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Rants and Wisdom



In Rants and Wisdom

By lthomas

A Mr. Potato Head House?

On 27, Oct 2016 | In Rants and Wisdom | By lthomas

Among the crazy things I see happening in residential real estate (like supersized houses) there is the creation of what I fondly call “Mr. Potato Head” houses.

 Just like the Mr. Potato Head toy where you get a large, oversized base body and a kit of extra body parts to stick wherever whim desires, I often see houses that make no sense whatsoever. I began calling them Mr. Potato Head houses. Maybe the designer or builder felt that using every piece in their architectural kit was good design. But just because elements are acceptable or even beautiful in their own right, it doesn’t equate that they’ll all look nice when crammed together onto one structure. You can’t put the nose where the ears should be. And why the big lips and a mustache? Switch the potato and face parts out for a bloated box with every design element, roof type, window type and material stuck on and voila! You have a Mr. Potato Head house.

What about design, evaluation, proportion – all the things that make good architecture?  As much I love and Pinterest, perhaps they are also guilty of pushing the JUST TOO MUCH trend in residential architecture. I recently read this comment from a fellow Architect: “One trend I see is clients using websites like Houzz and Pinterest, then coming in with multiple, sometimes hundreds, of images and must have gizmo’s and wanting their home designed around them. To me, designing a home (or any building) is like writing a novel. One must have a good story and stick to that story.” (Edward J. Shannon, NCARB)

I do think images are useful for a client. It is so much easier for most people to show me what attracts them rather than to try to explain. I get that. But editing those visual images into a cohesive story, aka design, is my job, the reason clients hire me. So rather than designing around multiple “must-have!” gizmos, I want my clients to help me understand what it is about the gizmo that they find attractive so I can create a space that evokes that look or feeling or function. Good architectural design is not additive. We shouldn’t just add up all the gizmos, ideas, parts and images and stick them on the potato and call that good design.


Please, no more Mr. Potato Head.