Real Estate News

Which housing style is best for me?

Five local architects weigh in on the livability of some of New England’s most common housing styles.

polly becker for the boston globe

The panel

Juliana Chittick Tiryaki, cofounder and principal, Tiryaki Architectural Design, Cohasset,

Barney Maier, senior architect, Feinmann Inc., Lexington,

Maggie Booz, principal, SmartArchitecture, Cambridge,

John R. DaSilva, design principal, Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders, Chatham,

Treff LaFleche, principal, LDa Architecture & Interiors, Cambridge and Chatham,



> “Single-level living with high efficiency space use and easy connection to the outside’’ Treff LaFleche

> “Early example of ‘open concept’ floor plans where kitchen, breakfast nook, and small family space are more visually connected together’’ LaFleche


> “The attached garage in New England … enough said!’’ LaFleche

> “No stairs, therefore a safer interior environment’’ Maggie Booz

> “Low roof, therefore easy-to-maintain exterior’’ Booz

> “Easy to get sky light into all public and private spaces through roof’’ Booz

> “Conducive to ‘modern’ living with relatively free-flowing spaces’’ Barney Maier

> “Lends itself to up-dating in a convincing (current) modern architectural idiom’’ Maier

> “Relatively easy to attach additions at multiple locations’’ Maier

> “Comprehensive ground-floor living’’ Juliana Chittick Tiryaki

> “Easy bedroom access for the elderly or physically challenged’’ Tiryaki

> “Single-floor living is convenient for the elderly and families with small children’’ John R. DaSilva

> “Horizontal expansiveness and hugging the land often feels right in wide-open landscapes’’ DaSilva

> “A large amount of roof space is available for solar panels’’ DaSilva


> “Short on Privacy: Bedrooms and baths immediately next to entertaining spaces (entry hall, living room, and kitchen)’’ LaFleche

> “Overly rational and efficient; rooms tend to emphasize function not form or poetry. … ‘Just the facts Ma’am’ ’’ LaFleche


> Low ceilings; a sense of compression and doesn’t help light penetrate deeper into the house LaFleche

> “Private spaces not very private visually’’ Booz

> “Private spaces not very private audibly’’ Booz

> “Inefficient use of land, typically leaving a long narrow yard’’ Booz

> “Can have low ‘oppressive’ ceilings’’ Maier

> “Less energy efficient than more compact styles (unfavorable ratio of perimeter to area); tends towards ‘sprawl’ as expands on a site’’ Maier

> “Difficult to add second story if vertical expansion is indicated’’ Maier

> “Looks ‘squat’ ’’ Tiryaki

> “Bedrooms are co-mingled with other living spaces (lack of privacy)’’ Tiryaki

> “Difficult to expand/modify the layout with bedrooms in the way’’ Tiryaki

> “Privacy for bedrooms may be more difficult to achieve when they are on the same floor as living spaces’’ DaSilva

> “More land is required when all square footage is at ground level’’ DaSilva

> “More roof and foundation must be built than if the space were stacked on multiple floor levels’’ DaSilva


Ideal for

> “Channeling your inner Don and Betty Draper’’ LaFleche

> “Retirement age folks, or for purchase as a rental’’ Booz

> “Aging in place’’ Maier

> “Small families, elderly’’ Tiryaki

> “Retirement homes, homes for young families, homes built on large flat expanses of land’’ DaSilva



> “Familiar and nostalgic … the classic child’s definition of ‘house’ ’’ LaFleche

> “Compact and efficient, but cute and charming; familiar architectural details like entry pediments and dormers’’ LaFleche

> “Cathedral ceilings in the second-floor bedrooms that feel like you’re in an artist’s garret’’ LaFleche

> “Compact, efficient use of land’’ Booz

> “Small size and square-ish plan is easy to heat’’ Booz

> “Simple roof often lends itself well to solar panel installation’’ Booz

> “Compact energy efficient form (but prone to hot second floor/attic spaces unless mechanically conditioned, i.e. air conditioning, fan)’’ Maier

> “Good value for starter homes’’ Maier

> “Classic proportions (great curb appeal) for “builder-built’’ homes’’ Maier

> “Nice residential scale without being too “squat’’ or too tall’’ Tiryaki

> “Efficient layout’’ Tiryaki

> “Efficient use of volume’’ DaSilva


> “Charming, well-liked, and familiar to many people’’ DaSilva

> “Exterior appearance can be manipulated to hide interior volume, making a larger house look smaller (this may be a “pro’’ for some and a “con’’ for others)’’ DaSilva


> “No transition spaces between inside and outside … no porches’’ LaFleche

> “Really low ceilings … designed for the 18th century man and woman’’ LaFleche

> “Staircase stuck in the middle making visual connection between rooms difficult’’ LaFleche

> “Not easily expandable without losing the identity of the style’’ LaFleche

> “Rooms inside roofs always overly warm’’ Booz

> “Expansion usually easiest off ends but lots typically small and won’t allow that expansion’’ Booz

> “Second floor difficult to make light or spacious’’ Booz

> “Hard to reconfigure for more contemporary interiors’’ Maier

> “Hard to expand — especially to the back’’ Maier

> “Typical expanded second floor (shed roof) turns elegant to ugly.’’ Maier

> “Low headroom on 2nd floor unless dormers are incorporated’’ Tiryaki

> “Minimal storage (typically)’’ Tiryaki

> “Second-floor windows must occur in end walls or dormers, potentially limiting light and view’’ DaSilva

> “Second floor square footage is limited and head room may be constricted’’ DaSilva


Ideal for

> “Channeling your inner Ward and June Cleaver’’ LaFleche

> “Starter home, climate with adequate dependable wind/air flow’’ Booz

> “Vacation homes’’ Maier

> “Small lots, small families’’ Tiryaki

> “Modest budgets, conservative historic districts where modest looking traditional houses are required’’ DaSilva



> “Multi-level modern living that provides a great sense of space, openness and loftiness’’ LaFleche

> “Greater privacy and elegance between public and private spaces in the home’’ LaFleche

> “Cathedral ceilings in living and dining rooms make these rooms feel spacious, light-filled and inspirational’’ LaFleche

> “Sectional variation provides opportunities to make private spaces’’ Booz

> “Adapts well to a hilly site’’ Booz

> “Main living level being higher can provide sense of security, roof easy to sky-light’’ Booz

> “Creates grander (higher ceilings) Living Room spaces than level ranch’’ Maier

> “Excellent configuration for sloped (front to rear) sites where “basement’’ opens to grade’’ Maier

> “Separates public and private spaces of home’’ Maier

> “More natural light for basement/lower level’’ Tiryaki

> “Basement level walk-out is more feasible’’ Tiryaki

> “When configured as a raised ranch the entire volume constructed is used as living space. This is very cost effective’’ DaSilva


> “When not a raised ranch but just multiple living levels, interesting spatial qualities and opportunities for one space to provide a view up or down into another are provided. This can make a small house feel bigger’’ DaSilva


> “Lots of steps and staircases…good for efficiency, but lots of exercise’’ LaFleche

> “Noise can easily travel from one level to the next’’ LaFleche

> “Lower level garage can make the bedrooms above cold and noisy’’ LaFleche

> “Rooms at lower level always feel like a basement, difficult to get light in’’ Booz

> “Entry door often at midElevel, typically the entry very constricted’’ Booz

> “Main living level being higher means stairs to get to yard’’ Booz

> “Very “dated’’ architectural style (even more than ranch …)’’ Maier

> “Frequent stepping up or down to change levels can be annoying; problematic for young children; and increasingly challenging as one ages’’ Maier

> “Very daunting to contemporize without near obliteration of exterior elements’’ Maier

> “Difficult to reconfigure or add on to’’ Tiryaki

> “First floor is detached from the adjacent landscape’’ Tiryaki

> “When lower level living space is partially underground (as with a raised ranch) it may feel damp and confined and space for storage or utilities is minimized or eliminated’’ DaSilva


> “Living spaces separated onto multiple levels are inconvenient for the elderly and small children’’ DaSilva

> “With a raised ranch, entry and exterior grade is down half a flight from main living spaces. This disconnects outdoor living spaces and yard from interior living spaces’’ DaSilva

Ideal for

> “Channeling your inner Mike and Carol Brady’’ LaFleche

> “Land with topographic changes’’ Booz

> “Stepped sites’’ Maier

> “People who like to walk up and down stairs a lot (i.e. nobody!)’’ Tiryaki

> “Low budgets’’ DaSilva



> “The open floor plan and large windows bring the outside in and the inside out’’ LaFleche

> “High cathedral ceilings and exposed roof structure make for inspiring, yet organic architectural living spaces’’ LaFleche

> “Lots of natural light makes the smaller small feel large’’ LaFleche

> “Indoor/Outdoor co-mingling’’ Booz

> “Chimney/hearth usually at center interior – draws well and heats home’’ Booz

> “Clever relationships between living spaces conducive to sociability’’ Booz

> “Often are examples of very exciting and appealing, light-filled interior spaces’’ Maier

> “Very conducive for high-style renovations’’ Maier

> “Typically have very strong visual connections to the landscape’’ Maier

> “Typically a simple, open and efficient floor plan that allows for relatively easy alterations and reconfiguration’’ Tiryaki


> “Open connection between interior and exterior via larger fenestration (enhances indoor/outdoor relationship)’’ Tiryaki

> “Interesting lines and materials/textures ’’ Tiryaki

> “Unlike ranches, capes, split-levels and colonials, this is a broad architectural style not a basic house type. One could easily have a Mid-Century Modern ranch or split-level. Possible but less likely would be a Mid-Century modern cape or colonial, although mid-century architects like Royal Barry Wills did create them’’ DaSilva

> “The large and continuous glass areas often associated with the style can provide view and light that enlivens living space and connects inhabitants to the environment’’ DaSilva

> “Crisp, planar, and abstract forms and spaces are pleasing for people who believe in minimalism and wish to display furniture and other things as objects in space’’ DaSilva


> “Lots of glass can make the house feel “cold’’ and alienating at night’’ LaFleche

> “Bedrooms are small; meant to force you out into the California sun’’ LaFleche

> “Very informal living with little space to escape to other than small bedrooms’’ LaFleche

> “Flat roofs gather snow (though if the structure is adequate that snow makes a great insulation blanket!)’’ Booz

> “Single glazing and wide expanses of glass energy inefficient’’ Booz

> “Open plan can be noisy’’ Booz

> “Some building elements such as (flat) roofs and beams extending out are problematic in a New England environment.’’ Maier


> “Trim-less. mid-Century details can be difficult to maintain over time’’ Maier

> “Typical (not updated) homes can be very energy wasteful’’ Maier

> “Original kitchens are often small and removed from the open living spaces’’ Tiryaki

> “Original windows are often single-pane or fixed and need updating’’ Tiryaki

> “Maintenance of original materials and systems’’ Tiryaki

> “Modernist spaces do not easily accommodate clutter and eclectic furnishings’’ DaSilva

> “In older, historic neighborhoods or in neighborhoods where most houses are based on pre-Modern styles, Modern houses can be unpopular and difficult to sell’’ DaSilva

> “The flat roofs often associated with the style are not ideal in climates with large amounts of snow and rain. Flat roofs rarely accommodate attic spaces to provide ventilation and storage. Large expanses of glass can be energy inefficient’’ DaSilva

Ideal for

> “Channeling your inner Don and Megan Draper’’ LaFleche

> “People who entertain, sites with views or important relationships between building

and landscape’’ Booz

> “Parties!!’’ Maier

> “People who appreciate a connection to nature and modern design’’ Tiryaki

> “People who love the style and are in neighborhoods where it is valued (unless they are not concerned with re-sale value)’’ DaSilva



> “Two-story living and bedrooms are gathered around the central stair hall’’ LaFleche


> “Great for raising a family where infants or young kids are nearby on the second floor’’ LaFleche

> “Roof pitch is usually steep enough to capture bonus space on the third floor for future family growth’’ LaFleche

> “Definable spaces easy to designate functionally’’ Booz

> “Traditional basements and attics provide useful storage and insulation (attic)’’ Booz

> “Equivalent number and size of windows on all sides promotes air flow’’ Booz

> “Has an ‘eternal’ appeal, especially in New England, thus easily fitting into almost any environment; and has a continuity with the past’’ Maier

> “Are ideal for families who appreciate more ‘formal’ living styles’’ Maier

> “Provides the best setting for classical furnishings and interior treatments’’ Maier

> “Efficient layout’’ Tiryaki

> “Provides sought after elements such as two separate 1st floor living spaces and 4 bedrooms on 2nd floor’’ Tiryaki

> “Relatively easy to add on to while maintaining original character’’ Tiryaki

> “Houses where first and second floor square footage is the same are very efficient with exterior wall and roof space, so they are also cost efficient’’ DaSilva

> “A personal connection to historic American forms is satisfying to many’’ DaSilva


> “Staircase in the middle that forces a very symmetrical layout’’ LaFleche


> “Windows tend to be small and single punches, making the rooms not bright’’ LaFleche

> “Looks like everyone else’s house’’ LaFleche

> “Formal rooms under-used, often’’ Booz

> “Often lacking a family gathering space near kitchen’’ Booz

> “Little variation in size and character of rooms’’ Booz

> “Colonials, especially center stair Colonials, segregate spaces and are the antithesis of the modern flowing, connected spaces that are more expressive of contemporary living’’ Maier

> “Frequently have badly proportioned Living Rooms — too long for width — which can lead to awkward furnishing options’’ Maier

> “Compared to Victorians, Colonials have relatively ‘boring,’ boxy interior spaces’’ Maier

> “Too formal’’ Tiryaki

> “No one uses the central front entrance and mudrooms are lacking’’ Tiryaki

> “Lacks flexibility for the modern family lifestyle (unless is reconfigured)’’ Tiryaki

> “Second floors can be difficult to access for the elderly and for small children’’ DaSilva

> “When a first floor is covered with a second floor, ceiling heights on the first floor are limited DaSilva

Ideal for

> “Channeling your inner John and Abigail Adams’’ LaFleche

> “Larger families with traditional expectations’’ Booz

> “Traditional New England settings’’ Maier

> “Average family with multiple children’’ Tiryaki

“People who have large space requirements’’ DaSilva



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