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Tuesday, 11 January 2011


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The only word that comes to mind about this is "fugly" ... a portmanteau of "ugly" and some other word...

Wow, how awful! I would be heartbroken.

This really hurts:/
We have rigid regulations here in good old heart of Europe which can be difficult for investor to handle with but this could never happen here..

Holy... What is this, some sort of sick joke?

Is there anything man can't ruin, if there is enough money and lack of good taste. I'm speechless beyond this.

"Would you like to supersize that?"

Ouch !

A few years back, the people who built our house stopped by - they had moved out of the area and were visiting, and figured they'd "drive by the old place". They noticed things like the fact that the sconces in the living room were removed (we didn't bother to correct them when they blamed it on owners in-between) and that the carpet in the kitchen had been replaced with something other than carpeting. I can't remember if they stopped before or after we removed more than 50' of fully grown arborvitae hedge and a pea stone patio, but they did tell us that the husband hauled all the gravel around back to the patio with a wheelbarrow. We shake our heads at some of the things they did when they built it; they shake their heads at changes made since. But it's only yours while it's in your name.

Hate to say it, but "remuddling" seems to pretty well describe your cities.

I used to think America would be pretty good when it was finished - now I'm not so sure.

To build that from scratch would have been the quintessence of bad taste. To ruin the charming, lovingly remodeled original should be a felony.

Horrific. I guess I never cease to be amazed at what we do in America. Mencken called it
"a libido for the ugly".

Ugh. What was their last home, a singlewide trailer with a wooden shed duck-taped to the side?

I know it's their property to do with as they please, but really, that's a bloody eyesore. If I was their neighbor I'd be livid.

I also feel Dave's pain. My condolences to him.

Perhaps a few of us are seeing an analogy of film v. digital. The house before improvements is Tri-X and the finished house is HDR. More better.

I'm confused. It doesn't even look like the same property. Where did those large trees come from in the second picture?

à chacun son goût

"Where did those large trees come from in the second picture?"

The second picture is taken from farther back. My guess is that Dave would have been standing near the second tree from the left (in the second picture) when he took the first picture (with a wider lens). But maybe he can chime in with the details.


is the old house incorporated into the new?

More photos please!!! To truly enjoy this some other angles would be nice. I can just imagine a walk-through. Love the double-door and fake stone accents at the corners.

Sure. Look at the first story.


This very same thing happens near where we live near Edmonton, Alberta. It seems bigger is always better, no matter how ugly.
8 years ago a new urban sprawl development started with several nicely done smaller show homes. They had nice verandas and had different colored siding and fences. As the lots were sold and developed the colors disappeared and ugliness set in. Now all we have is an island of a half dozen nice homes set in a sea of grey and beige ugly boxes, usually with a huge ugly garage door out front. And the very people who live in these ugly boxes will go to europe on vacation and talk to no end about all the beautiful colorful villages with all the nice buildings they went to.!!
North America the ugly. Such a shame. PS. We live in a cabin style bungalow (960 sq. feet ) which I built from scratch in the early 80's. It's like an oasis to us out here in the country. With a large veranda to sit and enjoy nature all around us. Decorated and colorful with items we have collected and cherish over the years. We always get the " wow this is so nice " whenever we have friends over which we much prefer over " wow this is huge ". Yes, it is small by american standards. Quality over quantity!! Always.

My grandmother lived in a modest but wonderful Victorian house that I loved. When she died it was sold and some years later I saw it advertised in the paper as being for sale again. Remuddle is too tame a word. It had been ruined.

You're really going to come back and tell us that that thing on top of the house was actually Photoshopped on there, aren't you? This is a photography blog, right? It really didn't happen, did it? It's a joke, right? Please, tell us it's a joke...

I want to say what party the current owners must belong to, but I won't! Tastelessness covers the entire spectrum of American political affiliation. It's endemic to this country, where everyone is king of their crapstruction (portmanteau of crap and construction) castle.

Sorry to say that THAT is a way too romantic way to see a house. I know that a house is supposed to take remembrances, and store them. However, a house is also a white canvas for the inhabitant to use it.

In this case, the renovation does actually add spatial qualities to it. It surprisingly gives more spatial choice.

In this case, the former house is nothing but the scaffolding for the new one [although some mirror on the exterior, or metal mesh will much improve the end result].

Some people view owning houses as a temporary stewardship, even if it's for fifty years or more, which carries with it certain responsibilities. Others view houses as monuments to themselves and their achievements. Some people wonder if they're worthy of the house they live in, some wonder if their house is worthy of them. Just as some people can live in harmony with their natural surroundings and others need to subjugate them. I've never been able to understand the mindset that looks at a piece of pristine land and sees dollar signs.

How sad. But at least Dave gets to live in New Mexico...

I have a photo gallery named "Laiderie", which is a pseudo-French term I decided to coin to mean eyesore. The actual French word "laideur" didn't express my feelings well enough.


I sympathize, but I also bet part of the problem was local building regulations. If you're going to build that huge top part of the house, it would have been cheaper to pull down the whole thing and build a new larger house -- splicing is really expensive. I would suspect something in the local regulations prevented it.

I live on a "wild and scenic river," the St. Croix, the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. "Wild and Scenic" is a legal designation placed on the river by the federal government, and it restricts building, even though the river hasn't been"wild" since 1850 -- it was the first built-up area in Minnesota. Anyway, because of the complicated restrictions, we generally are not allowed to remove even very old, decrepit houses and replace them -- but we are allowed to "remodel." One place a few houses up the street from me there's something that resembles a McMansion (but a nice one) that is a "remodel" from a primitive cabin - the cabin is still there, buried in the interior. In any normal society, this kind of thing would be considered insane. When buildings that were crappy to begin with, become so old and decrepit that they are dangerous, you should be able to remove them. But the confluence of lawyers and bureaucrats can have terribly distorting effects on these kinds of things. I suspect that's what happened with the old remodeled NY building featured in this blog a couple of days ago, and it might well have happened with this house. (Not that the original house wasn't nice - it was. Now it isn't.)


Reminds me of a story from a municipality where I used to live. A friend had a garage built right up to the lot line, but new garages had to be built a minimum of 5' from the lot line. However, code allowed for old buildings to have one wall or the roof replaced in any given calendar year if they were "damaged." So the guy just replaced one wall each year and then tore off the roof and replaced that. New garage in the same place as the old one...it just took five years, is all.

Do note that your "insane" example has people effectively flouting the spirit of the law, though. The law is intended to forbid new building, not make new building less convenient and less sensible. It's your homeowners who were violating the commonsense of the statute, not the other way around.


These home "improvement" photos remind me of Michael Jackson.

My sympathy - I restored (as best I could with little money and lots of creativity) a family bungelow in Wallingford (then an affordable neighborhood in Seattle). With care I poisoned myself taking off years of failing paint with scrapers and heat guns(Lead in the 80's wasn't so scary) and repainted in 3 colors of white, grey, and charcol (approved in the Northwest). After I sold it, the new owner painted the house in 5 primary colors. Twenty years later it has the same paint job and I rarely drive by without wincing!

Somebody in the area needs to print this article out and hang it on the new residents' front doorknob. Heck, I would if I was nearby!

The flickr link below shows architect Norman Alpaugh's 1929 Sheraton Town House, a landmark in Los Angeles' mid-Wilshire district:


The city's cultural affairs director once told me he participated in a major battle to save the Town House, and to prevent it from being replaced.

Replaced by?

By a parking lot. Someone wanted to tear down the Town House and put a parking lot in its stead.

I saw very much the same thing happen to my grandparent's home in California. In the 1930s Grandpa bought an remodeled a home that was little more than a shack, into a white clapboard, trimmed front porch, homestead style house.

It was a lovely little home, very tidy and well constructed, just what you'd expect from a good German carpenter. It served the family well for the next forty years.

A few years ago the current owners built over it all, erasing the wonderful front porch, and adding hideous extensions and brown stucco to the exterior walls. I can't even imagine what they did to the inside, probably paintings on velvet and pro wrestling posters.

I have not driven by the house since then, it's too ugly. Thank goodness I have a few pictures of the old place.

Liked the "crapstruction" terminology. It could well apply to the "McMansions" that are currently fashionable in our housing estates.

Showed my wife the two photos. She gave a snort of derision and then said "They obviously just needed a bigger place to live". Very practical, my wife.

In the UK there would be at least 4 properties on this site and a board saying 'Exucutive Development'.

You know James Howard Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month"? This could be a prime candidate for januari 2011.

http://www.kunstler.com enjoy (with caution of course, good old James does not stop at fugly).

To see is to weep.
At least they left the trees.

*Le Sigh*

As an architect, I see quite a lot of this; I was remarking to a contractor friend the other day that he and I seemed destined to run around fixing the humiliating, short-sighted choices of previous owners. When they can be fixed, of course.

I have the great fortune of being able to work with craftsmen who care deeply about construction from all its angles: being well-built, of course, but also well-proportioned and for a good use. The not-surprising kicker is these guys tend to be terrible businessmen, as doing something well is expensive and tremendously difficult to justify to all but the most enlightened of well-off folks.

We also talk about how long things will last; a long time, usually, but certainly not forever. And this is where Dave Reichert's story is of interest to me, having also had some of my work torn-down: in a way, the photographs of the newly-completed work have their own permanence, or at least reflect the idea of the building as it was to us at the time.

Documenting work before it's desecrated is not the only goal of builder-cum-photographer, of course: capturing the story of a beloved, well-used building is something very different than capturing the intentionality of a architect or builder, and also of great interest. But who of us can say we are lucky enough to have such a beloved thing in our back yard?

I'd never heard of that guy before. He's a riot, as my grandmother used to say. Sample:

"...Since one of my cardinal beliefs is the idea that delusional thinking rises in exact proportion to economic hardship, I can only conclude that the national state of mind [in 2011] will deteriorate further.

We're already looking like a nation of ax murderers and cannibals with our tattoo fetish, strange costumes (baby clothes for young men; hooker get-ups for the ladies, which should tell you that adulthood is the new final frontier of the American Dream), and our retarded patois of like-like-like and go-go-go speech--all set in a porn-saturated total immersion huckster hologram (thanks Joe Bageant) of visually incoherent, civically-impoverished, and economically spavined suburbia. I'm sorry, but we just look like a nation of goners."

Very entertaining. From his dyspepscalyptic (I'm into portmanteaus now) predictions for 2011.

(I don't get the reference to "baby clothes for young men." Maybe we just don't get that in 'Sconsin? Unless beltless jeans and T-shirts, )


I entirely sympathise with the comments of this thread.

That said, I think there must be some shades of grey allowed, or else we're all denying any future development.

My own house was built in 1750. It's a stone building, now 4 bedrooms (was probably originally a large attic over a living ground floor). It has pipes for water, central heating and electrical wires, none of which are original.

My parents' house, a mile away from me, was built as a rich man's summer house in about 1704. The facade has been completely remade at least 3 times (from paintings they own), and the internals have been knocked about repeatedly. Currently it has 6 bedrooms and bathrooms on the main upper floor: in the Second World War it was requisitioned as a hospital and had all internal dividers between rooms removed. The home farm (stone barns, yards and troughs) in the 1700s has been removed and does not exist at all now.

I agree that Mike's photos show an entirely unsympathetic change, but change is inevitable.


And yes, I know what that word means.

"But the confluence of lawyers and bureaucrats can have terribly distorting effects on these kinds of things."

Sorry to say, JC, but YOU [remember that war ad with Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer?] are the biggest part of the problem, specially in the States, where pressure groups and lobbies work much further and harder to well, make pressure.

Thing is that were we not romantizacing the idea of a habitat, we will use it as they did some centuries ago, were housing was a comodity which could be torn down and modified as much as needed.

Because we tend to think that history must be ruled and regulated in order to be preserved, the laws and regulations stablish a legal frame acting inversele: most of the times they are designed to cater specific landmarks, but then other examples get into the considerations stablished by those regulations. And thus, disaster occurs.

This does signify, as well, how we value things and our value stepping [is that the wording for that concept?].

Personally, I do not value neither of examples: the first one is trying too hard to be femenine and cozy, and the second one is trying too hard to be "classy", in an MTV or "extreme makeover" sort of way [pimp my house].

The Howells departement store in Cardiff was built around and incorporated an old chapel that was originally on the site.

See wikipedia


Hi Mike:

As egregious as that remuddling example is, here’s a case at a whole different level. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Larkin Building in Buffalo, NY was demolished to build a parking lot.

1st link, a picture of the building:


2nd link, some interiors:


3rd link, current appearance:




The author James Kunstler has made the assertion in his landmark book "The Geography Of Nowhere" that our founding fathers, "The Framers" as they are often called(we all know the names: Washington, Jefferson, et al) were, in fact, real estate speculators who saw the sacrosanctity of property, and the absence of any rules about what the owner could do with it, as the foundation of the legal-property system of their new nation. Here, as we do every day, we can see the direct result.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

I've been watching Bob Bruhin doing a bunch of panoramas documenting lots of areas of Philadelphia for a while now. I think it's a great thing to do (not that I agree with all his artistic choices :-) ). He's posting them to his Deviantart account.

Here's another bad one: http://www.cjwn.net/news/2010/04/23/richmonds-worst-renovation/

This happens in Europe too:


Apparently the heating costs will be lower though.

Remuddling is probably too kind of a term for this loss of architectural character. in our semi-historic neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest, we've seen far too many horrendous additions to quaint craftsman homes. They quickly lose any sense of "composition". While the owner may gain some cheap square footage, the neighborhood is cheapened.

I too was appalled by the changes I saw. I would love to have lived in the original one, or heck, even the garage looked cozy and sturdy.

I think that, even tho' homeowners have the right to do with their property pretty much what they want to, I am reminded of the best line in Jurassic Park...Jeff Goldblum said "just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should".

Being a former property manager, I see apartments that are built in about 12 minutes, with more attention paid to the granite counter tops in the kitchen then to the fact that the overflow drains upstairs went to the walls instead of the pipes...
Yes, that really happened.

I hope the new house worked for them and will until perhaps they sell it and the new owner restores it to its former glory, if that is at all possible.

I once lived next to a house that was painted royal purple with bright yellow trim. I almost got vertigo just looking at it. This, as that, are a perfect example of what can be but should not be done.

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