Why Do Most Houses End Up Ugly? Bob Hoebeke Says It’s Due to Poor Taste

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By Bob Hoebeke
President, Hobeke Builders

Home Alone. Father of the Bride. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Conjure up images of these famous movies or TV shows and without a doubt sooner or later the beautiful home serving as the faithful backdrop of where blissful life is lived will pop into your brain.

Hollywood often uses iconic homes to help tell the stories of the characters living and working in their storylines. Behind the curtain hides a crew of people searching to find just the perfect home that will project the persona of the story to be told.

Because Hollywood, unfortunately, shapes too much of how we think and act, when it comes to our personal space we are often drawn by what we see on the silver screen as a notion of the type of ideal home we want to build for our families. If Hollywood can make Steve Martin’s family the picture of storybook living in Father of the Bride, maybe building the perfect home will do the same thing for us!

But homes that make you wanna stop the car and take pictures don’t happen by accident. Incredible amounts of time, money, and emotion go into a process that still may produce an ugly home. Those having the greatest success with the building process empower project teams comprised of an architect, a builder, an interior designer, and a landscape architect with their initial vision, budget, and expectations – and let the professionals be the professionals!

Here’s the medium sized version of where to start:

The Vision

Architects are the custodians for the entire design/building process. If your home ends up ugly, blame them! All of the good ones are highly trained in the basics of design, following time-tested theorems of size, shape, and proportion when designing projects. Though the really good architects have exquisite taste, beautiful design balance, and a keen eye for proportion, even they can design ugly homes if highly profit-motivated builders are pushing them for “something – ANYTHING” just so they can turn a buck in the speculative home market.

Dare we say, profit motivation in the hands of a builder with no taste equals ugly?

The Pocketbook

Why is it always about money? Elegance and vision aren’t cheap! Storybook homes cost lots of money, and should never be undertaken on a budget too thin. Whatever your project team’s rough “guestimates” for the total cost of your home, add at least 20 percent to that number. Oftentimes, the client themselves become a major contributor to cost overages. Implementing the “kid in the candy store syndrome,” they start shopping for treasures for their home, and “for just a little bit more” themselves into oblivion.

Candidly, ugly usually costs a lot less, takes less time, and many don’t know the difference anyway.

The Builder

Amazon Prime has a wonderful series called Room to Improve featuring an extremely talented architect named Dermot Bannon who carefully leads families through the design/build process. On a recent episode, a young builder fancied himself as more than someone who puts pieces together. Taking architectural license in hand, without Bannon’s knowledge, or approval, he hijacked the clients convincing them that a sunken living room conversation pit was all they needed to live happily ever after. BINGO! There’s your problem. Most builders have no taste, as evidenced by the “off the shelf” house plans they select, and the materials they pick for the outside. They need to be gigantic puzzle put-er-together-ers and nothing more. Style and design need to be left to those trained to know what looks good.

“Incredible amounts of time, money, and emotion go into a process that still may produce an ugly home.”

Bob Hobeke

In a perfect world, and oh boy is it not, the different disciplines are mutually co-dependent. Architects know style, design, and space but not price; builders know price and how things go together, but not design; neither one of them are particularly proficient with color, furnishings, texture etc. so leave that to the interior designer; and none of them have a clue what’s going on out in the yard, and will kill your trees – that’s why you need a landscape architect. 

Once the project team is fully assembled and empowered with the client’s project parameters, a healthy dose of patience is required for there ever to be the Father of the Bride house moment. Crazy as it sounds, this recipe is the most cost-efficient way to build a home – planning minimizes mistakes and mistakes usually cost lots of money. There are no shortcuts, and surprise is the enemy of any building or remodeling project!


Bob Hoebeke is a 40-year veteran of the homebuilding and re-model business. As a consultant on many of the finest projects in the southwest, he sees it as his responsibility to bring “best practice” to the industry, and all the projects on which he is privileged to work! bob@hoebekebuilders.com

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  1. James Hauglid says

    To avoid an ugly home start with a good architect and listen to them! As a Realtor I can tell you that you will get the cost back and then some when you sell, plus you will have a beautiful and more livable home. An architect can help you get the most bag for your dollar too.

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