26 March 2010

Your Feedback, Details in Modernist Construction II, Loan Forgiveness

One of my readers told me she had suggested this blog for inclusion on livemodern.com, a interesting blog about – yes, you guessed it – "modern, sustainable housing design, products and services”.

But ModernSouthFlorida was rejected – as too commercial, she told me. I headed over to livemodern.com to check it out. Thursday morning, the first post from the top:

“The New Neutra-Box Modern Mailbox in RED!!... Thanks to Livemodern.com for helping me launch this mailbox. It's been very popular and is now an official business... You'll be able to order this box right from the website...”

Further down on page one are “Modern interiors by 3rd Uncle Design” or “Announcing our Flexa Studio, a versatile 120-square-foot prefabricated room...”
Huh? My eyebrows went up. Is selling mailboxes, interior design services and crash pads somehow less commercial than matching modernist homes with modernist-craving buyers? Oh well.

The email exchange from my reader (one of the three I definitely know of; thanks Lisa, George and John!) however poses an important question:

What do you think?

The fact that I’m a realtor is no secret. While my website’s purpose is an introduction to modern architecture and to highlight modernist houses, I created this blog to have a place also for non-commercial observations, changing subjects, off-topics and to have some fun too.
I am really curious about your impression of this blog, so I’m practically begging for your comments, feedback and direction of this blog:
  • is ModernSouthFlorida too commercial?
  • would you like more modernist-related posts?
  • would you like more real estate items?
  • would you like more lifestyle posts?
  • is the mix just right?
  • which post did you enjoy the best?
  • and what are you missing?
I promise all of your comments – flattering or not – will be published unless you request otherwise. I only reserve the right to edit for brevity, profanity etc. So hit that "comment" button please – thank you so much!


Last week’s post was fun (for me; I hope you enjoyed it too), but a few items I forgot to mention in my observations on upscale modern construction:
  • low-emission (low- or no-VOC) paints
  • increased use of sustainable materials where possible
  • dual-flush toilets (giving you the choice between a short rinse or a longer flush, supposedly saving up to 13 gallons of water a day for a four-headed family)
  • door handles vs. door knobs: ever tried to open a round knob with your elbow, while carrying a tray full of cocktail glasses?
  • an astonishing absence of gadgetry, e.g. no hand-clap light-switches, no funky dimmers, no "romance-mood"-button or similar nonsense.
I’m sure I’ll remember more interesting details as soon as I hit the “publish post” button; ç’est la vie.


A somewhat sticky subject; should we even go there?

Bank of America published it on Thursday, the administration announced it today: help to homeowners who are under water (in car-dealer parlance “upside down” - the loan balance exceeds the value of the underlying asset) will increase.

BoA may forgive or reduce mortgage balances of some debtors – the selection criteria are not quite clear yet. In the meantime, the administration announced broad new initiatives today to help troubled homeowners, potentially refinancing millions of them into government-backed mortgages with lower payments. The NY Times writes “another element of the program is meant to temporarily reduce the payments of borrowers who are unemployed. Additionally, the government will encourage lenders to write down the value of loans held by borrowers in modification programs to make their mortgages more affordable.”

The stickiness lies in two questions: who gets a truffle praline? And why help some, while others who scrape their payments together every month and have avoided default, are left empty-handed? 

Not easy to discuss, sure not easy to decide.

19 March 2010

Architectural Details in Modernist Construction

During the last few weeks, I have been showing high-end modernist homes (to wonderful clients, which makes it all the more fun). Some architectural elements I found interesting enough to mention (and which you do not see in wedding-cake architecture, a.k.a. Spanish revival):

Kitchens: A lot of details come straight out of restaurants. (I love those; my dad produced professional kitchen equipment. When he suggested to my mum in the mid-seventies that our kitchen overhaul should include stainless steel backsplashes and appliances, she let him chose: between instant divorce or a non-stainless kitchen. But he sure didn’t lack vision, did he?) 
Miele, Gaggenau and Neff are of outstanding quality, so are Wolf and Thermador. Preferred are six burners. Also: double ovens, warming-, chilling– and freezer-drawers. Not seen yet: professional exhaust hoods.

Restaurant-type faucets and large stainless sinks.

 Silky limestone flooring (feel them next time you can!), as groutless as possible.

Cantilevered stairways, this one made from steel (bouncy!).

Brushed stainless door hardware; door frames with an all-around shadow-gap, insert shown is brushed aluminum.

Recessed brushed-aluminum kickboards instead of baseboards and shadow-gapped doorframes make for an overall impression of museum-style walls. (Above house still under construction, so things are a bit rough. And photographing a white corner is about as easy as taking pictures of limestone flooring).

Structural-glass flooring panels (photo: IBP).

Matching inside flooring, pool deck is cast-concrete tile, tying interior to exterior spaces. 

Dry-stacking, as wall or accent.

Not sexy, but extremely important: a bundle of energy-saving measures include low-e glazing, temperature-controlled (air-conditioned, vs. vented) attics, and low-e roofing, such as standing-seam metal roofs with sprayed-on underside insulation (photo: Ocean Drive Roofing). Seems like we’re finally waking up to energy conversation as the Europeans did a while ago... about time!

I may be wrong, but currently I observe a greater emphasis on craftsmanship and detail in modernist design than in Spanish revival, which still accounts for the majority of upscale new construction in SE Florida. True or my selective perception?

As always, your observations and comments are most welcome.

Have a nice weekend!

05 March 2010

Modern Furniture: Vintage Stores in Fort Lauderdale

You finally live in a modernist home. Deep sigh. Finally. But how do you furnish it? Surely not from Rooms-To-Go?

On one end of the clean-furniture spectrum sits the ubiquitous Swedish provider of Billy, Smådal and köttbullar (yumm). Nothing wrong with that. The other end of the palette is occupied by the wealthy set which warms up with Artemide and finishes with Knoll, all new of course. Swell.

An astonishing number of my real estate clients (and friends) is different though; so am I. We like the sniffing and the scratching, the hunt for unique pieces, the negotiating and the digging in the backroom of a store like a Scottish Terrier for last month’s bone. 

 Set of swivel chairs at White Glove Antiques 

For those who appreciate the hunt for originality, here is a round-up of modern vintage furniture stores in the Fort Lauderdale area worth visiting, in alphabetical order:

50s 60s 70s Living. In business for 12 years and in the current 2,500 sf-location ca. for 12 months, owner Paul Goldberg carries only vintage furniture – read: nothing new – with a focus on tables, seating and lighting. You will find mostly 1930s German style, 1950s- to 1980s American design and lucite as well. His pieces are sold as-is, many items priced in the $400 to $600 range. During my visit, I also saw a vintage sofa in good condition for $1,200 that looked like a $20,000 DeSede. I scored some nice pieces here. – 1200 NE 4 Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. Open seven days a week 11 am–6 pm. 954.767.8000, 50s60s70sliving.com

Decades. Jerry Marino and Miguel Schiaffino focus mostly on upholstered furniture and accessories, from mid-century to pre-owned contemporary. They receive new items up to four times a week, and have a 30% to 40% weekly turnover. Judging from frequent visits –  I bought several items from Decades – that claim is believable. They have been in business for ten years, 2.5 years in their current store, where plenty of dealers and decorators buy. The two are picky buyers, but can afford aggressive pricing: most items are under $500 in as-is, cleaned-up condition. – Main location 1500 NE 4 Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. Open seven days a week 10 am–6 pm. 954.462.8560 or 564.0454

Decades' showroom

Space Modern. “Energetic, feisty, handsome, enthusiastic”. That’s how owner Gordon McNichols helpfully described himself when I spoke to him about his store and what makes it unique. Gordon and his wife Jackie concentrate on 20th century high-end furniture and lighting. In business since 1998, they occupy their present location since 2000. When I visited, prices ranged from a $150 decorative art object to $11,000 for a Maison Jansen glass dining table from the 70s; the store’s sweet spot lies somewhere around $1,200. Space Modern does not carry knock-offs, and deals only in items that increase – hopefully so – in value over time. (If not for knock-offs, I could have never afforded my Brno chairs, but I didn’t dare tell Gordon that.) – 2335 NE 26 Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305. Tue–Sat 11 am–5 pm. 954.564.6100, space-modern.com

previewmod. Nikki and her partner Stan operated three stores in the UK and France for 20 years before moving to Fort Lauderdale and opening previewmod in 2005. The focus of their 3,000 sf store is on mid-century furniture, tables, molded chairs and 70s to 80s pop culture. Asked for their typical sweet spot, Nikki and Stan told me their prices range from $500 to $5,000; they will restore if necessary or requested. – 3321 NE 32 Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308. No set opening hours, but typically six to seven days a week. 954.563.2887, 954.536.2887, Mon–Sat 10:30 am–6 pm, also on Sundays during winter season, previewmod.com

White Gloves Antiques. Colombian-born Monique is the engine behind this crammed store in Wilton Manors. In contrast to her colleagues, which carry modern merchandise exclusively, White Glove offers a wild mix, with stuff like art-deco panels and vintage clothing thrown in. But during my visit, I saw many modernist furniture items. They included mid-century and contemporary, some restored and re-painted, some new but looking like straight out of the 60s. Prices, like the items Monique deals in, cover a wide spectrum: from $65 table-lamps to a somewhat campy-looking planter straight out of Pompeii for $5,500. – 2340 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, FL 33305. Mon–Sat 11 am–5 pm and by appointment. 954.567.2340

Happy hunting!