Today I drove a Rolls Royce. Not only was it OMG big (like 20 feet long), but it rode so very unexpectedly smooth (I expected smooth, but it’s shockingly smooth). The new Phantom VIII was on display, and quite at home, at the Stoneleigh Residences in concert with the Allie Beth Urban team who’re taking over shell space sales. And you know me, I love to redesign a shell.
After my recent journeys through Southern Dallas, the city’s Market Value Analysis for affordable housing, and Housing First programs for the homeless, firing up the Phantom’s 563 horsepower, V-12 engine provided for some serious mental whiplash (the Phantom is far too polite to have caused physical whiplash).
Pricing for a Phantom begins at $450,000, but if you want eight more inches (and who doesn’t?), the extended wheelbase model adds $80,000 to that. But almost think of that as a shell, going all-in on options and accessories can jump the price a couple of hundred thousand more. Intrigued? Rolls Royce purveyor Park Place is the spot for your Rolls Royce fix.
The Stoneleigh is much the same way. Shell spaces can be had for as little as $762,000 for a 2,408-square-foot two bedroom unit (with better gas mileage). Potentially double that and you have your home. Because that’s the point of Rolls Royces and Stoneleigh shells, it’s all about you.
Rolls Royce told me that unlike pretty much every other car on the planet, they’re not rolling these Rollers off the production line to stock showroom shelves. You want a Phantom? You order one and they build it to your specifications over seven-to-nine months. Want wood inlays from Eve’s apple tree? How about leather from extinct dinosaurs. They’ll find a way. Rolls Royce didn’t build their mystique by saying “no” to customers.
Ditto the Stoneleigh.
I continue to be amazed and saddened that more people don’t get the coolness of purchasing a shell condo. Here’s the thing. Every eyeball reading this has lived in a home where they said, “I wish …” or “Why the heck …” at some oddity. But going from renovating your kitchen to building a custom home from dirt to the shingles is a huge leap in skills, right? Shell condos are the perfect halfway house of customization.
Foundation? Done. Exterior? Done. Roof? Done. Garage, pool, gym, sauna, a ballroom for cripes sake? Done. All you have to do is convert a white box into a home by finishing out the space to your desires. If you’re buying in this price sphere, you’ve worked with designers before who guide the process and make sure you don’t forget to buy drawer pulls.
In the process you can put everything where you, and only you, want it to go. And I’m not just talking about furniture and art. You can decide how the home flows. You’d be amazed how often I look at a floorplan and wonder what distracted the architect from their work. Buying a shell, that shouldn’t happen.
Watch. It’s all about meeeeeeeee.
Above is the Stoneleigh’s “D” floorplan and I find it a little clumsy. You enter on the lower right from your private elevator and walk into a large dead space. Because of the placement of the guest bedroom and powder room entries, the living space can’t spread out (it’s essentially the same width as the guest bedroom). The area needs a larger unbroken wall space that’s more centered.
Next, that odd, tall “U” on the right side of the kitchen is just, well, odd. The master bathroom is also cramped for such an actually large space. Finally, throughout the home there are swing doors everywhere that restrict usefulness, access, and make rooms feel smaller. No one wants to manspread just to close the bathroom door.
Because this is a shell, all this can be fixed just for me … or you.
From the top, I reoriented the master bed to allow for a seating area and a better view out towards the windows and balcony. Doing that allowed me to put in a pair of pocket doors into the bathroom and closet. Closing off closet access from inside the bathroom gave the closet slightly more hanging space, but also more wall space in the bathroom to shuffle things around. Side-by-side dual sinks move to the far right wall.
I switched the shower and the water closet. Were I able to move the toilet to the same wall as the sinks, I would have kept it where it was (the new door wouldn’t have worked with the toilet in its original position). But as a shower, the whole wall can be glass with a sliding door. And if you’re sharing the bathroom, who doesn’t like a little titillation while brushing teeth next to a showering paramour? The result is a cleaner central bathroom space.
Moving the bathtub nearer the wall with a large central space does a few things. First, you can put a nifty stone medallion in the middle to glam up the place. But more importantly, bathers get a cleaner, more relaxing view. The limitations of my software don’t allow me to accurately position a tub. There are different, more egg-shape stand-alone bathtubs that could be angled into the room without cutting off access to the water closet. In my configuration, bathers would be facing a closed door to the water closet and the shower/vanity across the room.
If I wanted to go bonkers, I’d remove the corner walls separating the bathroom from the balcony and install smart glass windows. You know the stuff where you flick a switch and the glass goes from transparent to privacy grey? Flip the bathtub to face towards the corner and once you’re safely below the bubbles, flick the switch for an al fresco experience. Either way, the smart glass would bring in great, muted natural light that’s missing.
Leaving the master bedroom (through a new pocket door), note the new pocket door for the laundry room. It’s another not-large space made smaller with a swing door.
In the kitchen, dump that odd “U” shape thingy and extend the island for more counter and social space. Personally I’d also switch the sink and the cooktop. When I have guests, I’m cooking, not washing dishes. Maybe I keep a small prep sink in the island. I would run a downdraft vent under the floor. Treat the kitchen like the social magnet it is.
The living and guest rooms, with their bath and powder rooms are all interconnected. First shuffle the fireplace towards the front door to minimize the dead space. This allows you to enlarge the furniture area for larger, more comfortable groups. There’s plenty of space that wasn’t able to be utilized because the fireplace was pushed towards the windows. Flank the fireplace/TV with built-ins.
Entering the guest room from the window side is what allows all that to move. Sure, you could use a pocket door, but it’s your house, so get freaking creative. Build a hidden door that matches the built-ins that’s on a floor/ceiling track that allows you to push the whole section into the guest room and slide it to the left. For an extra trick, make the shelves half as deep so they’d be double-sided to show off your knickknacks and patty whacks on both sides. At the other side of the fireplace, a matching wall panel for the powder room pocket door completes the (seamless) wall.
In the end, the master works better for me and I’m always up for a larger, more convivial kitchen. The living area becomes more generous because it uses previously dead space created by the original guest bedroom and powder room doorways. Pocket doors make everything look larger and more polished.
Finally, I went for extra credit. By switching the powder room with the utility room, tinkling guests are slightly less self-conscious their every dribble and quake can he overheard from the living room while still not within nose-shot of the kitchen. With this configuration, you could also move the relocated utility room door further right, extending the living room wall adding more visual spaciousness. (Yes, you could move that door as a powder room, but I didn’t think guests wanted to be greeted by a face-on toilet when the door was inevitably left open.)
This is what customization is about … you. Regardless of whether you’re spec-ing out a Rolls Royce or a Stoneleigh home, you not only get what you pay for, you get what you want. It’s funny though. If you want a Rolls Royce Phantom VIII, it’ll take about nine months. If you want a Stoneleigh shell, the finish-out will likely take nine months. If you want a custom human being, that too will take about nine months. But only one … will need potty training … fail algebra … and bring home a loser boyfriend for Thanksgiving. Puts is all in perspective, no?
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.