Reader James commented about my last blog with this:
Yesterday, I mean twenty years ago, I relocated to Colorado and began building “luxury” custom homes. Now don’t get me wrong, the work has been good but more and more it seems that during the completionof these projects I get a sick feeling. How many 12,000 sq. ft. “cabinsin the woods” do you have to build before our wealthiest clients will learn less is more and bigger isn’t better. Hopefully, this recession has not only tightened up peoples wallets but made them think twice about building some trophy home that they only visit two weeks out of the year. I know this sounds a bit self destructive but the last projectI finished was hanging doors, trim and building the kitchen cabinets for a small remodel. How satifying is that? It makes me long for the days of buying your Harley Davidson in a basket or spending a couple of hundred on your work truck.
It reminded me of one of the big reasons I became a builder. I was one of those who very likely had my life radically improved by the opportunity to live in a good quality living environment. So I responded with this:
The only thing that gives me hope about some of those big, underused trophy homes is that I grew up in one. Our home was built in 1895 for a wealthy goldminer’s sister. It’s huge. When she passed away, it was turned into a rooming house because the area was in a recession. After that , it became an apartment building. After that, it was to be demolished to make room for a new bank’s parking lot. But my father saw the situation and bought it for a dollar and had it moved to a lot on the north side of town. There, 13 rowdy Bensons made a move from a two bedroom tract home to a place where we could all experience space, privacy, security and an atmosphere exalted by quality workmanship. Somehow it all added up to hope and possibility. We were always sure thegoldminer had built that place for us.
As a builder, the experience of my growing up has always affected my attitude about building homes that cost too much and make little sense. The original owners are only the patrons, so don’t get sidetracked by the things that may bother you about their limited use of the building. Instead, imagine the Bensons of the future who will desperately need a better place to live and who will immediately give that home a higher purpose. What seems frivolous now might well transform lives later. I know it’s possible.