Experience a Slice of ‘Great City Life’ in a Grenadier Homes Community
Just Like A Pebble Hitting Still Water – The Ripple Effect
by John Egnatis, Grenadier Homes CEO
Maybe it was because Anthony, Grenadier Homes’ president, and I were raised in households where our parents first spoke to us in foreign languages? Maybe it was because we both visited the small villages where our parents were raised in Fossacesia, Italy and Xino-Nero, Greece, as young boys for extended family vacations? Maybe it was partly because we grew up together in Toronto, Canada, and experienced the heart of the city either at college or in our early professional years? Or possibly because Anthony and I had the chance to backpack and visit many of Europe’s great cities: Venice, Rome, Stockholm, Paris, Vienna, etc?
As we started Grenadier Homes in our mid 20s, Anthony and I just had this feeling about what made a place great, and it did not matter whether it was in a world class city or a small village; we realized that life should be celebrated daily and not just as a weekend or annual vacation privilege. Life, and the connection with other people in your city and neighborhood, should be more enjoyable without having to spend a fortune to experience a re-creation of it somewhere else.
What are the ingredients that create this dynamic and harmonious life energy? First you add people walking, talking and lounging in a piazza or central square. At night after a wonderful dinner, they call it the Passeggiata (in Italy) and the Volta (in Northern Greece), and it means strolling along the sidewalks or pedestrian friendly streets and talking about the day’s events with friends, family, and most importantly, all others from the local neighborhood. Perhaps a break at a Cafe for a Cappuccino or a Trattoria for Vino in Italy; or a Taverna break for a Greek Coffee or an Ouzo in Greece? Maybe its time for a tasty appetizer - Antipasto in Italy or a Meze in Greece?
No matter the size of the village or city, and no matter the quality of the furnishings, one thing is always present, that people are walking, talking, eating, drinking, and enjoying everyday life. Enhancing this daily experience are the lush landscape gardens, the perfectly-placed pocket parks, the people-friendly pedestrian streets, the shade-giving large street trees, the human-scale architecture with classic long life materials, the outdoor gastronomic patios; and the feeling that this place was built for enjoyment outside and not just inside, and that the car was secondary and the people primary.
This was easier for some of the early great cities, because something happened as cars and televisions were added to the mix. People stopped doing many of these things. Cities changed or grew rapidly in the direction of maximizing vehicle travel efficiency to and from work or shopping or ‘fill in the blank’. Gone was the organic daily enjoyment of life in the city or neighborhood. Our priorities shifted as a society and life became more of a daily hassle and grind. We all scratched our heads and wondered where it all went?
Upon our arrival in Dallas and fresh with the ideas and inspirations from our backpacking travels, Anthony and I formed Grenadier Homes in 1991 and started building homes in Uptown, Dallas, because it was part of the heart of the city. We loved all the literature we could find about city planning and new urbanism. We lived and officed in the State Thomas Historic District and started the very first townhome development, and we experienced the neighborhood and believe we contributed a few small pebbles to the re-birth of the urban core in Dallas. We see today thousands of residences where we started our homebuilding career. We now see this momentum moving to other new urban areas like The Shops of Legacy and Bishop Arts District. Anthony and I talk to all our friends and associates, and one thing we hear over and over again is how great it is that Dallas is becoming a place where you can go and experience a slice of ‘great city life’.
One of Grenadier Homes’ goals is to help bring more of that ‘great city life’ to the small neighborhoods we create. We have a deep passion to create unique and memorable spaces where some of those great city or village place ingredients are present. We are not saying we are creating a whole new city, or even a village, but what we always keep in mind is that the homes and neighborhoods we build will have as much planning and opportunity to re-create that glorious feeling of energy where life is celebrated daily. In many ways, the master planned communities where we are building, have more amenities than many of those urban core cities, especially those amenities for recreational activities. When you think about the place you are calling home, you may not give a second thought to any of these things, but we promise to you that we, and all the people helping us at Grenadier Homes, are carrying out this vision, and not only thinking about it, but debating it, and sometimes fighting for more creative ways to make it happen when the budget is tight. You probably get the feeling that we are not your usual production homebuilding company. When we hear the words subdivision, floor plan, and square footage, we think single dimensional, linear, arithmetic and boring. When you hear the music, and the birds, and the voices, and the wind rustling leaves, and the clanging of glasses, we hope you realize that you just chose to “Live Your Best Life” and you are celebrating life as a daily habit in your Grenadier Home, with your Grenadier neighbors, and in your Grenadier neighborhood. If someone asks you how many square feet you live in, maybe a good reply would be “I don’t live my life by a tape measure!”.
The only way we change our lives and our cities, is if we all choose life over linear spaces. Just like a PEBBLE thrown into still water, it hits the water and transfers the energy to the surrounding water, and the radiating impact causes a ripple effect, and all neighboring water follows suit.
A Place for My Stuff: How Downsizing to a Grenadier Home Sets You Free
by John Egnatis, Grenadier Homes CEO
One of my all-time favorite comedy skits was the 1970’s George Carlin – A Place for My Stuff. The purpose of the house being a place for your stuff. He poked holes at how we keep buying more and more stuff. If you want a few laughs, take a listen.
I had the pleasure of hearing Jerry Seinfeld live, and his emotionally biting skit on how we feel about our stuff, from the initial allure at purchase is replaced by its eventual diminished enjoyment value as it goes from the main house into the garage and finally to its resting place- the trash or storage bin. He joked about stuff and talked about it like it was a person that went from being a big part of your life and then diminishing to no part of your life. If you want a few more laughs, take a listen.
What these genius minds uncovered and warned about, is that some of us maybe have an unhealthy relationship with inanimate objects.
The American consumer likes cars, clothes, appliances, electronics and furnishings. The new cars in the fall, the new lines of clothes by seasons, the new appliances, the new electronics, and the list goes on and on. I recall many news stories about the economy and consumer confidence being up or down, and it felt almost obligatory to go out and shop to do your part to keep the good times rolling. We are all being lumped into a category and simultaneously an economic indicator, but after 2008, there may be a fundamental shift happening. People are being more careful how they spend their money, especially on stuff.
Have we always bought so much stuff? Going back to the period just after WWII, it was promoted to be patriotic to purchase stuff, especially US MADE stuff, such as houses, cars, refrigerators, toasters, dishwashers, and clothes washers / dryers, etc. Later on the stuff was expanded to clothes and furnishings, as individual identity and status became more important to all of us.
What was discarded in this shopping spree was those old-fashioned immigrant values of prudence, thrift and community. They were replaced over time with irresponsible debts, insatiable choices, and more cocooning inside the ever-expanding entertainment home. The multi-pronged assault on the consumer by newspaper ads and TV ads was relentless. The creativity of the ads surpassed oftentimes the entertainment value of the shows or sports (i.e. many Superbowl games). The stores started to open Sundays and stay open later hours and shopping was now a national pastime, and for many a true sport, especially on Black Friday – the Superbowl of shopping.
The crafty ads were then sprinkled with clever finance options such as zero down, no payments until whenever, and voila you did not have to wait for the stuff you never knew you did not need but suddenly could not do without. Unfortunately, there was no disclaimer, that you may be paying interest long after you are bored of the stuff.
There is another layer to the shopping phenomenon, and it happens in the brain. When you buy something you want, you get a shot of feel good dopamine. So, it feels good to buy stuff, and sometimes so good, that it is even better than wearing or using the stuff. There is no warning on the label, contents will not nearly be as enjoyable after this date.
If we all think about experiences as lasting all your lifetime, and stuff as disposable or temporary, the entire trend could be on the path to being reversed. Millennials seem to have already clued into this, as they are buying so much less stuff, but instead spending money on experiences. It seems that their Baby Boomer parents, have started to say” hey wait”, and they are catching up to their Millennial kids’ way of thinking, as they smart size and are catching up on experiences. Many psychologists have written on the longer emotional benefit that a trip or experience will provide over the purchase of an object.
At Grenadier Homes, we provide an opportunity for those that want to smart size, to live in a super-efficient home, just dramatic enough to encourage luxurious yet economical furnishings, and most importantly, low maintenance and lower total cost of ownership which allows you to start accumulating memories and experiences, guilt free of leaving the home.
So, if someone asks what the key motto of most GrenadieriansTM is?
They will likely say, we chose to smart size and buy less stuff, so we can live life as though the vacation never ends.
Leave Home Maintenance in the Past with a Smart-Sized Grenadier Home
by John Egnatis, Grenadier Homes CEO
In the late 1800s and early 1900s many people who lived on farms moved to the city. My parents grew up in small Greek villages and went through this same transition, but in the mid-1900s. I learned about this village/farming life through an extended family vacation to Greece and watching my parents do housework and house maintenance on their own. The self-care savings provided much needed financial security.
As I grew up, they encouraged me to pursue an education so I could live a simpler – easier – more luxurious life. I had no interest in simpler but easier and luxurious sounded great. I remember my first car, and how I would wash and wax it each weekend. My neighbors and friends teased me – “You still wash and wax your car?” The desire to do that hasn’t returned since that first car. I started to think about the entire issue of hired/paid personal maintenance, dining, and home care as 1 topic.
You could take care of yourself and your car by hiring: doctors; laundry & drycleaner; shoe shine; hair/nail - trim & color & tyle; car wash & wax & detail & oil change & repairs and the list go on. Most people willingly hire many of these services.
You could eat by purchasing: fast food; prepared food; Uber Eats; casual dining; fine dining; un-assembled meals delivered; and the list goes on. Most people purchase many of their weekly meals or dine out.
You could hire home maintenance: lawn cutting & tree trimming & seasonal color planting & mulch; tree trimming; fence repairs & replacement; exterior painting; foundation or driveway or walkway repairs; gutter cleaning; chimney sweep; wash windows & exterior; and the list goes on, and on, and on, and is huge if you want to do it right. Most people reluctantly do some of the above and hire the rest. At Grenadier Homes, we bring in and direct professional HOA Management to do all the above, and even more, at a cost savings to the buyer due to bulk buying power; and knowledge of the cost and access to the trades doing repairs.
What about safety? Over 600,000 people are injured from ladder falls in the US annually. This, along with visiting my dad in the hospital as a teenager after such a ladder fall was enough for me, and I am not taking any risks by cleaning gutters via the ladder.
What about contractors? Who to hire and how much to pay them? Meeting them or more likely waiting for them for bids if a repair is needed. This is especially tough on anyone who is vulnerable due to lack of free time or knowledge; which is almost everyone.
If you asked my parents what they miss the most about the village, they would talk about the fresh herbs & fruits & vegetables and local meats, the village friends & how they walked the streets at night and all talked, and time spent at the cafés and tavernas in the center of the village. In many ways, the simpler life they led was the most luxurious. My wealthy friends and many of our homeowners take vacations to places to re-create this same village lifestyle my parents took for granted.
The master-planned places we build our homes give our homeowners a chance to create that simpler but exciting lifestyle at home and provide cost savings and peace of mind with professional management allowing many more worry-free travels.
The Grenadier Homes Mission is that we build smart-sized homes in neighborhoods where people know each other, and our homes provide a lower cost, carefree yet exciting lifestyle.
Why smart sized? It is less costly and easier to self -maintain.
Why professional HOA maintenance? It is less costly and mostly hassle free and creates time for other items.
Why Master Planned? They allow more opportunities for meeting neighbors and recreation and living a simpler yet exciting lifestyle.
Why Grenadier? TIME and $MONEY savings allow you to hire the rest and LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE.
One day in the future, many people will be living in HOA managed homes and asking others, “You still self-manage your home?” And it will remind me of, “You still wash and wax your car?”
As DFW homebuilders, Anthony and I have always strived to deliver a home we feel will enhance lives. We understand this home is likely the highest dollar purchase for most buyers. We try to balance promoting why we are doing what we do and telling you why you will want to make this your chosen home or lifestyle without being too pushy.
I recall my first class in University, in Econometrics, where my professor talked about the life altering power of marketing and advertising. One example he showed us was Johnson’s baby shampoo – “gentle enough to use every day” was the slogan. The intention when introduced was radical, as most people in those days bathed less frequently, but they wanted to encourage use of their product and sell more shampoo. They later modified the directions: use daily was modified to lather, rinse, repeat and alas even more shampoo sales.
The result is the consumer sometimes consumes more of the product than they may need, and the company wins with rising revenues. We feel the homebuilding industry produced McMansions that feel good at purchase, but later may be too big for childless households, or too big for lifestyle budgets that have limited space for home maintenance and housing expenses.
As we have grown Grenadier Homes, our mission has become to build smart-sized homes in master-planned neighborhoods where people know each other, and to design homes that provide a lower cost and carefree-yet-exciting lifestyle. From this we recently settled on a tagline, GO AHEAD, LIVE YOUR BEST. We want to encourage our buyers to buy less so you can live more. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain. We hope our buyers embrace this sentiment.
Choosing how you are going to live your best in the next twenty plus years of your life is both a logical and emotional decision. Here is a possible template to follow to make such a decision?
List all the things you want to do in the next twenty years, and rank them according to:
Critical (Must Haves)
Important (Really want to haves)
Optional (It would be nice to have)
With this list in mind and marking the A’s, B’s and C’s, compare the:
The pros (benefits) of a GRENADIER HOME
The cons (sacrifices)
See where there are more A’s and B’s.
See what the results tell you about your thoughts and your future dreams.
If more than 1 person is living together, do this process independently first, and compare notes. Sleep on it, and ask yourself what you really want, and GO AHEAD, LIVE YOUR BEST!
Get More Vitamin G
What’s Better - a Green Home or a Green Neighborhood?
We all know by now that an energy efficient green home is good for both our pocketbook and the environment. What is a Green Neighborhood, you ask? Well, it’s simply a community that has access to nature and walking trails.
Everyone understands that a walk in the park or nature feels good. Outdoor lovers understand that fitness and fresh air go very well together.
We all should strive to stay active, but sometimes busy schedules make it difficult. Activity level is relative, but just a few walks a week can have many benefits. Many choose to go to a health club, but this could take 1.5 to 3 hours out of your day depending on your workout routine, distance from home or work, and if you need to shower afterwards.
That is why Grenadier Homes often builds in master-planned communities that have many places for convenient walks in nature or runs on trails. We want our residents to enjoy their surroundings.
But, as I started to research more about this, I was really surprised at just how beneficial this access to nature is.
Here are some of my findings:
Walking at a brisk pace that raises your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone is recommended for the benefits of "real exercise". Many doctors promote brisk walking over running as a better alternative to the negative effects running has long term on hips, knees and joints.
Your doctor will advise you regarding your heart health that you should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week, which can be broken up into sessions of at least 10 minutes at a time.
Exercising or walking in the natural environment as part of daily life benefits mental health and gives you a greater feeling of revitalization and positive energy, as well as decreasing tension and depression.
Green has a calming effect and exercising outdoors with natural scenery distracts you, so you can forget how hard you are working. Some publications refer to this experience as getting your Vitamin G.
Modern technology taxes the brain, and a massive effort is required to block out or inhibit the distractions screens provide. In nature, the involuntary focus takes over the brain, giving it and you a pleasurable break.
So, if you live in a Green Neighborhood and you take advantage of the convenience of the nature surrounding you, you should experience the benefits of very likely a healthier heart, healthier brain, and a better mood.
So, all you must do is put on your shoes and walk out the door, and Vitamin G (free – no deductible) is waiting for you!
At Grenadier Homes, we offer you Villa townhomes in both a Green Home and a Green Neighborhood.
"Price per square foot is not equal to Value."
As CEO of Grenadier Homes, I have always been highly sensitive to cost per square foot. It is just a numeric statistic. Reminds me of the famous line, that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.
The actual computation is Cost over Size. This highly hypothetical example ($000’s) shows how the price per square foot moves from $200 on the 1 story townhome to $147 and $118 as the home is doubled and tripled in size by adding a second level with extra rooms. The First Level costs way more to build than the Second Level because there is one garage, one structure, one kitchen and one master bed/bath.
So, it is clearly the case that the larger the home, the less costly it is per square foot. But, is this necessarily an indication of value?
What could be some visible factors not shown in square footage that affect value?
Volume of Ceilings
Energy Efficiency Features
Safety features such as Universal Design and Sprinklers
Amenities in the neighborhood – parks and trails and lifestyle centers (swimming pools and fitness and outdoor entertaining areas)
What are some items that are harder to determine but affect value and livability?
Light and Window placement
Ergonomics – ease of use of the spaces
Efficiency of spaces and circulation
Community design for resident interaction and making new friends
Professional Home Owners Association (HOA) designed to protect your value and privacy
At Grenadier Homes, we have a mission to deliver right-sized homes that are architecturally desirable and to build them in communities with lifestyle amenities and professional management. Our townhomes have all the above built right into the home. We feel this is the best way we can deliver real and enduring value. Our joy comes from learning that our homeowners have a lower cost of ownership (Financial Value), became friends with neighbors, cherish the ease of living in a luxurious, smart-sized home (Lifestyle Value).
At Grenadier Homes, Financial Value + Lifestyle Value = Real & Enduring Value.
Written by:John Egnatis - CEO of Grenadier Homes
"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!