There is arguably no bigger difference between housing on the East Coast and housing on the West Coast than notions of “symmetry.” On the East coast (and please don’t start throwing the exceptions at me–I know they exist—plenty of them—I am just doing a little tongue-in-cheek generalizing) housing is more symmetrical—god help you if you design your house with a front door that is not in the absolute center or that the windows on either side don’t match or the dormers don’t match. You could be placed in the stocks, publicly flogged, or burned at the stake, for such oversights.
On the West Coast the other extreme exists where eclecticism is the rule and if things are “traditionally” balanced by East Coast standards your house’s value could plummet.
Of course on both the left hand side and the right hand side of the country you will find all manner of styles–and the markets and the buyers to support those styles.
If someone moves here from the east coast and is not willing to embrace the eclectic side of themselves–buried deep within themselves—they can find that lonely old colonial tucked away somewhere–where it has likely been bugging more eclectic neighbors for years. But the reality is that the colonial will not really be a colonial in the classic East Coast sense. There will be just enough modifications to allow it to “fit in” with the rest of the Northwest houses. Additions to the home and remodeling that is done to these homes generally brings them ever closer to Northwest sensibilities—with perhaps only the “white” remaining in the end.
This eclectic freedom of design was immediately appealing to me as a designer-builder when I moved here from the east. I grew up in the symmetry of colonial New England—and contrary to popular belief, not in “actual” colonial times. Some time-warps never shift however, and the desire to keep everything “old New England” is a difficult design barrier to overcome. Everything changes however—even the east coast.
However, a while back, I came face to face with “eclecticism-gone-wild” and found myself pushing very hard to embrace what I was seeing. Even intellectually I could not do it—and that was because the design was flawed on so many “practical/functional” levels. This was not “freedom” of design but possibly closer to just plain non-functional design and possibly even unsafe design.
It was eclecticism out of control.
It was a case of where one-or-more later poor design decisions were attempting to overcome one-or-more earlier poor design decisions. While this process often can result in creative solutions that actually can work and thus become successfully eclectic—more often than not they represent instances where someone should have gone back to go—and started over.
I will let you be the judge as you take a look at the following pictures and attempt to imagine all the various decisions that were thought through and culminated in the final solutions you can see in the pictures and not only once—but twice in the home.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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