Be it the financial Economy or an economy of space, people have managed to design, build and create within limits that often lead to inspiring results. Presently, it is the financial economy which dictates the size and oppulence of new home construction. But in times passed, there have been other dictates and or inspirations, obcessions or mandates which have given to the odd if not uncomfortable structure. When Ego meets Brick, the following is but yet the scenario.


Built in the year 1830 in Alexandria, Virginia, this two story 7 foot wide home provides a mere 325 square feet of functional living space as it bridges the alleyway between to larger brick buildings to either side. The one to the left, a brick painted white while the one to the left a deep red. That set in the middle a deep blue representing the colors of the nation and the history of the nation.

But the blue brick was built as the locals tell, in spite. Its purpose as it forces itself between the other two, to prevent the horse drawn carriges and vangrants and worse from hiding and gathering between the two others already standing. That in the middle was built by John Hollensburg, owner of the one adjacent for his tolerance had worn thin by that which nestled between.

The blue brick seven foot wide home still remains and is the city “peid de terre” of its present owner Jack Sammis who purchased the home in 1990 for $135,000. There is a small garden in back.

Of course where else would one hope to discover the “NATION’S SKINIEST HOUSE IN AMERICA,” but in the fabulous state of California. As if the world was in search of such a novelty. Here she rests at 708 Gladys Avenue at the corner of 7th Street in the Rose Park neighborhood of Long Beach, California. According to both the Guiness Book of World Records along with Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the home was built on a lot encompassing a mere 10 by 50 foot lot.

As the story goes, a man by the name of N. Rummond, received the land as a repayment a $100 loan in 1931. The 860 square foot home was built in response to a bet that “No Habitable Structure Could Be Built On Such a Parcel Land.” The yellow-stucco Tudor style home was completed in 1932 and where it has proudly settled.

In addition to acting as a residence, the building was the address of the Law Practice of William John Cox from 1977-1981. Cox is best known for his work on the Holocaust Denial Case of 1981 where he represented Mel Mermelstein, an Aushwitz Concentration Camp Survivor against those denying the history of the Holocaust.

The residence still sits on its original property now designated, registered and maintained by the Long Beach California Historical Society as a local landmark in 1983. It is now a destination for tourists to the area.


Located at 75 1/2 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, NYC at 9 1/2 feet wide stands what is locally referred to as the “Narrow House.” The once residence of Puitzer Prize winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay during the early 1920′s then cartoonist William Steig, wife and sister-in-law anthropologist Margaret Mead in 1930, was also home to such well knowns as actors John Barrymore and Cary Grant.

The three story home was built in 1873, the inside functional living space is a mere 8 foot 7 inches. From street entrance to the garden in the back is but 30 feet. According to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, this house was built during the smallpox epidemic for Horatio Gomez who was a trustee for the Hettie Hendricks-Gomez Estate. The home was constructed in between two exsisting buildings then and still located at 75 and 77 Bedford Street. The main floor of the building sawseveral lucrative businesses including cobbler and candymaker over the early years.

In 1952, Kenneth Carroad, a local lawyer & resident, purchased the home in an effort to preserve it from demolition. He and his famiy resided there until 1982 the home was put on the market for sale for $350,000. The house did not sell until 1996 for $270,000 to Cedric Wilson and architect who then put approximately an additional $200,000 in renovations, restorations and upgrades. The home is now enjoyed by tenants who appreciate the history and interest in their home.

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Not all that long ago, a drive up or down a suburban or country road would include a pass by the newly expanded homestead, vacant lot after the knockdown awaiting permits or massive McMansion perched upon it’s parcel with but inches between thy neighbor. The crumbling cement stoop replaced my the hand tumbled imported brick or stone. The front door now an entry way with welcoming Portico. The simple 3 bedroom, one bath ranch resembling a mobile home without the wheels you may remember as a child, now boasts a master bedroom suite, second story, jacuzzi, inground pool and outdoor kitchen.

Today, the hope of such enhancement or knocking down a home in need of repair is merely not an option or feasible. Many of these fine homes were the envy of the neighbors not too long ago. Today many face Short Sale or Foreclosure as the value of homes continues to depreciate along with the ability to maintain the demands of the financing needed to upgrade. The desire to expand or renovate is not a consideration these days the economy as it be for most.

Although for some, it is possible. Mitt Romney a Republican hopeful for the White House, announced plans in August to Demolish his $12 million ocean front La Jolla home in the Historic district north of San Diego, Ca. according to and MSN. The 3,009 square foot single story, located at 311 Dunemere Drive, was built in 1936. This 3 Bedroom, 4.5 Bath home will be replaced by a two story 11,062 square foot structure after demolition. Three times the size of the existing structure. And at a builder’s cost to match.

Application to bulldoze has been filed with the city for approvals. Fear not. Between the Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire grand estate and the Boston, Ma. townhouse purchased to retain State Voter Rights, Romney will not be homeless. Despite selling his Belmont, Ma. 6,500 square foot home and the 9,500 suare foot Utah Ski Resort most recently. Romney is said to be worth over $250 million.


But even at a paultry 3,009 square feet, that’s alot of demolition and debris. What happens to all of the drywall, electrics, fixtures, flooring and heavy construction debris as the result of the bulldoze? Where does it go? California boast and celebrates “THE GREEN.” Looking, using, encouraging and supporting the latest in Green technologies, recycling and efforts to protect and nourish the environment. So rather than Demolishing, many are Deconstructing exsisting building or structures in hopes of recyling and/or reusing materials for reconstruction.

DECONSTRUCTION requires the careful disassembling of a structure so that the materials and fixtures remain in tact and ready for reuse. That which is not reused, shall be recycled. This practice is not limited to California. Bob Falk, based in Madison, WI with the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory and co-author of “Unbuilding,” (Taunton 2007), hopes to encourage more builders, architects, demolition experts and future homeowners to consider the various benefits to Deconstruction rather than simple demolition. Visit to learn more.

Roughly 250,000 1,00 square foot residental homes and 44,000 commercial buildings are demolished each year according to The Deconstruction Institute of Sarasota, Fla. Such can provide over 1 billion board feet of framing lumber which has the potential to frame out approximately 75,000 2,500 square foot homes. Less trees cut down from the nation’s forests and less dumped into our landfills and added to the waste heaps. The Deconstruction Institute makes available via download of A GUIDE TO DECONSTRUCTION.

What is not used, can be donated for other construction projects. HABITAT FOR HUMANITY sponsors the Habitat ReStore which, operated by local chapters, sells the deconstrcted building supplies and fixtures at discount prices to builders and investors if not used in Habitat projects. Profits from the sales go to sponsor new Habitat building projects. But imagine the renovation or restoration with the original door knobs and or crown mouldings from a local estate. Or the reconstructed staircase from a Southern Plantation.

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RETHINKING HOME DESIGN 10 Value-Engineering Trends

Not so many years ago, the trend and expectation for the new home or remodel meant McMansion, Knock-Down or gutting with extensive re-installation.  But given the current economy and perhaps a mind set considerate of the environment, trends and times have and continue to change and develop.  The architect, builder and potential or current homeowner will lead the way in addressing these considerations as new construction is developed and older homes are restored.
Since 1987, one such award winning architect, JAMES WENTLING of JAMES WENTLING ARCHITECTS OF PHILADELPHIA, PA. has proven his desire and ability to design the American homestead with the environment, economy and contemporary homeowner in mind. Wentling’s designs and plans are represented in 20 states, including NY, NJ, NC, RI, PA, OH and Canada.  The author of such books, “Desgning a Place Called Home, Reordering the Suburbs,” and “Housing by Lifestyles, the Component Method of Residential Design,” he is also a contributing articles writing to “BUILDER Magazine.”




As the architect/designer of the 700 attached/dettached home development resting on 200 acres in Elverson, PA., THE SUMMERFIELDS COMMUNITY was Master Planned in the 1980′s as a neighborhood into cozy “Clusters of Homes,” leaving much of the rolling pastureland and preserved wetlands to its destiny. The Owners of the Stolzfus Poultry Farm are also the builders (Stolzfus Enterprises, established in 1970) ensuring their family’s legacy remain true to the area. Wentling Architects has incorporated several GREEN FEATURES throughout, including Retention Ponds, Hydokinetic Heat Pumps with Geothermal Options and fixtures and Plumbing ensuring low water usage.  These 1540-2,650 square foot homes range in price from $132-$256,500.00




Value Engineering ensures the wants, needs and desires of the current homebuyer with respect to the restrictions placed by the ecomony and environment. Wentling shares his 10 suggestions when planning the contempory residential home in this market.




1.  SLAB vs BASEMENT-Depending on where the new home is to be built, it mght be best to choose a slab rather than dig a full footprint of the home, basement. Certainly this is a less costly espense in addition to keeping the uderlying land in tact.




2. FROM SLAB TO ROOF- Wentling suggests limit the number of “roof truss profiles” to 2 or 3.  And keep the pitch of the roof underexagerated making transport and installation easier. This in addition to using the bearing walls of the home when possible which enables the builder to avoid using large girder trusses.<p/>

3.  WINDOWS- Number and placement of windows are key in establishing an attractive curb appeal, in addition tothe amount of natural light, heat and cool retention in the home. Homes with windows more

prominent on the front face, will give the impression of more light and intrinsinct value to the property.

4. WALLS- The fewer and the straighter, the less expensive to build and the greater sense of space and natural light enjoyed by the homeowner.  Wentling designs his homes “covering most or all of the first floor with second-floor space.”  The second floor often set back overlooking that first floor living area.

5.  UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS- The simple straight and average width staircase proves fuctional and economical both in terms of money, time, and actual living space.


6.  PORCHES- Perhaps a small deck, entry way or wrap around porch, the outdoor entertainment rest area can be small on space while big on comfort.  Cost for materials and design can vary extensively, making porches and entertainment patios, kitchens, pools and landscaping UPGRADES to the base price of the homestead.


7.  FIREPLACE- Once a necessity to heat the home, fireplaces have seen their heyday as “Home & Hearth.” From the woodburning functional stove, the glass enclosed artifical log ignited by a light switch or the mere faux mantel used to display picture frames, the fireplace decorative or functional can add character and warmth to any home.  And can also be an add-on or upgrade long after the build of the home.<p/><p/>

8.  PANTRIES- Most resembling the walk-in closet for the kitchen, it is certainly more cost effective to frame out a simple closet and install wire shelving than built and finish custom cabinetry for the kitchen.  Therefore, many homeowners who frequent the food club stores out of convenience and affordability, will have plenty of space to store their goods.


9.  SECOND OR HALF BATH- As the costs of building and plumbing increases, along with the cost of water services, homeowners are holding off on that second full or half bath install at the building of the home.  Many are opting to go as far as installing the plumbing access, while drywalling the room and using it as a closet until the need, desire or necessity of that second facility arises.


10. MASTER BEDROOM/BATH SUITE- Perhaps still the given in a custom-built high-end home, the master bed/bath suite may be less of a necessity and more of a burden to the more streamlined contemporary homeowner. Rather than separate jacuzzi tubs and showers, homeowners look for the combo and share bathroom facilities and customs as best as possible.


Of course there are several additional options and nonessentials which can be considered before embarking on the build of a new home.  Certainly the kitchen can remain as basic and simple as providing the most efficient and functional of appliances, cabininetry, countertops and/or flooring, backsplashes and various other options.  Or one can create the gourmet kichen of one’ dreams.  These choices are by preferance and ability.


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First time and upgrade or second/vacation home ownership is at an historical low-The real estate market is virtually stalled. Lenders are tightly holding on to funds.  Little is expected to improve despite record low mortgage/loan interest rates guaranteed by the Federal Reserve through 2012 and record breaking inventory available to so few qualified buyers.

Many homeowners have been forced into short sale or foreclosure, either by choice, timing or circumstance, requiring them to leave their residences and leaving them unable to purchase a new home.  They will need to seek rental accommodations be they on a temporary or more permanent basis.

A Short Sale or Foreclosure will reduce the average Credit Score by 160 points, according to most banks and lending institutions. This leaves the now homeless to secure rental opportunities as they are no longer eligible for mortgage or loan funding for a minimum of 2-3 years after completing a short sale or foreclosure.

First time homebuyers are unable to secure mortgages or are intimidated by high down payments and closing costs.  The recent college graduate hoping to find recluse in their own abode, is perhaps less a reality than in past generations.

BAD NEWS for the first time home buyer, retired senior hoping to sell, graduate, growing family, or the short sale or recent foreclosure property owner.

GREAT NEWS for the local Real Estate Investor, Agent/Broker, General Contractor, Builder, Restorationist, Renovator or All Cash Buyer looking to purchase, renovate and market a rental home or unit(s) in the community.

Home/residential and Commercial/rental properties are listed and selling at market value prices not seen for well over a decade. Deals to be had. Visit to learn more about “The Top Ten Features Of A Profitable Rental Property.” will provide the investor with many of the necessary legal forms free of charge to solidify the real estate exchange.  Although it is always advised my that any real estate deal be overseen by a fully licensed real estate agent and or broker as well as a lawyer or legal counsel legitimized in the field.

Sellers are more than willing to negotiate as supply remains high with demand low. Banks are willing to accept Short Sale Offers despite the amount owed on the loan. Foreclosures are a mere burden to banks and welcome the possibility of transfer.

ALMOST GUARANTEED SALE: Qualified buyers are attracted to recently renovated and restored properties and have discovered that these properties are reasonably priced within the Real Estate Market Value/Asking Price.  Visit to learn more about how to participate.

If you are a Real Estate Investor looking to purchase a foreclosure, short sale or traditional market value property, contact your local Real Estate Agent and or Broker for up to date professional guidance and expertise in your area. They will be able to provide you with the tools and information you will need to ensure the best investment opportunity possible.  The rest is up to YOU!!!

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