WARNING: This blog should have been 2 blogs! It is quite long but, I hope “tolerable” or even enlighting.
There are certain questions which seemed to get asked a lot at our open houses. I have formulated standard answers to most of them, as they are based on easy to understand facts. Such questions as “How long have you been in business?(Since 1993 but we built our first home in 1990), “How many homes have you built?“( I say north of 2,000), “How long does it take to build a home?”(3 to 6 months), most of the answers to common questions are just simple facts.
Then there is the question of which this blog topic is based on today. That question usually comes at the time someone has just seen one of our new-fangled creative innovations or inventions. The question is “Where do you guys come up with all of these creative ideas?” Sometimes that question is followed by something like “Do you have a creative team or do lots of folks contribute their ideas?” The answer COULD , just like the other common questions, be also answered by a citing an easy factual answer, but the question is one that if answered factually, it makes me seem like an egomaniac. I have been accused of many things but those who know me know I have always had trouble answering this question since I don’t feel comfortable citing the fact that …(are you ready,here-goes)…I am usually the one who comes up with creating our ideas and I am the one who tries to find ways to make those ideas happen. My creative “team” is usually just little-‘ol me, or at least for the main “creative” part. THERE, I said it. Having said it, you can see now just how big-headed such a statement seems….and in fact IS. I want to say that just because I come up with an idea and may draw it out in fine detail, I often need to get creative folks into the picture to get these new ideas or new items made into reality.
For expample, in one of our theatre-type projects, I wanted two side stages which would have moving statues of Marylyn Monroe and John Wayne.I would draw the basic poses and find the resource material for references but then I know the right source to send this plan to to get the statues made.
Better said, I am the “hub” of the “creations” as I make the preliminary drawings, then tweak the preliminary drawings and models to meet my bigger picture vision. If , for example, in our latest edition of the Parade Of Homes Model, I wanted a room to smell like an evergreen forest on a timing cue, I can think all I want about how to do this, but that alone will not get the job done. I needed to ferret out a source who had smellizer machines(and I was not even sure such machines actually existed!). I obtain the source to get the machines, I design the area to hold them, but someone else actually has built the machine and, under my direction, then someone else actually installs them in the manner I direct them to be installed.
In the same Parade model, I wanted a new exterior item which would resemble outdoor mural banners. The intent was to give a sense of whimsy and charm to the backyard while also giving privacy and acting as an exterior “wall. For this idea, I drew the detailed wall sections, placed them on the plans, then my on staff draftsman took my drawings and transferred them to computer renderings. I critique the computer renderings and then, if needed, my draftsman re-works them until they are in line with my original “big picture” intentions. I then draw(I came from an artist background) the detail of the mural art and hand that over to an on-staff ex-Disney illustrator who then proceeds to ad his own creative flair.For example, I drew a cow on a surf board with a polka-dot bikini covering the utters. This staff artist then proceeds to create his own idea of a stylized cow which has his own creative touches. The cow , the surfing waves, the beach, the tiki-bar and it’s patrons are all first created by me. Then our artist ads his own details and then , just like the draftsman, shows me his art for approval before proceeding into production. We have a source who we send the items to to make the banner/murals. When they return, I brainstorm with someone who has never seen such a thing/application before(because this is a new system and now needs a new mounting system customized to work with hanging the mural from all 4 sides). Much of our new creative innovations are seat-of-the-pants engineered, then put into reality by the trial and error process.
I hope this gives you some idea of how things are created here at Miracle.
You see, while I do spend many hours thinking and living in what I call my creative mode, coming up with lots of wild ideas, while I am the one to push these ideas into reality, I truly can not take the credit for making these dreams into reality. I am the hub of the idea, but then others must get involved to carry them out, and later, pay the bills to make them happen. In a bigger sense, IF I am true to my religious beliefs. I must admit, for years, I simply found it easier and quicker to tell a white lie, when folks ask who comes up with all of our unusual ideas, (admittedly not a very religious thing in and of itself) than to say something brash like “I create the ideas”. Instead, I would say, something like“Oh well, it takes a lot of creative heads and it is hard to tell where all the ideas come from but I am just happy to be a part of it”.
When folks ask that on- the -spot question, they really are not wanting some long-winded answer or religious story, so I tell this “pat” answer. Over the years, I have asked associates and even my church Pastors, what the proper , honest thing is to say in this situation. Shall I just give a cute answer and avoid the question such as “Gee, that’s our big secret, but they sure are some cool ideas”. That is not really an answer, just a side-step. I have a desire to give glory to God since I believe he created (sorry for getting a bit religious here but my blog seems to have a way of getting my thoughts out that I might not otherwise easily verbalize) us all. So, my answer of late is “well, the ideas just seem to fall down from Heaven into my head then onto our plans, then it takes a lot of hands to make them happen”.
The problem is that in saying this “cute” religious answer, it still seems quite self serving to my way of thinking. This writing I am afraid has no conclusion or big revelation. I would however ask anyone out there reading this to give me your thoughts on giving a quick, honest, and satisfying(to the questioner and me)answer to the question of “who comes up with all of our creative ideas?”
As my blog headline insinuates, I thought, in light of this question/answer dilemma, I thought it might be fun to try an experiment in creative thinking right here on today’s blog.I promise, I am giving this little thought or pre-organizing. I have no current idea , I am starting now with my mind being essentially a blank slate for this experiment. I want to simply demonstrate how I brainstorm a creative idea(s) to myself and things I tell myself when I go through this intimate (until now) private,personal creative process. I usually start with some initial question to myself, and then just see what direction I find and where it all leads. Let’s begin my experiment. Here is how it goes.
Picking just any subject while I type….let’s see…let’s pick the subject of multi-generational dwellings. Most municipalities have pretty big issues with anyone who may just choose to build a mother in-law guest suite onto the home. You see, you can not have a totally separate “wing” on the home , complete with sleeping/kitchen/laundry/bathroom/living area. I know from studying the newest generation of home buyers that soon having 2 houses in one will be a very hot item. In this economy, it is much cheaper to have two families living under one roof. Family members are wanting to now live under the same roof after adulthood, or parents are wanting to move-in instead of going to a nursing home. Young unmarried adults are having babies and grandparents are being the care-takers for these kids.
I think having two houses in one house is a wonderful idea but let’s think of the possible ways it could be done and NOT be considered a duplex situation, because, believe me, communities will notallow duplexes to be built unless zoned accordingly. I have sat across tables from village planners and it just will not be allowed. The problem is that many folks who want 2 family homnes, do not want the ordinary duplex lot.
I have tinkered with having a traditional ranch design then finishing out the basement to be fully set with laundry room, bath(s), a bar which has everything a kitchen would have, and even multiple bedrooms. Because many rec-rooms already have bars and guest bedrooms, and laundry rooms, putting a whole, self-contained level into the basement would not be an issue. Now let’s think about the access from the garage. I think, since this could be a 2 family situation, let’s think making a 4 car garage. Just so the garage does not overwhelm the home from the outside, perhaps one stall can be a double-deep one?
It is also not unusual in designs today to have a second staircase from the garage going into the basement, so this could be in fact the private access to the basement. Another way could be to have the one back hall entry into the main level be more of a front foyer which would have doors which could go from the main level into the basement level without being seen from the main level. Just like an apartment where everyone enters a common lobby, then can choose to go upstairs or down or on main level.
Hey, I just had a brainstorm idea with that last item. Let’s say we take a traditional 2 story home and now do this complete living level for the basement. Now lets do the same for the upstairs level. This might be a little harder since we are walking the tight-rope between duplex and single family. We need this to be deemed a single family to work in most neighborhoods. We could however use a master bedroom on the first floor home design, and maybe a “study”(second bedroom) next to the master. Now on the second floor , we could make one of those popular bonus rooms over the garage. This could have another “full” bar/kitchen and lots of seating area. The bedrooms could be 2 or 3 upstairs. I think this could work. In effect, we would now have 3 levels of potential self-contained living. The trick is to do this in a smaller house of say, a 2,200 square foot 2-story. I think that could be done!
As for the ranch, let’s brainstorm say a 1,500 to 2,000 square foot ranch, then put a full efficiency apartment over the garage as a bonus room.
As for building in natural daylight into the basement, we could use those deep window wells for egress windows but the views are not very desirable. I would like to explore the notion of a downstairs/basement courtyard. The courtyard would work even on a flat lot and could be covered partially by roof.
My mind now goes to the subject of how cold it gets in Wisconsin. I recently built a series of outdoor “rooms” into our Parade home model in Richfield. Lots of folks loved the concept but would say “too bad you can only use the outdoor rooms for 6 or 7 months a year“(if you are lucky). This open basement courtyard now makes me think of how to keep this area and exterior rooms warm, yet open to the elements. I just experimented with using devices which blew air to create invisible walls of wind. The theory was that they were to hold in/out bugs and temperatures. Since (I think) I was the first single family home builder to use this technology in this manner, I am now experimenting in real life with how to make this work, or optimize it. Perhaps heated concrete could make a difference. I know blocking wind is crucial in making out door room temperatures tolerable.
What if I could design wind blocking exterior walls in all 4 directions and yet make them not seem to close-in these outdoor rooms? Perhaps, using trees or tightly placed evergreen tall hedges on one side, then scattered openings with blocking devices beyond the visual of those openings might work. I heard recently of electric heating panels which creates warmth radiantly but draws little energy and is pleasing to the eye as it appears to be a ceiling tile. What if I could use that on the bottomside of a main floor outdoor deck which covers an exposed basement patio? I have just such a home in Richfield. Perhaps I should get my hands on such a device and test it?
The creative process goes leaping from one idea to another. Then I grab my pad of graph paper and start doodling a concept or two. Then I go Googling to find out if such a radiant heating device has any specs available. The process keeps going and growing.
I am afraid this blog has grown into a very long one so perhaps we should end this edition. The concept of creative ideas starts with first seeing a need or problem(Why can’t we live outdoors in the Winter, for example, or Why can’t we build multi-family homes in single family zoned areas?) and then asking why can’t we put our normal rationals aside and see what everyone else is not seeing. Most don’tsee, just because no one else has questioned the norms or tried to break a false boundry.
Thanks for staying with this very long blog. I invite your comments.
I hope to see you all at Reflections Village in Richfield this weekend or Monday and Wednesday nights 6 to 8pm.