Luxury Home Architect John Henry says: "The trend is NOT your friend!"

Services for Real Estate Pros with John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. 13013

The long term (think 'resale') effect of the choices you make in creating a custom home now will result in either gains or losses in the future.  What does that mean?
The choice of house style/layout and materials/finishes on a particular property sets the value of the home now and down the line.

Make sure you think a few years forward as you select between 'modern' and 'traditional' and all the iterations in-between.  For some people it doesn't matter, it would seem.  But the potential for loss can sting.

What about an emergency sale due to unexpected economic or health changes?  Can you recover what you have put into your custom home?  


Certain areas of the country have regional styles based on the history of the area and zoning laws which can govern heights and materials.  Going with the regional architecture is a 'safe bet'.  Bucking the tradition is a risk and gamble.  But low maximum heights mean either a single story traditional design with a low pitched roof  or a two story contemporary -- necessitating a flat or slightly pitched roof.  Of course the two stories yield more living space and on an expensive lot, this may be the only logical choice.

Trendy houses are being built everywhere now.  There are contemporary revivals, transitional designs, mid-century moderns, anything goes, and traditional/regional design.  Does a current fad or trend hold up in terms of resale?  What style has been perfected and has less problems with weather, material failure, energy savings, etc.?  

Only one of these approaches is based on a 2,500-year pedigree that is recognizable, tested, and beloved.  Well-crafted Traditional design is a verifiable appreciating asset.  More people will feel safer purchasing a classical or regional design over a contemporary one.  The value holds up better over time.  

The flavor of the day may go out of fashion depending on social and economic factors.  The fact is that flat roofs, expansive exposed glass, and scaleless form are more expensive to heat/cool, maintain, and often have a soulless character.  Of course, for most of the architects in practice today, "Modern" was the ONLY manner or style of architecture taught and believed relevant for a contemporary culture.  It was a mandate over which one could be cancelled in fact!

I fully expected, yes EXPECTED without question -- after graduation from Texas A&M, that all my clients would demand contemporary or modern designs.  But where I started out, in Austin Texas, traditional forms were the mainstay.  This is true in the most high end neighborhoods in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.  In Florida now, the regional Mediterranean style prevails but hotspots on the coasts boast Modern designs that, due to the particular areas, may hold value as demand right now is strong.


As far as interiors... my suggestion is to integrate the exterior design of the house with the interior design.  Of course many historic houses can be gutted and made totally modern inside, but that is an exception.  Why shock your guests (and your own psyche) with a change up when you walk through the front door?  A traditional house need not be stuffy either.  Contemporarys have certain furniture and accessories that must be used to stay 'in the mood'.  Traditional interiors do not have to be overly ornate with moldings and millwork.  There are countless ways to meet the zeitgeist in either case.  

What is the perceived value of a house?  Curb appeal (style, materials, landscaping, lighting) is the first value judgment made.  Flow of space, views, quality of interior materials/plumbing/electrical/cabinetry, colors, light, furnishings and accessories, all work together to complete the value judgment.


I have been designing mostly traditional houses for over 35 years.  I was going to build a contemporary design for myself in Austin several years ago and at the last moment converted it to a French style!  There is a time and place for everything.

In ARs collective wisdom and experience: Which style increases in value best over time?

My feeling is that only timeless beauty and lasting quality are the foundations for luxury homes in most markets.

Comments (33)

Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES
Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch! - Spring Hill, FL
Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living

Your last sentence says it all! Timeless beauty and lasting quality - one cannot argue with that!

Mar 28, 2021 12:09 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Thanks for your comment, Silvia.  The question for many now are: "what is timeless beauty?"  In the eye of the beholder?  Whatever I like is it?  Don't judge other's aesthetic choices?  It goes on and on.  This is a Pandora's box indeed.

Mar 30, 2021 12:25 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

You have those people who want their home to reflect themselves and who they are authentically, I totally get that from a lot of my clients

Mar 28, 2021 01:04 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Yes, exactly.  Somehow a custom home is a statement about one's individual tastes and how they wish to be seen.

Mar 30, 2021 12:26 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

I too think of timeless design principles and tend to forego trendy in most areas of my life. For us, wide open rooms, views to nature,  and high ceilings are a must. Lots of natural light too. Liked the read. 

Mar 28, 2021 02:07 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Timeless design PRINCIPLES is absolutely correct.  The site should dictate the style to some degree.  When there are no clues though, especially in close in subdivisions on flat land with no real views, then it seems anything goes.

Mar 30, 2021 12:27 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Great article John Henry! When selling residential properties in DFW, whether that's luxury or not, I always tell my clients to think of where they are right now, in five, ten, or more years and to think equity rather than depreciation. Resale value can smack a homeowner upside the head when forced to move for any reasons. When it comes to luxury, regardless of the flavor of the month when the builder builds traditional, English, Old World, Contemporary, French, Mediterranean, etc., regardless of style, think ahead in this order: 1) Functionality, 2) Simple Elegance, 3) Community for growth and opportunities and how do you fit in? 

Mar 28, 2021 03:54 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Thanks, Patricia

Functionality should be a number one priority in any home design.  Simple elegance is harder to define.  Fitting into your community is a big issue with older neighborhoods which typically feature older regional styles.  Maximum heights of 35 feet mean a two story with 6/12 pitch roof and 12 and 9 foot ceilings or flat roof moderns that theoretically have two story spaces of around 32 feet!  And these designs tower over their neighbors putting the neighborhood out of scale.  This is in order for them to make a 'statement', which is not governed in typcial municipalities.  Only in gated communities will you see design control.  Unfortunately, in many which have good intent, the product tends to be monotonous.  I was in Dallas many years ago and saw an ENTIRE neighborhood of French Country homes made of the SAME brick and roofing materials.  It was dreadfully interesting...

Mar 30, 2021 12:32 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening John Henrty,

So glad to see you posting and loved your perspective on "trends" in archtecture. Luxury homes will always tend to be just as you say. We are seeing many younger buyers now that are moving to Austin with all the High Tech jobs..they like simplicity, clean lines..don't entertain in grand dining rooms..they want an out door entertainment area complete with kitchen, bar (with TV), pool/spa, fire pits, putting greens etc. They don't care about china and sterling silver would rather have fun place settings that are more causal.with COVID this style of living has been enhanced.

Mar 28, 2021 05:25 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Thanks for your kind greeting, Dorie!

I can comment on Austin's product because when I moved from there to Orlando over 32 years ago the trend was obvious: contemporary homes were being built to house those seeking more affordable housing from the west.  And these folks are forward thinking types whose housing style needs to reflect a digital future world.  And so, Texas's regional style has been usurped by a flurry of modernist design.  I am not sure if it has completely taken over Austin as I haven't been back much during that time.  The contemporary movement towards mid century modern and just about anything goes is obvious in Central Florida's older neighborhoods where the gentrification is actually to blot out traditional design by introducing flat roofs, huge panels of glass, minimalist stone accents, etc.   Again, horrifically interesting but out of scale with most of the older homes nearby.

Mar 30, 2021 12:36 PM
Peter Mohylsky. BRIX REALTY
Miramar Beach, Florida - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

I agree with most comments, but then resale is not the only consideration when building your dream home.  Many years later you may have some regrets but then many years later you may regret not designing and building your dream home.  

Experience does matter and your expers advice regarding the desing whould be appreciated and welcome.  

Mar 29, 2021 08:42 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Hi Peter, yes, we have a finite purse and time on the planet and we do what we want to do, damn the torpedos full speed ahead.  The problem with the anything goes attitude is that it requires connections of materials that aren't seen in traditional design -- creating potential problems with water, ice, snow, heat, etc.  So you will have issues in the short term as well as wondering about resale later on.

Mar 30, 2021 12:39 PM
Caroline Gerardo
Sun West Mortgage Corporation - Newport Beach, CA
C. G. Barbeau the Loan Lady nmls 324982

Great post 

Mar 29, 2021 09:32 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Thank you, all AR readers and contributors are the ones who make the post great or not so!

Mar 30, 2021 12:39 PM
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

In Florida I can spot a home built to northen styles ( ie split-level, bungalow, raised ranch) and it just looks kind of out of place here.   Agree very much, stick to what is regional when building a home.

Mar 29, 2021 09:56 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Context is important.  A red brick home built on a treeless lot in the hot summer sun looks about as brilliant a move as seeing a Mediterranean stucco home under freezing conditions up north.  

Mar 30, 2021 12:40 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Hi John! Well said! In a nutshell, "Timeless beauty and lasting quality" is spot-on!

Here, for the past 15'ish years, modern is the coveted style and we see incredible appreciation in those homes. Traditional as well but, with so few modern homes, the values tend to skyrocket - especially in low-inventory times like these.

And, I LOVE the Hardaway home! I had to blow it up and spend some time in there - amazing plan, John!

Mar 29, 2021 01:08 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Hi Debe, apparently the charm of the Vanderbilt house in Asheville has not worn well over time!  I see a reason for Charlotte's 'forward thinking' and younger buyers going for contemporary design rather than traditional.  Ben and Jerry's comes up with tastes du jour that are offerred to see what sticks.  I see that in the construction of custom homes by spec builders and this drives interest in non Traditional design, especially if a market is oozing in the regional styles.  An abundance of trees can make any style acceptable...

Mar 30, 2021 12:44 PM
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

It's always wise to build with resale in mind. One day you will sell

Mar 29, 2021 07:18 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Words to be heeded

Mar 31, 2021 09:59 AM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Most people who pour money into their unique home are either staying for a long time, plus 30 years or less time and capitalizing on the equity gain. However, to secure that equity they must build in a very desirable community otherwise their investment in their home will never materialize IMO. I wonder how many agents feel the same way?

Mar 29, 2021 07:46 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear John,

If you just won the lottery, knock yourself out with any style that strikes your fancy. Otherwise, I would go by the neighborhood to make sure the home fits to some degree. If you have a certain taste, that can be done with decor, rather than matching every last piece of trim to a particular style. Changing your sofa cushions on a regular basis is a lot cheaper than painting all the woodwork Ravens purple.

Mar 29, 2021 09:14 PM
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

as a son of an architect, I always liked the contemporary homes my dad designed, but I can say 100% they were not the most requested designs. Def traditional were the norm.

Mar 30, 2021 09:01 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

I heard a story about a very published contemporary architect from the 70s whose custom house designed for a client was completely scraped off the lot as it wasn't as important as the underlying real estate

Mar 31, 2021 10:02 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Interesting perspective.  I see a lot of "new" homes being built in older neighborhoods (original home torn down) and the contemporary modern boxes that are built just do not fit in with the surrounding homes.  Or, a 4000 sf home built where the surrounding homes are less than 2000 SF.  So many trends come and go and it seems that whatever the client wants is what gets built--style and surrounding homes aren't a factor.

Mar 30, 2021 09:14 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Many mismatches in terms of style and size in older neighborhoods.  Merchant builders tend to control the product in large developments.  Gated communities tend to favor regional styles.  Some are 'forward thinking' and will allow anything as long as setbacks, height, and some simple color schemes are observed.

Mar 30, 2021 12:45 PM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

You have certainly designed some beauties over your 35 years in business! I'm with you, timeless tradition stands the test of time and will prevail.  I've seen others languish on the market without selling, costing sellers price reductions!

Mar 30, 2021 12:57 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Thank you!  I think one has to think to realize what exactly is a timeless style.  Those that are in between are never as successful in the long run.  The ones that appear from outer space can be tricky as resales.  There may be markets for quirky though...

Mar 31, 2021 10:04 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi John:

So nice to hear from you again, and on a topic you know more than a little about! I suppose being trendy with your custom home isn't a big worry for some.

We tend to have a lot of  Spanish and Mediteranean-style homes here at the high end, although contemporary is not usual. Seems to me the latter could be harder to sell due to a potentially smaller audience that they appeal to.


Mar 30, 2021 03:10 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Hi Jeff, thanks for your nice comment.  Yes, a smaller buyer for a style means a smaller group must be factored in when a sale is contemplated, so the result is a higher risk proposition.

Mar 31, 2021 10:06 AM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

I know this is true...unfortunately from experience. I built a blown-out comtemporary..LOVED this house. It was in Architectural Digest in it sits on the market with no buyers!!!

Mar 30, 2021 07:48 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Amazing story.  Maybe you can post some photos.  I take it the neighborhood was more traditional?  Yes, like exotic cars, very custom contemporary houses are built for a discerning few.  Resale tends to be dismal in many cases.  The area's prominent style seems to command a higher resale value.  Thank you!

Mar 31, 2021 10:08 AM
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Thanks for sharing John!

Trendy houses are being built everywhere now.  There are contemporary revivals, transitional designs, mid-century moderns, anything goes, and traditional/regional design.  Does a current fad or trend hold up in terms of resale?  What style has been perfected and has less problems with weather, material failure, energy savings, etc.? 

Mar 31, 2021 05:06 AM
Sharon Kowitz
Cary, NC Relocation Specialist ~ Buying or Selling

WOW! You offered some great advice and show some awsome homes in this article. 

Thank you for sharing and I would love to come to Austin someday to see some of your work. Make it a great day! 

Mar 31, 2021 07:14 AM
Sondra Meyer:
KW Coastal Bend - Corpus Christi, TX
See It. Experience It. Live It.

Howdy!   I did not realize that you were an Aggie.      I want to come back and slowly read this post and its comments when I have time to truly think about what everyone is saying.    You have made some excellent points.  


I currently live in a older, waterfront neighborhood in Corpus Christi.   The neighborhood has a VERY eclectic mix of home styles.  Since the homes are on large lots, the mix of various people's dreams and architectural preferences works.     


Assuming the house "fits" with it's neighborhood;  I personally believe that, over time, quality workmanship, materials, a usable floor plan and ongoing maintenance are more critical to a home's resale value than the actual design.     

I have also noticed that if a home is on a desirable lot and it falls into a state of disrepair or functional obsolescence, it will most likely to be bulldozed so that someone else can build their dream home or converted to luxury townhomes....   


To conclude, an architect, such as yourself, is a valuable resource for someone wanting to build their dream home.   



Apr 01, 2021 10:57 AM