Balancing Slow Design and Market Values

In response to a comment made by a viewer over the weekend, John and Matthew discuss the issue of creating a Slow Home that can retain market value.

  • Brad W

    John and Matthew – thanks for weighing in on this discussion – it is interesting to see you both wearing your real estate hats :)

    In my own case, is an ensuite shower really needed when the family bath is just down the hall? For me, the answer is no but from a real estate/investment point of view the answer is yes. Why, because buyers have been conditioned to expect spacious ensuite baths with two sinks, separate tub and shower, etc. and I cannot ignore that perceived need. Developers know this and try very hard to cater to this market, perpetuating it even more. All too often the result is a sacrifice of overall design quality. In my example, I like the way my bedroom is designed now but it does not have a shower – will adding one compromise the space? There are no easy answers here – it is up to the individual. I am thinking that if we all scaled back our wants or even just changed our focus a little bit there would be many more Slow Homes in the world.

  • Matthew North

    Brad – your comment from the weekend has made us do a lot of thinking around here! I think your comment today about the “sacrifice of overall design quality” has hit the nail on the head. I believe it is OK to have a spacious ensuite, with two sinks, a walk in shower and a separate tub as long as it is all well designed. But too often, developers simply end up placing all of these “plumbing features” haphazardly in an oversized room with way too much floor space and we end up with the typical “fast house” scenario where the ensuite ends up being more like a bedroom with plumbing fixtures in it rather than a great place to get ready in the morning. Why does this happen? I believe it is the mistaken belief of most home builders/ developers that if you include all the the pre-requisite “parts” of a bathroom from a real estate point of view, it will automatically equal more value. But at Slow Home, we know that a well designed house is more than the sum of the parts and that the essential components to real value in the long term – both financial value and experiential value from living in a well designed home – is rooted in strength of the underlying design.

  • Travis

    Agreed. To me an ensuite bath is a lot like bacon on a hamburger – when it’s done right it’s nice, but not it’s not essential. To devote a substantial chunk of available floor area to only one or two users is a bit indulgent – just like bacon. To then add another required bathroom for other users, well the house either has to balloon out (like a waistline) to accomodate the other functions, or it has to sacrifice the available area for those functions (order the bacon, but skip the casesar salad). In all seriousness though, there is a trend being seen where average house sizes are shrinking and with smaller wallets, it will be interesting to see if homebuyers will opt out of the more indulgent “toppings” and go for more simpilified shared baths.

  • Terri


    Further to this discussion, I was thinking that maybe David and Patti’s Windsor house could have only a half bath for guests and a larger ensuite. As I played with John & Matthew’s plan (sorry, guys!), I saw that I could hide that toilet so that it’s no longer visible from living space. But once I started fiddling with it, it seemed silly to have both tub and shower in one room, so I put a standard-sized shower back in the guest. It’s a squeeze, but do you really want your guests that comfortable? The tub in ensuite would have shower included.

    Matthew, I’ve still been waiting for your fix to that bathroom… ;)

  • Matthew North


    Here is my quick sketch of another bath scheme.

  • Paul C


    Value and perception. The question of how to address what the “market” demands can be difficult. Trusting I won’t get pummeled, I will play the devil’s advocate for the moment and throw this out there. Setting aside which side of the fence one is on with respect to this retailer but there is a reason why Wal-Mart is the largest company in the world. It represents a statement of “consumer” values. It would be unfortunate to over generalize that consumers act as lemmings to a ridge when shopping for homes. That said your research clearly demonstrated that there is no shortage of examples were little effort is made on the part of fast home producers to provide intelligent, non-haphazard design.

    Regarding perception. (Looks like this is the week John’s plan gets a good going over. Sorry John.) Smaller spaces benefit from employing the idea of “doubling up” on the use of the space. John eluded to this and I believe Frank demonstrated. This plan suggests that a singular larger bathroom within very close proximity to the master could be perceived as an ensuite. It also flips the fireplace to the interior and combines it with a dining hutch in line with the kitchen counter. The circulation space (hi-lited in John’s plan) becomes less defined and incorporated into the living/dining spaces. The resulting space is perceived wider/larger. I would suggest that a wardrobe furniture piece be used in the study if it were deemed needed as a bedroom. I would also advocate for a newer furnace and hot water tank that do not require flues.

  • Brad W

    PaulC – I think it is great that John’s plan gets the business – look at all the additional ideas and options the discussion has generated for David’s bungalow and I am sure John would agree – frankly, I am amazed at the quality of the work given the timeframes so kudos to John and team – I have to completely agree that if you are going to renovate this bungalow to the extent proposed here you should eliminate the interior flue by installing a hi-eff direct venting furnace and water heater – also nice bathroom design

    Matthew – I agree with you regarding the master bath – not only should the bath be well-designed (see Housebrand for examples) but it should be in proper scale to the rest of the house – I like your bath scheme also (amazing what removing something as small as the flue allows – there is a lesson in that)

  • Terri

    I like the vestibule entry as you’ve suggested. I think segmenting is less necessary when you have the privacy offered with the vestibule (as Paul C has drawn up).

    Paul C,
    I like using the complete depth of the living area as you have done. It feels much roomier and doesn’t impede traffic either. The only thing that may or may not be at issue is turning the furniture against the window, but there’s obviously room to have two sofas facing one another so that the view and the fireplace flank them.

  • Matthew North

    Brad W……I am assuming a new direct vent hi efficiency furnace so the duct run is deleted! Otherwise that venting will have to move somewhere!

  • David

    Hello everyone thanks for follow-up on the designs. Regarding the flue. I had definitely decided to update the furnace to a direct vent unit and the water heater as well. This would allow the removal of chimney.

    Thanks again