Nigel Maynard, Editor-in-Chief

Nigel Maynard is editor-in-chief of Custom Builder and PRODUCTS magazines. Maynard grew up in St. Croix, where he learned construction helping his step-dad build the family home from the ground up. Since that early introduction, he has bought and remodeled four homes, and has taken up cabinet and furniture making. His current home was featured in The Washington Post and his previous home was covered in Home Magazine, The Washington Post, and HGTV’s I Want That! Prior to joining SGC Horizon, Maynard was the Editor-in-Chief of Lebhar-Friedman’s all-digital products magazine, Residential Building Products & Technology. Previously, he spent 14 years at Hanley Wood as senior editor of Builder magazine and its sister publication Residential Architect, where he amassed eight prestigious honors for editorial excellence, including AZBEE and NAREE awards.

Small Business

You can blame (or credit) architect Sarah Susanka for giving rise to the small-house movement. It depends on your perspective.

Back in the 1990s, Susanka was a partner at the Minneapolis-based residential architecture firm, Mulfinger, Susanka, Mahady & Partners (now known as SALA Architects), as she watched the average new single-family home balloon to 2,198 square feet in 1998. Before long, the architect left the firm to promote her newly published book, The Not So Big House, a bestselling treatise on living in a better-designed house, not a bigger one.

Susanka released other books in the Not So Big series, and her message got a nice nudge when home sizes declined following the economic recession. Both developments helped spur the small-house movement, which calls for homes of 500 square feet or less. 

American houses have steadily increased in square footage for many years now. In 1950, the average new home was 983 square feet. That average peaked at 2,528 square feet in 2008, declined to 2,402 square feet in 2009 amid the financial crisis, and swelled to 2,711 square feet in 2014. The trend is obvious.

The effort to convince large swaths of the American population to live in ultra-small houses will be difficult, though many of us appreciate the effort. At the same time, small is trending right now, which explains why we have such television shows as Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders, Tiny Luxury, Tiny House Nation, and Tiny House, Big Living. Many have embraced the principles, but there’s a reason why home sizes grew again after the recession: Most American consumers (regardless of affluence) love square footage, whether they need it or not. It’s a hard sell getting middle-class buyers to accept living in smaller homes, but even harder is convincing wealthy individuals to downsize to 1,600 square feet.

Susanka, however, is on to something: that time is better spent promoting good design in lieu of more space. Size for size’s sake is a waste. No need to build a poorly designed 4,000-square-foot pile when a well-designed 3,000-square-foot gem will do. For production-home buyers, options are somewhat limited to the builder’s plans and options, but custom clients have the liberty to do whatever they like. Your job as a custom builder is to help them do the right thing.

Monday, October 3, 2016 - 06:00

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