walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Karrie Jacobs, _The Perfect $100,000 House_

I'm halfway through it, but I'm going to post a review at this point anyway. I'm going to try to finish it, but it's going back to its owner on the 8th, one way or another.

Jacobs grew up in a subdivision in New Jersey (this is important), spent her freshman year in college on a mountain in Vermont (ditto), finished up at Evergreen, then went to Seattle to be a part of The Rocket in the early years.

There's a weird image. From 1978-82 (I think those are the years she lived in Seattle), my primary experience of downtown Seattle involved taking the bus to the dentist. Hers was different.

Anyway, Jacobs Loves teh Modern Style. She also loves teh Uncompromising Style. This is a woman who cannot imagine a need for more than one oven. She has no close family since her cat of 17 (?) years died. She can't keep public/private divisions in a house straight because she's got no use for the public parts of a house. And she wants to Lead the Way in Building Excellent Housing for the Masses.


I used to drive around the country (not so much now, with the toddler). On my first forays, I took people with me, having been raised to believe that it wasn't safe to go _anywhere_ alone. Staying in unfamiliar hotels on unfamiliar roads in unfamiliar towns in states I was driving through was the last gasp of afraid-to-be-alone. However, after that trip to Yellowstone with P., I decided alone and at risk was better than in the company of someone incredibly aggravating. I developed a detailed inventory of what made for a good travel companion, and it was damn hard to get someone who met the criteria AND had the time to travel. So I did a lot of my driving alone. I have, therefore, a limited amount of sympathy for someone who expanded this idea to their entire life. But it's pretty limited. I've also been to a lot of the places she mentions in the first half of the book (not the houses, not the architect's offices, not the subdivisions; the towns and cities). I have to say I'm somewhat startled by the things that surprised her. For example, the Harley riders in and around Sturgis. Of _course_ they are middle-aged accountants and other professionals. That's the _cliche_, Jacobs.

Because my father was an electrician, I have some passing familiarity with construction. Jacobs' comments about how modernist housing is as expensive to build as the ticky-tacky stuff are wholly misleading. FAR MORE expensive, is more like. Delusional.

All that aside, having spent a lot of time going to Open Houses (mostly on the West Coast, from the Bay Area to British Columbia), and a limited amount of time going to things like the Street of Dreams, I can sympathize with some of her issues with subdivisions. Here's where I cannot sympathize with her. Builders, architects and ordinary people keep telling her what they want from a house -- and it isn't Uncompromising Style. Not at all. In at least one case, a couple living in a house of Uncompromising Style (altho not modernist, per se) of their own design some decades back, are deeply unhappy without house because it represents exactly their thinking of some decades back. It's Not Working For Them anymore.

Therein lies the problem with Uncompromising. You're going to change. If you house is perfect for you when you buy it, when you do change, it won't be perfect any more.

The problem with style is slightly more complex, but let's go with the brick fireplace she mentions from a class at Evergreen, with the bricks vertical to help the smoke go up. That Is Not Functional. Maybe it's cute. Maybe that cuteness is worth something. But modernist style is very, very, very rarely truly about Functional. And every time it departs from functional to be Functional it's going to piss off the person who has to live and work there. Attempts to reproduce historical Style have related problems (altho apparently thatched roofs are very fire resistant and last like 60 years), in that our life now is so unlike life at the time it made sense to build that way that again, Not functional.

I'm not saying anybody should buy the stuff Hovnanian and KB churn out. I'm just saying that it'd be a tragic day if KB and Hovnanian started building the way Jacobs would like them to build.

Possibly more about this book later. At least she has the sense to acknowledge early on that location (and therefore land price) drives total cost more than anything else, and she wouldn't really want to live anywhere the land is cheap (with the possible, altho imo unlikely exception of some college town). I think she should just buy a condo in a downtown she likes and build dollhouses with Uncompromising Modern Style. Altho where she'll get one for $100,000 is beyond me.
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