and the prominence of the Great Room has been reduced in scope as a result as costs of construction and utilities have had a double whammy effect in encouraging smaller spaces to reduce the total cost of the home and its on-going cost of maintenance. However just eliminating size of spaces or taking away a room is not the real answer or what the discerning resident is looking for.
From the practicality of Bungalows to the openness of SoHo lofts, our projects at Grenadier Homes that we build and develop incorporate many styles of homes and features. One of our most exhilarating developments includes a new construction loft midrise project near Deep Ellum with 12-foot ceilings, concrete floors, exposed ducts, timber wood ceiling beams, and large 8-foot-tall by 12-foot-wide windows. We evolved our designs to build attached Villa townhomes that all have a Great Room that incorporates the combination of an open kitchen, Livingroom and dining room with vaulted ceilings and use of light to enhance the space, and of course, the right proportions of each space for usability and beauty.
Our hope is this; just like those open industrial lofts, we want to allow ultimate creative flexibility for furnishing and living, we aim to provide a canvas that allows for three main goals:
- Great finishes elements (floors, cabinets, fixtures, etc.)
- Great furniture (the space should be easily furnished for many uses)
- Great design karma (a great space is one where its easy to entertain and one you will remember for the memories it creates).
What is your favorite design element from historical homes you would like to see incorporated into a new home? We love to hear your feedback and ideas!
Written by: John Egnatis - CEO of Grenadier Homes