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What are we looking for?

by Jeffrey Rous last modified Aug 30, 2013 12:47 PM
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Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Shawn Freeman at June 08. 2005

I have no idea how UR is managing these deals and the design/construction process, but I can speak to my recent experience in building a modern here in Dallas.

We live on Chapel Hill Rd near White Rock and we hired Cliff Welch to design a house for us. (I've known Cliff for a long time and he has done design work for me several times in the past for different businesses I've owned or run. Also, I should note, he is a close friend.)

The program and design phase was a dream but during the construction phase we learned some painful lessons that I would share:

1. The best time to control costs is in the beginning during design. It is far easier to get real savings when you are still talking about square footage than later when you are specifying cabinets and hardware. This may seem obvious but what it means is that you have to have a good sense of what it is going to cost to build in order to make those trade-offs. We made the mistake of pushing hard to get construction going before taking the time to really complete the plans in detail and get estimates and assumed (incorrectly) that we would have time to course-correct later. It takes time to get plans and more detailed estimates but believe me it is worth the investment.

2. Even the best laid plans will go awry. A custom, modern home often includes details and ideas that simply haven't been done before. This can mean rethinking and reworking to make it right. Which adds cost. Which wasn't contemplated in the beginning. See #1.

3. You may have the best architect and contractor in the world. That doesn't mean the subs will be great. Or on the job when they said they would. Or do the work right the first time. Guess what? More time or money or both.

4. $125 seems low to me. We spent $200+ and we could have easily spent a whole lot more. I have no idea what your program is, so I'm just passing along my experience.

Having described some of the pain, I have to say that I would do it all over again, with lessons learned in mind. We have a wonderful house and so much of the process was really, really fun.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by lara perry at June 11. 2005

Someone mentioned the Kessler area so I thought I'd chime in...

We just wanted a nice small house, so we moved to West Kessler 4 years ago. With all the different neighborhoods in the area (each with its own personality) and the redevelopment (esp. Ft. Worth Ave. and Bishop Arts), I've found it to be a pretty neat place. East Kessler seems to have more of a modern slant than anything else I've seen in north Oak Cliff - it's very cool - but there are still lots of places in the general area that can be bought and seriously renovated, or even torn down, for a reasonable cost. Besides Kessler Woods - which everyone here is familar with - there are plenty of folks here that are renovating existing homes to modern design.

Now all I'm looking for is to rebuild the garage :grin:

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Christiane Baud at June 12. 2005

This is a great forum, thanks. My husband and I plan to build a modern house in the Devonshire area. The lot is nice with mature trees (90x130). We have a good idea of what we want. Our ideal home would have lines similar to the Howard Meier home at 5381 Nakoma Street, total area around 2700 sqft. We would like to keep it in the $170 per sqft range.
We just started working with a local architect but are already finding out that it may be too difficult to get what we want, for instance the flat roof-line. Also we were surprised that the architect started with a rather complex floor plan and elevation rather than from a simple plan building up to more complex one.
I very much agree with your point that costs are to be factored in from the start and that some early choices and trade-of have to be made based on cost. We are having problem getting these design-vs-cost issues laid out for us by our architect.
Bottom line, we are happy to learn as much as we can during the design stage and push our architect to work with us. We are not sure, though, that we will be able to get the house we want at the price we want, simply because it seems to be completely out of the main stream.

Any advice would be welcome.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Joel Efrussy at June 12. 2005

A few quick thoughts:

As as a life long Dallas Resident, and practicing architect (in the process of registration - so consider that my disclaimer), I am heartened to see such an active modernist community in Dallas. Ok, cheeleading/soapboxing complete, my humble advice - and apology for length and possible spelling issues:

I would encourage you to continue to work with your architect to explain what you are looking for, from both an aesthetic and budget point of view. Don't be afriad to tell him, this is more complex than what we want or this is our budget - we need to stick to it, what can we get/do for this amount. Nothing is more frustrating for an architect, or client, than working / slaving / obsessing / eating / drinking / breathing on a design that cannot or does not get realized because it is way over budget. Making sure that you and architect are in-sync (sorry for the boy band reference) will make his/her job, and your lives, much easier.

I agree with the previous points on the design vs. cost factor. In my experience, most architects/designers can design to any reasonable budget, as long as they have a clear understanding of what it is, and the clients have realsitic expections about what they can get for their money. While you will not get the same level of fixtures and finish as the Freeman house by Cliff Welch, of whom I am a huge fan, you should be able to get something quite nice. $170/psf should get you something certainly better than a builder home in the suburbs, and I would venture, not knowing the specifics, something that you would be very pleased with.

It is realy about expectations. If you want a Balthup kitchen, commercial appliances, Italian glass mosaic tile in the bathrooms, mahogany framed windows, and wild plan moves requiring lots of steel or other structural gymnastics, $170 psf will not be enough; but if you are comfortable with IKEA or Kraft-Maid cabinets, stained concrete floors, vinyl or alum. windows, and a fairly simple plan, it probably will be. Others - please chime in on the cost issue.

As far as the flat roof issue goes, check out the flat roof discussion on the materials and methods forum:
Also, check out the Easton Houses by Jon Delcambre (friend and colleague)he is using sips:

Don't get discouraged, this can be a long and sometimes difficult process, but most people (I hope) who stick it out, are happy with the results.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Jeffrey Rous at June 15. 2005

cmbaud, Our first bids were in at around $155/sf-$165/sf. I have a pretty good sense of what $170/sf will get you. I did send you a message (through LiveModern) but I know they are easy to miss. But basically, $170/sqft won't get you the load-bearing brick and lots of glass and custom millwork that characterize a Howard Meyer house. Our plans called for a stucco exterior, Ikea cabinets, and mid-level appliances and fixtures. On the up side, we also specified high quality aluminim windows (lots of them), SIP construction, a 480 sf water-tight deck over a concrete porch and some custom steel.

Anyway, here are some images of the Nakoma house cmbaud refers too.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by ThreeDogKnight at June 15. 2005

I have actually been in the house on Nakoma, and it is fantastic. The current owners are very "minimalist", and have kept it in great shape. They did go in and wire it for whole house audio/internet etc. The fountain below the stairs:

[url href=""][/url]

was not functional when I was there, but I think they were looking to restore it.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Jeffrey Rous at June 15. 2005

I went through it several years ago when it was on the Preservation Dallas Modern tour. The fountain was working at the time and I will concur that it was very, very cool. I have noticed that the house underwent a pretty thorough renovation that was just completed about 4-6 months ago. Have you been through it since? Looks like they just cleaned it up. Is that right?

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by ThreeDogKnight at June 15. 2005

They were mostly finished with the renovation while I was there. A friend of mine did the audio/video/lighting/cat5 part of the renovation. I did not see it before the renovation started, so I don't have much of a reference point. I don't think anything structurally had major changes.

Re: What are we looking for? (response to sfreeman's post)

Posted by Pryce Tucker at June 15. 2005

re: sfreeman post (06-08-2005) --

I think sfreeman's house on Chapel Hill is the house my wife and I have been lusting after. We make it a point to drive by every few weeks just so we can imagine living in such a stunning house.

We met with a McMansion builder recently (they had a lot we liked). They were very accomodating, and were agreeable to building a modern house. We pointed to your house as an idea of what we wanted to do (though on a much smaller scale). They proposed a design that incorporated some of the design cues (some stacked stone, some cedar siding, a flat/angled roof, etc.) Unfortunately, after we factored in the lot price ($180K) the total package would have been far more than $200 sq.ft. We swallowed hard and walked away.

But we're still looking. We hope some day to find -- or build -- a current (or mid-century) modern house in a location we like and at a price we can afford.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Jeffrey Rous at June 16. 2005

ptucker, For a 2400 sqft house, $180k means $75/sqft just for the lot. That would mean the builder was going to charge you $125/sqft, not horribly high for what you are looking for. Sinc you won't be able to get the constuction cost down much from that, you will need a cheaper lot. Also, there are a few modern houses around certain areas. I know of a few lots and one mid-cent-mod. house for sale, but all in the NW Dallas or Farmers Branch area. What parts of town are you looking in?

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Pryce Tucker at June 16. 2005

Good point. It still seems like a lot though.

We're looking generally in the East Dallas area. We tried looking in Lake Highlands but it seemed a bit dull. We seriously considered the C streets, but the lots there are already seeing price inflation because of the handful of mini-McMansions (with 2 or 3 more on the way) that recently popped up over there. That may be the area we can afford if we can find a lot we like at a reasonable price. In fact, we recently saw a new house going up on La Vista about 1/2 mile east of Abrams that looks to be a new-modern. We're curious to see how it turns out.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by John Smith at August 02. 2009

Hi all,
If you are looking for contemporary stainless steel door hardware, you should have a look at DAYORIS Hardware.
They have all kind of modern stainless steel door handles, stainless steel door levers, and very nice stainless steel door pulls.

The good thing is that they have all these stainless steel door hardware in stock.

But they also have modern doors, modern door stops and modern doorbells.

DAYORIS Hardware is the one stop shop for all modern hardware.

They distribute brands like Valli and Valli, FSB, and many stainless steel door handles suppliers.

We don't usually think about door hardware, but once installed you realize the value that these stainless steel door hardware added to any home or office.
It is a great thing to change before selling a home; home buyers pay attention to details, so with these modern hardware, the details will be here.

There is also a new product that just came out: wood wall panels.
This new line of modern wall panels is a new concept that standardize carpentry.
They have wood wall panels available in many diferent sizes, and diferent colors.
These modern wall panels are delivered with a sub-panel. You will just need to screw the sub-panel to the wall, and easily hang your wood panels like a picture frame.
This process is great you should look at the categorie wood wall panels : http:linkto wall


Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Chase Heckendorn at July 01. 2010

There has been a shift toward more eclectic living in the past few years. Modern lofts in Downtown Dallas are at the highest occupancy rates they've ever experienced. Though, most of the modern lofts are primarily in Downtown high-rises, I expect this trend to continue to grow in other areas. There's an article in today's Dallas Morning News about how quickly the residences in the Arts District are leasing and selling.

If you're interested in looking at any of these buildings, this site: has great pictures of the Downtown Dallas high-rise lofts and the new Arts District development.

Re: What are we looking for?

Posted by Mark Millikan at October 14. 2010

Previously Rodrigo Ocejo wrote:

Remember to check occasionally for vintage modern,  and I'm thinking its time feature good newer modern homes there too, under a

new tab maybe, because there are some good ones being built, even outside the new modern enclaves. 

This has to be a message from the gods . . . I spent the whole evening looking for what's available in the Dallas market with a modernism/minimalistic touch, finding very little developments available, except some interesting townhouses.

Finally, I landed at Griffin website. Very nicely done, the Modern link is great. Saw two very interesting concepts, Kessler Woods and the Easton Rd houses. Reading through, I found Jon's name there. Man, talk about finding someone . . . Jonathan was harder to find in the internet than modernism in Dallas!

Well, you have figured out where I ended up, finding a site where the man himself jointly coordinates a forum.

While not living in the area right now, I am interested in relocating there in the next 2-3 years and are looking at an investment right now, modern style ONLY, potentially our future home. Therefore, my interest would be to acquire knowledge on anything modern/minimalistic being developed in the Dallas metro zone. I believe some of us interested in living in the city can add our two cents to the rebirth of modernism Jonathan was talking about, if we invest in Dallas (hopefully more architects would be attracted, as you mention!).

I was curious to know whether the Easton Rd houses are part of a small 3-house community or are aligned side-by-side on the street.

To touch upon Rous' point, I am looking for:

Naturally-finished construction materials: concrete, brick, glass, wood, steel. 18-20ft living room areas. A lot of glass, a view from there. Minimal roundiness. Square spaces, where every corner is maximized. Functional design. A dining room where one actually eats more than twice a year. A living room where people gather, not only used when guests are around. Diminishing slack space, such as several dining spaces and more lounges/living rooms than utilized. Improve closet design, it seems we cannot fit our stuff anywhere these days. Innovative bathroom design. We use bathrooms intensively few hours a day, and then less than we think so during the whole day. Space, space and space; nothing more relaxing in our stressful lifes than to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of clean space after a hard day. White walls. Great modern art.

For a start . . .



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