Decatur House


Man, it’s been so long since I’ve been here! Maybe that’s the good news, because I’ve been busy doing things like building this beautiful home for a wonderful family settling down in Decatur after a military life of moving, moving, and some more moving. It is adjacent to a city nature preserve at the end of a dead-end street, making for a dynamite location. But then again, most locations in Decatur are dynamite.


I L-O-V-E this house!

I love this house and think I’ve finally found a place to put it.

The house is modest size but plenty big enough for most people.  It oozes character due to the great details.  It has the flexibility to be a master up or down, an office, or guest suite.  Formal dining room.  Cozy kitchen.  Usually “cozy” is code for small, but here there’s plenty of room in a good layout and seating for a few, not the whole neighborhood.  I’m kind of a sucker for shingle houses, and this one is a beauty.  Proportions are teriffic.  Details and materials are spot on.  This won’t be a cheap house to build, but the end result will be stupendous.  You can see more of the plan on the web site, plan #444-26.

The spot I’ve got picked out is a large prominent lot in Lynwood Park (Brookhaven) that due to setback requirements on two streets has a rather small buildable area — but big enough for this compact gem.  We’ll be posting it on the website soon with more information.

Let me know what you think.  Thanks.

Can it be?

There’s a whiff of optimism in the air concerning the home building industry. Can it possibly be?

First, the Oracle of Omaha, aka Warren Buffet, says, “A housing recovery will probably begin within a year or so. In any event, it is certain to occur at some point. […] These businesses entered the recession strong and will exit it stronger. At Berkshire, our time horizon is forever.” You gotta love that last sentence.  And to back up the talk, he is putting hundreds of millions of dollars into his housing related businesses (Shaw, Johns Manville, etc.) which is why they will exit the recession stronger.  See WSJ article.

THEN, Ivy Zelman says maybe things aren’t so bad after all. This is completely out of character.  See Diana Olick’s Realty Check blog . And last week her blog’s title was It May Be Time to Believe in Housing Again.

These things are just too marvelous for me to get my head around.

Foreclosures. Ummmm. Yummy! Or maybe not.

Here’s a link to a New York Times article on foreclosures that paints a pretty realistic picture about buying a foreclosed property by the uninitiated or faint-of-heart.  It can make sense for some people, but certainly not everyone, and probably not most people.  It’s hard work, both before and after the purchase, and certainly no guarantee of quick homeowner equity.  Take a look.  NYT Article

Retaining? wall.

Today’s question is:  How do I build a retaining wall? Pat’s answer is, not like this!

Retaining wall?

At least, I wouldn’t build a wall like this.  When I first saw it from a distance, I thought it was built of large timbers.  Then as I got closer, I thought it was large timbers reinforced with this wire grid.  But it ain’t.  Best I can tell, it’s dirt held in place with some fabric, nylon netting of the sort you see used to hold a modular wall wall in place, and the wire wrapping on the face of it.  This is about six feet high with that wood fence you see right behind the top edge, and paving for a commercial building right behind that.  It appears to have been here for a pretty long time, and so far is holding the world together OK, but the red dirt on each “shelf” or setback going up the wall are ant hills — they can’t be helping anything.

I’d be real curious to hear from any of you builders, or better yet, engineers out there as to your thoughts on this.  Have you ever seen one before?  Do you think you’ll ever see another?  How long do you think it will last?


Here you can see the ant hills better, and you can also see the outward cant of the wall.  I wonder if it”s moved to this position, or was this way from the start.  I’m quite certain the commercial building behind the fence replaced some old uneconomic structure and I’d guess the wall was done with the original development.  I’m surprised somebody in the re-development effort — the contractor, the engineers, the owner, the county, somebody — didn’t decide or require that replacement was in order.  Or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about and these wall are done routinely all over the place.

What were they thinking??!?!!

It occurs to me that if the title of this blog  . . . . . pat answers . . . . . is going to have any real meaning, we need a few questions.  So if you’ve got a question to which you have yet to get a satisfactory answer, or if you just want to try to stump me or ask some unanswerable inane question, email it to me at (put “pat answers” in the subject line) and I’ll post an answer here.  If it’s one of those unanswerable or inane questions, I won’t let that stop me — I’ll make something up.

In the meantime,  I’ll just have to provide my own questions.  My guess is that the title of this post might be a common element in my questions-of-self because I am often amazed and dismayed by what people do or don’t do in the world of real estate, construction, design, and development, and I’ve just got to ask myself, “What were they thinking?”

The vehicle lost in that sea of concrete is a HUMMER!  That might give you perspective that is otherwise hard to grasp.

The vehicle lost in that sea of concrete is a HUMMER! That might give you perspective that is otherwise hard to grasp.

Take a look at the picture above and you’ll probably ask the same thing.  WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??!?!! LOOK at all that concrete!  This is in the City of Atlanta where the city fathers — and mothers, since the mayor is female — gnash their teeth, tear their clothes, and heap ashes on their heads if just one little itty bitty tree is removed from private property anywhere in town!  But it’s OK for them to create a sea of concrete in one of the city’s best and most attractive neighborhoods.  The only purpose this concrete will serve is to break wheels and flatten tires.  If you’ve got to do the curb, why not fill the area between them — which in this case is about the size of a baseball diamond — with some greenery?  What a wasted opportunity.  It’s a crime against the citizens of Atlanta, perpetrated by those that are supposed to be taking care of us.  Now the fact of the matter is that the city probably didn’t actually install this crap.  It was done in conjunction with the development of what will be an empty office and condo building at the corner.  The work was probably required of and performed by the developer as a condition of getting a building permit.  Somebody, the city or the developer, could have done this differently and should have.  So two opportunities to do right, went down the drain.  The developer was probably just being cheap because the project is completely underwater and will loose the sponsors millions.  But why spend millions and millions and millions of dollars and then build a mud fence at the front door?  A mud fence, I might add, that is probably visible with the naked eye from the space shuttle.  WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??!?!!

This is looking north on Peachtree Dunwoody at Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead.

This is looking north on Peachtree Dunwoody at Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead.

Watch out for that steamroller!

You know that guy that come’s on your TV screen and has a recovery plan for America by having everyone drop high-speed internet connections in favor of his dial-up ISP called Net Zero?  Well, he’s either gonna be real mad or real happy, I’m not sure which, because the capitalist monster earnings machine known as GE (the steamroller) is launching a new product line they call — are you ready? — Net Zero.  Now the first guy’s Net Zero was based on originally providing internet access for nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Hence, Net Zero.  GE’s Net Zero is based on the idea that they will give you (make that, “sell you”) everything you need to take your house off the grid.  That is, to be totally energy independent, supplying all your power needs in, on, and around your house.  So, is the original Net Zero guy mad because the big bad corporation is stealing his name, or is he happy to have a giant corporation advertising his business for him?  And oh, by the way, providing for a lawsuit on copyright infringement that will make him more money than the ISP biz ever did.  Any way you look at it, he’s a winner.

Well, all that’s interesting, but not as interesting as the fact that GE is all-in on Green building.  If they see this phenomenon as worthy of this much time and attention (and dollars), I think we can all safely say that Green building is now mainstream and very much here to stay.  Personally, I think that’s great.  I wish them all the luck with their launch and with a profitable line of business.  GE didn’t get to be GE without a lot of business acumen and making, for the most part, good business decisions and then following them thru with excellent management.

Take a look at a story detailing their plan at  After doing so, or before if you’d like, I’d love to have your comments on what they are doing.  Click on “comments” at the top of this post.