25/03/10 – Dallas/Fort Worth – Apt/Lofts

  • BradW


    While I agree most of these balconies are useless, particularly, the ones with multiple access points, what do you expect in a high/mid rise condo project? If deep terraces were provided up the side of a building you would negatively impact the light condition inside the units. Further, it is a very expensive thing to provide as, typically, the units are stepped back resulting in fewer units per higher floor. I have included pictures of the Centrum Tower and a 2300 sq ft unit priced at 495K as an example of a good outdoor living space and the architecture required to create it.

  • BradW


    It is getting kind of depressing not being able to vote on a Slow Home award week after week. While I agree that there may not be anything worthy, it would be nice to review a few of the best finds and discuss what makes them good but also why they fall just short of garnering an award.

  • BradW

    Since you all have been so inspired by the comments made by design luminaries Karim Rashid, David Kelley and, most notably, Dieter Rams (chief designer for Braun – the shaver worked great BTW) here is the last in my series of clips from the wonderful Objectified documentary. It features designer Jonathon Ive from Apple. Of particular interest to the ladies, my wife tells me Jonathon Ive is himself very well designed. :)
    Here is the link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0fe800C2CU

  • BradW

    MollyK – don’t worry all this design philosophy is done and I have some amazing homes to show you in the next few weeks…

  • MollyK

    I don’t think we are being realistic about the outdoor spaces in high-rise units. We speak of environmental footprint yet insist that builders put terraces and balconies on these structures…you understand that requires more materials and structural planning. Also, do we know if a Bar-B-Q is allowed on high-rise terraces…I know that many beach rentals do NOT allow you to grill on the deck…you must be at GROUND level!
    As I said to Terri on Monday, I’m lenient when scoring outdoor spaces for high-rise units because they are just that…high-rise…off the ground…limited room for an outdoor space. If you are lucky enough to get a roof-top terrace then you can be more critical of its layout, but I think you should be grateful to get a balcony in most cases.

  • BradW

    Comment: A registered Green Built Texas project. Awaiting LEED certification. Sited with like building in a area undergoing revitalization. A walk score of 68 but with excellence access to public transit. The Arden is a common unit in the complex so finding one with correct orientation is easy. Points were lost as follows: 1.dining shared with living 2. bedroom closet located off bathroom and 3. laundry closet shares access with bedroom and bathroom. Considering the unit is only 720 sq ft these are reasonable design trade offs. The project is for rentals.

    Project Name: Belmont Apartments – Arden

    Size: 720 sqft

    Project Address: 2500 Bennett Street Dallas, TX

    Project URL: http://www.thebelmontapts.com

    Slow Home Test Score: 17

  • MollyK

    Has your wife actually met Jonathon?…I confer he is well-designed from the video.
    Moving on…I enjoyed the video…it was very interesting. I may be a psychologist by trade but I like to watch heavy machinery on construction sites. I appreciated Jonathon’s reference to how certain design elements should be understated, almost invisible, which makes you say to yourself…Yeah, that feels natural. I never thought about that before. I guess it’s the same in other areas of design, such as buildings and furniture.
    BTW…I didn’t make the connection between Dieter Rams and Braun. I love anything Braun!
    I look forward to viewing your amazing homes…I knew you wouldn’t let me down!!!
    I think you and I are on the same page about outdoor living in high-rise condos. I read your comment after posting mine…I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the past that you say what I’m thinking ALOT. Thanks for sharing the Centrum Tower…it is an amazing feat of architecture. You get a sense of what it takes to provide adequate outdoor space. The view from the interior of the 2300 sf unit provides a different perspective on what outdoor living looks like in condos. It is also compelling evidence that good outdoor space requires more area than most buildings can provide.
    Once again (in my opinion) you are a voice of reason when examining the scoring categories of the SlowHome test. I keep in mind a comment you made in Toronto about Location. You said we were being too critical in that category and depending too much on walkscore without looking at the reality of living in a suburban development. I took your comment to heart and now try to be more conscious of the relationship between the test and the type of home being evaluated.
    Well, that’s all I have for now. Look forward to hearing from other SlowHomers.

  • BradW

    Comment: Another registered Green Built Texas project with some environmental credibility. A 95 on the walkscore is impressive. The building is sited as one would expect and provides exterior and courtyard units in a rectangle so correctly oriented units are available. The unit itself is straightforward and well done. Other units in the building including A11 A #5518 and B3 #5430 are equally appealing. The website is tacky but provides sufficient information. The units are for rental.

    Project Name: iLume – A9 B #5519

    Size: 1 bed 1 bath <800sq ft

    Project Address: 4123 Cedar Springs Rd. Dallas TX

    Project URL: http://www.ilume.com/

    Slow Home Test Score: 20

  • BradW

    Comment: A good location in Fort Worth. No mention of environmental performance but very well designed units throughout the building. For example, another notable unit is B2-P. The web site allows you to drag furniture onto the floor plans to get a sense of the space.

    Project Name: Lofts @ West 7th – Unit B7-P

    Size: 1329 sqft 2bed 2bath

    Project Address: 929 Norwood St. Fort Worth, TX

    Project URL: http://www.theloftsatwest7th.com/

    Slow Home Test Score: 17

  • BradW

    I’ll post several more projects from Fort Worth later…In general, I am actually more impressed with what is available in Dallas than in Toronto. Not impressed with Dallas geography and weather…

  • MollyK

    Comment: Walkscore 68/100.
    Unit 2109 has only N/E facing windows according to satellite map and artist rendering. This not the greatest orientation, AND if the LEED application is considered, I believe, as John said, the Env. Perf. score becomes a judgement call. I chose to give it a YES.
    The unit is oddly shaped: thus, the kitchen & living/dining area become a T-intersection which could be a circulation nightmare. Therefore, Organization scored it NO.
    The shape also resulted in impact on and from adjacent apartments; therefore, Siting scored it NO.
    Dining is unclear–perhaps nonexistent–scored NO.
    Laundry too cramped (a little redesign could have rendered a better site)–scored NO.
    VERY interesting that if you rent one of these apartments you may be subject to a CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK! Wow…as a mother that sounds great…as a tax-paying citizen that feels a little like Big Brother.

    Project Name: Cornelia: Unit 2109

    Size: 1201 sqft

    Project Address: Belmont Apts, 2500 Bennett St., Dallas TX

    Project URL: http://www.thebelmontapts.com/floorplan.asp?model=Cornelia&unit=B-2109

    Slow Home Test Score: 14

  • MollyK

    Something else to consider about the Outdoor living score. If a common outdoor area exists on the building site should that factor into the score? It would seem more financially and environmentally sound to utilize a single large space for outdoor activities than to build numerous terraces/balconies on the side of the building.

  • Terri

    I just want to echo BradW’s earlier comment about missing the vote for the slowest home in each category. Back in Toronto it seemed that some came close but because there were problems (none above 18) we didn’t consider any. If we are truly trying to gauge how slow the homes being built in North America are, then we should keep voting too. So, if 16 is the slowest–doesn’t that tell us something about the state of new buildings in that city? Like Brad says, the award would be tempered by our discussion of the weaknesses.

    (Brad, I noticed later in the post that you’ve found a 20 today, so now I’m just a little suspicious of your desire for us to vote on the slowest. ;))

  • Terri

    I can see the logic in what you say about the cost for an outdoor living space, and I suppose just being able to step out the door is better than not being able to do so at all, but I also know that if I own a home, I want to be able to enjoy the outdoors AT that home. I shouldn’t be forced to trudge somewhere else. What about reading the paper on a weekend morning in the great fresh air?

    I know it costs more, and there is more cause for discontent between occupants when their noises or odours can drift between units, but to me, part of buying a condo/loft includes being in a building with others, so that the costs are shared–albeit, in more ways than one!

  • BradW

    In all honesty, having a unit you find win is nice but I am really just trying to find some decent places. In truth the unit is probably an 18 but since I cannot award partial marks in some of these categories it is what it is – a nice livable unit in a location with a walk score of 95. And it is very time consuming to search and post these places. So not to vote or at least recognize some of the places and the people who found them I do not understand. I also think that the participation by John, Matthew and others on the blog has really dropped off…only the same core group and I think that is becoming a problem.

  • Terri

    Checked out the three you posted for iLume. I can’t agree with the 20 rating with that little entry right next to the kitchen (only the size of a doormat), and that tiny balcony, which would fit one chair with the barbecue.

    The others you mentioned had similar problems–no balconies at all, and A11 A5518 had the laundry right in front of the entry and the other (B3 5430) again had the entry squished beside the kitchen.
    However, I do like the way the units handled the bathroom/bedroom parts of the plan, especially the one you chose to rate a 20.

  • Terri

    Hi Brad,
    Caught your response AFTER I posted my comment–so you agree that 20 should be 18.
    I agree…it seems we’re sailing without a captain sometimes…

  • Jim X

    Outdoor areas– One feature not mentioned is living roofs, with soil, plants, vegetation etc on the roof. I don’t know much about this, and the only one I’ve seen with my own eyes was a University building with plants that grow with little water and like hot, hot weather. Unfortunately no one can use because of insurance issues (there was no railing). Not exactly what an apt. developer wants to do.
    Jim X

  • MollyK

    I am all for outdoor living for a single-family house…seems ridiculous not to have a minimal yard. But I think with medium and high-rise units it “ain’t” that easy to find decently sized outdoor spaces attached to the “home”. It seems more realistic to score that category with some leniency. What I do like is that you know what you want as a home-buyer…so in that case you wouldn’t want to “settle” when it comes to an outdoor living space. I suspect you would find a unit with an adequate, if not better than adequate outdoor living area.
    Frankly, I share your sentiment about wanting the space at my home…I don’t want to be forced to get dressed and go to the coffee shop just to read my Sunday paper outside.

  • MollyK

    I hadn’t mentioned it (because BradW read my mind AGAIN and said it first) but I was looking forward to voting on some nominees today. Do you think John and Matthew have changed the voting schedule since we are evaluating both categories of apts/condos in one week? Maybe we’ll get them tomorrow?
    When they mentioned combining the two categories at the start of the week I thought that was ambitious since that might double the number of units they would have to review for nominees. I like the idea of consolidating to keep things moving along. It looked like we had some possible nominees. I’m feeling a little in the dark right now.

  • MollyK

    I’m having a blast on the website for The Lofts @ West 7th…love arranging furniture. (I found a townhouse site with movable furniture which I will submit next week…of course, you beat me to it first.) I like the built-in closet at the end of the island in the kitchen. In general this design makes good use of space. I wonder what happens when you shrink it…with less square footage what gets compromised…do you have any idea?

  • John Brown


    Sorry for the confusion about the voting. In response to the concerns expressed on the site during the single family house week in Toronto about voting on projects that weren’t worth it we decided to hold off on the voting until week 4 – when all of the projects in all of the categories have been posted. That way we, as a group, have more flexibility to recognize the best in a city. If deserving we can award more than one award in a particular house type and not in another for example. It will also make week 4 more exciting I think.

  • John Brown

    BradW and Molly,

    Please excuse our lack of posting in the last few days. I am in the end of term rush at the University and Matthew is very busy with some of our construction projects. We are also trying to finish off a new version of the slow home website and complete the written slow report on our findings in Toronto. It is all we can do at the moment to keep up with the daily segments.

    We both really appreciate that you, and the other “hard core” slow homers, are picking up the conversation in our absence.

    We will be back to normal soon.

  • Matthew North

    Brad W – Thanks for posting the photos of the Centrum Tower. I get what you are saying about the architectural endeavor that is required to produce outdoor living spaces that large. I would argue that we can easily raise the bar for design of outdoor living spaces in most condo towers if just a few basic design rules were applied such as:
    1. Avoid swing doors on small or narrow decks
    2. Avoid narrow decks that wrap around the entire length of the building – why design them like this in the first place – think of the high cost to do this!
    3. Try to design the building so decks are not projections (as this limits size due to the structural reasons) but nestle them between living spaces – like between the living room and master bedroom as we have seen in may examples
    4. Avoid multiple access points onto a deck – particularly from the same space
    5. Try to get the sizing to work for at least one seating area – just requires a bit of thought
    6. Don’t locate mechanical equipment on an already small deck space

    This is my basic list of high rise deck design – I would love to hear what other Slow Homers think – have I missed anything?

  • Carol

    About the outdoor space–as a homeowner with a large garden who is tentatively looking at apartment/condo living, having a connection with the out of doors is important. However, most of the balconies I have seen are very badly designed. Brad and Molly’s discussion has made me think that if a building were in the right location my desire for an outdoor connection could be satisfied with what I think is sometimes called a Juliet balcony. Tall french doors that could open to my living room, facing south-east for morning coffee, sunbeams and breeze with the opportunity to at least step outside. Could this be a cost effective solution to providing outdoor living space in high density housing?
    Matthew, your list seems complete except for a suggestion for the minimum depth required for adequate seating area.