Maids’ Rooms, Garden Pavilions, Coral Vanities, and Thought Experiments

16 thoughts on “Maids’ Rooms, Garden Pavilions, Coral Vanities, and Thought Experiments”

  1. Hawaii usually lags the mainland trends, but it seems they’re actually leading this one:

    Lots more stories to be found for “monster homes,” though it does seem the permitting office is cracking down on them now.

    Asian-style density, in a city without Asian-style transportation.

  2. I do agree that the future is going to look a lot like the past with multiple generations sharing a house. I always remember Sharon Astyk’s comment that the near future is less likely to look like the zombie apocalypse and more likely to result in your brother-in-law sleeping on your sofa due to an economic downturn or a natural disaster that the economy is failing to recover from. I figure I am safe as I don’t have a brother-in-law:)
    Btw thanks to the commenter above I have now connected you with the very first Kirsten Dirksen film I ever watched. Do you still have your garage house in Hawaii? That was a genius way around planning regulations. My partner built a temporary shed on his bush block 20 years ago and is still living in it today. This particular work-around is no longer available to owner builders here in Tasmania; no living in your shed/garage whilst ‘building a house’ unfortunately.

    1. With almost a third of Millennials failing to launch, and prime aged workforce participation at 40 year low, this scenario already well underway.

  3. I lived for 5 years in the garden apartment of gracious DC row home. It was typical for homes built in the era (~1880s) to have a ground-level service unit where the daily deliveries would be received, to house the mechanical for the build, a place for the domestics to rest, etc. Sometime about 20 years ago, some drywall was hung and 2nd hand appliances obtained. While having the appearances of a private unit al beit spartan, I was technically renting the spare bedroom (“wink, wink”). Despite literally thousands of similar homes across the city, if it’s a “spare bedroom” the rules are negligible, but a separate unit is a cruel and painful death at city hall….

  4. I often wonder what the folks who buy McMansions do for a living. Even for the SF condo it seems even very good professional incomes would strain to afford such high prices. Personally, I would prefer to own my home instead of the other way around.

    1. I have this conversation all the time.

      Home buyers at the high end in San Francisco (and other affluent places) aren’t paying for their homes with money earned from wages. The people who pay $400,000 over the asking price for a $3,000,000 place are using funds from capital gains – stock options from an IPO or the sale of small start ups that were absorbed by larger companies. I have many neighbors who have done this.

      Lower down there are two income households each earning six figures who do pay for property from wages, but the downpayment comes from family money.

      There are also people who owned a modest property they bought thirty years ago and incrementally sold and moved up over the years so the extra cost for each new place was manageable.

      Lower down still are the families who leverage themselves into extreme debt for a $700,000 fixer in a bad location hoping to trade up over time.

      For people who can only afford a mere $500,000 place they drive two hours away to an outer, outer, outer suburb and suck up a soul crushing commute.

      For the record, I’m a self employed housekeeper, gardener, handyman who moved to San Francisco a long time ago and bought property when it was a radically cheaper city. I have a $900 a month mortgage that’s almost paid off.

  5. The McMansion is even better compared to the tiny house when you consider that if enough other people do the same thing in the same area you might be able to build some tiny houses in its huge mulch farm.

  6. I commented on a previous post that I also clean homes, have since I was 23. I’ll be 49 this Summer. I’d also mentioned finding you via your connection to Fair Companies & Kirsten Dirksen.

    Your neighbor that you cleaned for is why I comment now. Do you find yourself in “The People Business” more than predicted, especially as clientele age? I do. And, it’s heartbreaking. Cleaning worked for me while my kids were young. I stayed with it as they got older because I liked (still do) being self-employed and the flexibility; I’ve worked in lovely homes, met wonderful people and have many “co-workers” aka the pets at the homes (best co-workers in the World!). Part of sticking with cleaning now is hanging in there for the people that need help. I’ve had to steel myself as people weep in their kitchen over sadness in their life. The visits to one home keep the woman’s kids from putting her a nursing home. A twist I would not have predicted, at a younger age.

    In a financial pinch, I already know what area of my own home would be quickly turned into a studio and I think the permit could be avoided.

    1. Lori,

      Yes, I often find myself being the guy that helps people as they experience life changes. I’ll blog on that at some point.

      It’s great that you have already imagined how you would adapt your home and life if the need were to arise. Most people haven’t even begun that mental process.

      I’ve taken those thoughts to the next logical step by implementing them while times are still pretty good. This provides extra income to put towards savings (making hard times easier to deal with and less likely ahead of the curve) builds personal connections and social capital (also called “good will”) and identifies problems at a time when it’s easier to make corrections.

  7. Because of my own personal failings, I am not a “homeowner”. Rather than paying obscene rent (even in the outermost fringes of the Bay Area) to some REIT, I share a house with a very kind Mexican Physicians Assistant. I don’t really like the neighborhood (it’s a particularly bleak, sun-baked 1980s subdivision), but my rent is affordable, my landlady copacetic, and the neighborhood very safe.

  8. Bette Davis once said the main reason why marriages fail is neither sex nor money but having only one bathroom, so I can understand the multiple bathrooms. I can also understand the extra al fresco kitchen. But three indoor kitchens!? The mind boggles. Is multiple kitchens a thing in that kind of housing?

    1. Multiple kitchens are uncommon even in McMansions. Having them indicates the house is intended for use by multiple families, generally under the table. While the zoning codes in urban California demand single-family residences, the economics of the crazy housing prices force many to be multi-family quasi-apartments or boarding houses under the table. This article is precisely about the kind of “luxury” and “bonus” features like multiple kitchens that are of little or no use to a nuclear family but which can fly under the radar of the zoning codes to make the houses more suitable for multifamily use.

      One of my son’s friend’s family runs their house as a boarding house, probably illegally and against HOA rules (I don’t care and I’ve never checked). Their house doesn’t have these features like multiple kitchens and one bathroom per bedroom, and every time I visit I can see how useful they would be.

  9. You’re so right. I wanted to build a ADU in my large-ish backyard as a retirement strategy. But after researching the parking, setback and permit requirements, I determined that adding an extra “bedroom” is much easier. What’s even easier than that? Renovating a crappy yet otherwise turn-key 2-bedroom garden apartment in a cheaper metro.

    So that’s what we did. That, in turn, was a deja vu into my 20s, when I was the kind of person those regulations were designed to keep out. People with bad credit. People who smoke. People without a college education and no means to do so. People with junky cars. People who have BBQs at inappropriate times, have “too many” kids and wear the wrong clothes.

  10. I liked the tiny house idea myself. Considered it when I lived in Central Alabama and then ultimately dropped the idea when I moved to Maine. Tiny houses seem more appropriate for warmer dryer climate. I do live in a small house, 640 sq. ft., made from shipping containers chosen for its cheap price tag rather than style. City code requires it to look like a regular house anyway so there’s no sign of boxy containers anywhere. I also live off grid because my neighbor won’t allow the utility to cross his property. He doesn’t have a leg to stand on legally but suing him would cost more than my solar array and take up a lot of time. The result of needing to be on cheap property in a cheap house is that I ended up in a small off-grid house in a location where bears are more of a problem than my neighbors. I take advantage of my situation as much as possible keeping bees and collecting wild foods, all very good and a lot of fun really. Even so, I strongly recommend your suggestion about living in an already existing space with other people. It just makes more sense. My little house and associated solar arrays, batteries, private road maintenance, snow removal, odd neighbor relations, bears, etc. etc. takes up an inordinate amount of time, effort and money. I like my tiny off grid empire and don’t anticipate moving but it certainly isn’t for everyone nor do I believe it necessarily makes me more resilient to disasters.

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