A row of iconic houses with the victorian "painted ladies" home design style

The best time in history to design a home

Architectural lessons learned from the “painted ladies.”

When I was a young carpenter in the mid-1980s, learning more and more about the construction trades, I had the great opportunity to work alongside a master carpenter on a couple of old Victorian-style homes on historic Walnut Street in Springfield, Missouri. These beautiful houses were known as the “painted ladies,” where wealthy captains of industry lived during the economic boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But over time, as that part of town declined and prosperity moved into the suburbs, developers chopped many of these architectural marvels into apartments –  destroying a lot of their wonderful details.

So we worked to restore those historic features. And we did the work by hand, like it was done in the old days.

We even took the time to create period furniture for those homes. It gave me invaluable training, plus an understanding of how architectural pieces go together and how different construction methods are done.

The decline in home construction methods

The Victorian-style era was followed by a series of new home design trends that included some advances in construction methods. But they were dominated by many changes that resulted in lower-quality houses.

In reaction to The Great Depression, World War 2, and a rapid increase in the suburban population, most of the construction industry cranked out lower-budget homes that were easy to build and affordable. They met a need and they were appropriate for the time, but many of those homes would not stand the test of time.

These homes were often built with a “checklist” mentality. They included everything a family would need – laundry, kitchen, master bath, bathtub, etc. But there wasn’t enough thought put into functionality.

That’s why so many homes have a washer and dryer in the kitchen. It may have made wiring and plumbing the house easier and cheaper. But it also created a lot of extra noise in the common living space. And it forced homeowners to haul laundry away from the bedrooms and bathrooms (where it’s needed) into a space made for cooking and eating. No one asked, “Is this laundry in the right spot? Does this make sense?”

This mentality is still used in many home designs today.

Homes also lacked unique style – everything became homogenized into interior design packages. Even if a new style came into popularity, everyone would get basically the same look.

But variety began to creep back in during the 1990s.

The new era of thoughtful custom home design

Talented designers and builders adopt a more holistic approach in the twenty-first century. When creating the home’s architectural design, we design every last aspect with the finished materials in mind.

Today, with advanced technology, when I design a new house or a home-remodeling design for a client I’m able to research and consider all of the factors affecting the final outcome.

  • The unique needs of homeowners
  • New materials, sourced locally and from around the world
  • A wider selection of skilled artisans and construction methods
  • Factors related to the plot of land, weather, and surrounding properties
  • Environmental considerations
  • Indoor air quality concerns
  • Homeowner associations and neighborhood regulations
  • Updated fire codes and other safety considerations

And I’m able to create amazing 3D renderings that allow the homeowners and construction crews to fully envision the completed project before a single piece of building material is ordered.

A world of options at our fingertips

We have more choices in building materials and craftsmanship techniques than in any previous time in history.

You’re no longer limited to what your small, local supplier can provide. In the old days, what they could provide was based on their ability to purchase, their limited resources, and the choices that they thought were relevant for their community.

Anything is available now. At Keystone Creative, we invest time, talent, and resources into research, creative thought, and innovation so you get the best home for your specific needs and desires.

I recently sourced Andean Mahogany from South American – out of Ecuador. There was a unique, very small company trying to bring specialty hardwoods into the area – it wasn’t a typical flooring store.

The lumber was shipped to North Carolina to be milled into flooring, then to Kansas City to be finished, and to Springfield, Missouri, to be installed in the home. That type of international opportunity was still very practical for the project, but added a level of beauty and creativity that would not have otherwise been available locally.

We now import countertops and tile from Brazil, Italy, Spain, and Israel – worldwide.  We even have more domestic opinions. We’re able to source coast to coast.

We are also now exposed to more interior design style influences from around the world. You don’t have to have the same type of house as your neighbors.

At Keystone Creative, we spend a great deal of time educating ourselves on the latest innovative construction methods and materials. There are so many new choices these days when it comes to ways to build a home faster, more affordably, more eco-friendly, more functional, and more visually unique.

But sometimes there are too many choices. It takes a high level of training for a good designer to recognize a good product or service from a bad one. Hiring an experienced home designer minimizes the risk of trying something new.

I’ve been in this industry for decades, and I’ve curated the best options over time. Some of my sources aren’t found in a basic Google search. That’s a level of service you won’t find in a home-improvement warehouse or a DIY interior design app.

How does Covid affect residential design?

Even challenges associated with the pandemic, such as supply-chain issues, are an opportunity for innovation. They force talented home designers to solve problems in unique ways, which can actually produce better results.

For example, in a few years, you’re going to see incredible innovations in home office design.

Twenty years ago, the closest thing most homes had to a home office was a little catch-all desk/counter attached to the kitchen. And those never really worked out, because they weren’t used like they were originally intended. They were just covered in mail and shopping receipts.

Since so many people want to stay home (or are forced to stay home), they want workspaces that are efficient and comfortable. They want convenient, identifiable, more enjoyable spaces. New creative concepts are being developed. The new generation of home offices will be dramatically better and add value to homes.

The same could be said for outdoor living spaces.

People want their homes to be more than just a place to eat and sleep at the end of the day. They want spaces full of function and comfort, houses that express the homeowners’ unique styles, and homes that will stand the test of time.

Are you ready to design and build your dream home?

With all of the talent, technology, and resources available today, you can finally have a home that rivals the Architectural style, quality, and beauty of the beloved painted ladies.

Keystone Creative is an award-winning residential design firm, specializing in whole-house transformations and new-home designs. The team reimagines kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, and even laundry rooms to fulfill homeowners’ dreams and increase the value of homes. Keystone Creative can handle the entire process, from the initial concept and detailed blueprints, to interior design and material selection, to construction and quality control management.

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