We’ve all heard the saying that… “we learn the most in this life from our failures”.
And unfortunately… it’s true.
A better way to learn is from observing OTHER people’s mistakes… and successes.
When building something as significant as a house we want we want to avoid painful “life lessons” as much as we can. Few people will share their mistakes with us (it’s often embarrassing and humbling) so we need to make a habit of seeking them out (that’s not hard to do when it comes to something as large as house).
It’s been a lifelong passion of mine is to study houses… to learn from the best and avoid the rest.
In this week’s episode of Handmade House TV I take you to three small houses that I recently came across in the search for land for my next home. Each of these houses was built about the same time… within a few hundred feet of each other… likely for about the same amount of money.
Two of them turned out tragically, while the third… stands proud and true.
What can you learn from them?
These two poorly built homes in this episode ignored the 12 Keys to a Handmade House… if you haven’t watched the free video that I put together revealing the 12 keys make sure and check it out sometime! Here’s the link… The 12 Keys to a Handmade Home
I don’t normally link to another site but I thought you all might enjoy this insightful article on McMansions… which also touches a lot on the sad situation of most current home construction with such great quotes as…
“when big building corporations such as Toll Brothers and Pulte Homes, consistently push the “More House for Your Money!” angle, it’s a safe bet that corners are being cut somewhere.”
“building materials are a good primary indicator as to whether or not a house was built cheaply. Houses built from brick, stone, wood, or real stucco are generally more reliable than those built with cheap trendy materials commonly marketed as being “no-maintenance.” (All houses require maintenance. Sorry to burst your [housing] bubble!) ”
“The thing about good design, is that it’s well-thought out – it shows that care has been put into the details and quality of what is being designed. If builders skimp so much on the external design (literally how a house looks) of a home, it’s usually indicative of other problems”
“Because we started treating our houses as disposable during the mortgage booms of the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, we ended up with houses built to last not even 25 years.”
For the record I didn’t build this cabin, nor did I design it. I wish I knew who did… I’d give them a tip of the old hat.
This cabin breaks a lot of the rules that I have placed on my own projects. The front porch is too small. The front of the cabin is not log, but rather switches over to paneling. The porch posts have structurally unnecessary angle braces. There is a door located in the gable end of the cabin, and there is vertical paneling above it rather than the traditional lap siding. And, there is a pretty unusual porch roof in the way it goes way up onto the cabin roof. With all these “rule-breakers” I shouldn’t like this cabin… but the fact is, I do. And, I do a lot.
So, what’s up with that?
First of all, there are no “rules” (I need to keep that in mind). There are proven things that work. And, on the other hand, there are features that often turn out to be mistakes or eyesores. But the fact is that sometimes proven things are boring, and unusual out-of-the-norm things turn out really well. Go figure.
So, why is this cabin so darn cute?
Yes, of course, small things are often cute… kittens, puppies, children… and tiny houses. Got that.
And, this cabin has some nice logs, along with other natural materials and tasteful decorative touches.
But, it turns out that the “rule-breakers” are what adds to the charm of the home.
I believe a porch that would have been built any larger than this would have been distracting… perhaps overwhelming. This porch works thanks to it being so low to the ground, it’s almost as if it is part of a much larger patio that is the woods with a small sheltered roof above the rocking chairs.
And, how about that porch roof that goes all the way up the cabin roof? It actually looks good, whereas a shorter, more typical one over that tiny porch would have looked stubby. Who likes “stubby”?… no one, that’s who.
The paneled siding on the front of the cabin eliminated the need for more logs (sometimes in short supply), and it provides more visual interest. It blends with the logs rather than contrasts… unlike say painted paneling or stone facade that wouldn’t.
By putting vertical siding on the gable end of the cabin the cottage now looks… well, taller… a nice enhancement. Tiny houses shouldn’t be squatty, tiny houses should be tall. (There I go with making rules again. lol… but I’m right on this one, probably)
I have found that the gable-end of a cabin, the one that has a chimney on it, is often the most attractive side of a cabin… but the end opposing the chimney is often plain and boring in comparison. By adding a door on this end the cabin has more visual interest. It’s as if the home now has two front profiles.
I learn so much from looking at the work of others. My work gets better… and it keeps me humble.
Artists often learn their trade by first studying the works of those that come before them and from their peers. Builders should too.
I gave out a little advice to a young man this morning on becoming a stone mason. I thought I’d share that advice with everyone… (This photo is of the foundation my firm built for a forty foot silo to set upon)
Stone masonry is tough on the back, so work carefully or you will have to give up this career far too soon.
In order to make a good living at it you will need to either get really good… or get big.
Either way you will need to not only learn the craft, but become a businessman, and a marketer.
Getting big often creates money, but often robs one of the joy in the work. So if you seek satisfaction… go for being the best.
Study the work of old, spend years copying the best of yesterday. Get a reputation in doing this.
After a decade or so, you can slowly start to add some of your own artistic flare to it.
The real challenge ahead of you is not the craft, you can learn it through practice and slowly become the best. Your challenge will be in finding people to pay you for it. You need to find an affluent area where people appreciate good stonework and are willing to pay for it. It’s a great idea to work in a small artistic stone company to learn the craft… make sure and pay close attention to how the business operates… work at a place that mirrors what you want your future business to be.
Beware of companies that do stone veneer on huge projects… you will become a machine.