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Thursday Afternoon Thinkage: Developing in Ocean Park

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A fascinating Thinkage question from a reader. What's hot and what's not? And most importantly, what will sell in today's market.

From local architect Jonathan Breen, David Lawrence Gray Architects:

"1st- In a market as big as Los Angeles there is a buyer for every style of home.
2nd- I don't know what sells better but, I am of the opinion that any style of architecture, if it is done well, will sell. Quality will always trump style... If you build it (well) they will come... My personal take on the issue is, why would we try to recreate an old style that no longer reflects the time that we live in. Why not use the advances in technology, and sustainability to create a style for today. Is modern more difficult to build? – Often contractors and subcontractors have to be taught a new way to do things, and they can be resistant to change. Simple, clean, and modern in many cases must be executed much more carefully and can be more difficult; you cannot hide a mistake with decoration, an arch – or more moldings.

Concrete, Steel and glass are typically much more expensive materials to use then wood and stucco, however the life cycle can be twice as long. Also, a lot of the modern style homes you see in California are wood and stucco anyway.

Like Modern homes, Spanish, Craftsman and other very detail oriented traditional architectures are very expensive to do correctly and are, therefore, often done poorly. Craftsman homes were built in a time when woodworkers, glass makers, and artisans were experts at their trade - this hardly exists today and comes at a great premium.

The most important thing you can do is to do it well. Hire an architect who is excellent at the particular style and type of architecture you choose. They may cost more in the beginning but will ultimately save you money in the long run. And my favorite quote by a modernist architect Adolf Loos in 1908 – “?ornament is crime..”

From local architect Chet Callahan, Lettuce (

I think there are a couple of things at play, here. One, marketing. Two, personal style. We have a lot of clients who come in and ask for a gamut of architectural styles from "country French" to "Spanish". These are marketing terms. They refer to something that is vaguely reminiscent of, perhaps, vacation homes in Southern France and Spanish missions in California. However, this is rarely what the client is thinking. Instead, they are often referring to some variation of a Southern California home that was built in the 1930s and were clad in plaster/ stucco in the instance of "Spanish", or has weathered wood shutters and a tile roof in the instance of "Country French". Often, these categories evoke some specific imagery that is meaningful to the client, but may have nothing to do with the etymology of the style. For example, a prospective client recently came to us asking for a "Spanish-style house". We asked for some imagery of what he had in mind (as words often betray this). He sent us photos of a Craftsman-style house that had been recently de-shingled and stuccoed. So, we try not to use stylistic terms, and instead, look for characteristics that the client is interested in, as we are designers/ architects and service industry professionals. In the end, every client is different. I think few would consider their architectural leanings to be "modern", however, they often respond very well to magazines such as Dwell or Metropolitan Home with very modern homes that use tactile materials like wood and stone and soften the edges with planting and comfortable furnishings. Even clients who request very specific stylistically-traditional home exteriors, want open interiors and large windows. Large, open kitchens seem to be fashionable (which are impossible in actual historical representations of these styles), as are indoor-outdoor entertaining spaces. In the end, I think most people-- regardless of the house's perceived style-- want the interiors to "work". They must be comfortable, flow well, and feel spacious.

As far as development goes, in Los Angeles, modern homes fetch the highest price/ square foot. MLS is open record. I encourage your inquisitor to take a look (taking into account, neighborhood value differences, etc.). However, Real Estate agents will tell you "Spanish" homes are the easiest to sell, but this is largely because of the large volume of these on the market and the perceived safeness of such a buy. I think neighborhoods and target clients also play a big part. I wouldn't advise a developer to build a 2,000 sf 5-bedroom traditional house in the Hollywood hills. This is a neighborhood of child-less homeowners who are looking for entertaining spaces and views-- not cramming in as many bedrooms as possible. Conversely, I wouldn't recommend building a 1 bedroom 4,000 square foot bachelor pad in Beverlywood. It needs to make sense for the neighborhood.