Friday, July 06, 2007

Online architects offer customization to stock plans

Another example of taking a basic idea and giving it an internet twist:

"IN mid-May, Don DeFeo was overseeing the finishing touches on his Shoreham, Vt. summer home, a three-bedroom modernist design with cedar tongue-and-groove siding and a wall of windows to capture the view of 33 acres of rolling hills. In an area where most residences tended to be either “100 years old or a new house that looks like a 100-year-old house,” Mr. DeFeo said his home stood out for its contemporary design. But it wasn’t one of a kind. Mr. DeFeo bought the plan from an architect who sells ready-made designs online...

The business isn’t new; books and magazines have long featured home designs for purchase. What has changed is the accessibility of such plans on the Internet and the growth of stock plans, which some architects have turned to as a side activity to their custom designs.

The second-home market is helping to fuel the trend. While design firms don’t have hard numbers on the number of online plans bought for second homes, architects who sell their designs on the Web say that the second-home shopper is a sought-after customer.

The way architects present their online plans says it all. Donald A Gardner Architects, based in Greenville, S.C., divides up its plans into categories like country homes, vacation homes, resort homes and beach homes. Houseplans.com, based in Novato, Calif., classifies its home designs as beach, coastal and cottage styles, among others.

THREE of the most popular plan categories at Architectural House Plans, based in Sausalito, Calif., are cabins, small houses and country homes. And Ross Chapin Architects sells ready-made plans through its GoodFit division that are suited to a second-home client looking for a small, easy-to-maintain residence. “They naturally capture the essence of cozy retreats,” said Debbie Loudon, the public relations director for the company.

While so-called online architects vary in the size and variety of their designs, as well as how much service they provide for modifications, they do have one thing in common: their plans cost just a fraction of what one would pay an architect for a custom design.

And for some buyers, the savings is motivation enough."
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