Me + My House = Sucketh

July 16, 2012 — 43 Comments


1) sucketh (verb) \ˈsək-eth\ : a posh, Shakespearean way of saying “Suck”.

By all measurable standards, I am an expert at single family houses and all thing residential. Why? I’ve lived in them my whole life, I’ve personally gone through the buying and selling of a bunch of them (and this one might be a biggie) I design them for a living! I have strong opinions about what makes a well designed house – including the small things that at least makes it better. I have been trained to solve spacial and aesthetic problems systematically so that the value of the end product exceeds the sum of its parts. My experience (supposedly) allows me to make informed and qualified design decisions in areas that don’t follow my personal tastes and predilections.


So why doth my house sucketh so verily!?!


I am reminded of when I had a job as blackjack dealer one summer … I was like Svengali (if he was a blackjack dealer). You as a player couldn’t beat me as a dealer and I could tell every player how to play their hand to increase their odds at finding success … but as soon as I moved around the table and sat down as a player? Worst. Player. EVAR! Knowing something doesn’t always seem to translate into personal execution … sometimes you can know too much.

I’ve come on to the website here several times talking the big talk about how I’m going to do this and change that, make this better, brighter, increase functionality while visually maintaining the design aesthetic of my 1967 modern house.  I haven’t done anything… and it is driving me AND my wife crazy.


An Architects House - Ye Olde Light

Remember Ye Olde Sconces? … still there and yes, they still sucketh.


An Architects House - concrete floor scope plan

How about the concrete floors? … yep, they still sucketh as well (but at least my fingers aren’t all melty)


An Architects House - Painting the wall sucketh

Surely the white painted wood ceilings … I mean, c’mon … those have been painted right!? … Nope. Not only have I not painted the ceilings, I’ve gone back to questioning the logic behind painting them white in the first place. (I sucketh)


An Architects House - Master PartyTime wocka wocka Shower

Okay, but the Master *Party Time wocka-wocka* Shower with the 3 sets of sliding doors IN the shower? … No. It still displeases me, I said displeased!!


[sad face]


Yes, I know … I can hear what you’re thinking: “Cheezus Borson, you totally sucketh the _________“. And you would be right in thinking that because I can’t seem to make a decision and pull the trigger on getting anything done. Partially it’s because we keep changing our priorities based on the latest thing that is currently sucketh-ing the most. Then there is the money to pay for whatever it is that we are considering. If I’m being completely honest with you (and I always am) it’s because I tend to  might (maybe) make everything 10x harder than it really needs to be. Everything has to be big picture because I don’t like doing things 50% of the way.

Here’s a good example that might explain what I am getting at (and I love anecdotes): The cabinets in the utility room could possibly fall off the wall at any moment …*note* if you’re my wife reading this (unlikely) don’t worry about it. The upper cabinet would fall and hit the washer and dryer so as long as you duck down the moment the cabinet breaks free, you won’t get hurt (much) … and they really should be replaced. I haven’t done anything about it because we were considering an addition to the house (at one point) and I think (haven’t actually designed anything) the laundry room would move into the addition (that won’t get built .. but could). So as a result, what happens?

Nothing … sigh (followed by a sucketh)

In another moment of absolute honesty, the cost associated with doing things as completely as I think they need to be done, normally proves to be … ahem … prohibitive. I must admit that I used to think that having this blog (and all the awesome readers that come along with it) would lead to vendors and subcontractors lining up outside my proverbial door to help me with my home projects because they know that I tend to talk about stuff like that.

Awesome Vendor #1: I see that you wanted some Tolomeo Wall Shade Sconces to replace “Ye Olde Sconces” in your house. Let me send the 4 you need over right away.”

Awesome Vendor #2: I bet you are going to need some tile for that master bathroom renovation, let me know what you’re looking for…”

and so on and so forth. Guess what people – it hasn’t happened. I try to tell my wife that this blog is sorta popular in the AEC industry circles and that I get [open air quote fingers] recognized by my avatar [closed air quote fingers] whenever I go somewhere (like the AIA National Convention, not the local grocery store although the guy working in the produce section was looking at me in a knowing sort of way the other day… not sure what that meant). Somehow, most of what my new-found “fame” has gotten me is an endless supply of emails from people asking for free advice. I still try to answer all the ones I receive unless they start with:

“I have a school project where I am supposed to interview someone about their profession. Could you answer these 300 questions about architecture, (including but not limited to) will I make any money? How much money do you make? I’m not good at math, does that matter? Do you have to sit in front of your computer all day? Tell me about your life and all the decisions you’ve made up to this point, … and existentialism … and how it pertains to the practice of architecture? Oh yeah, and what should I do about my fence? What about granite tile counter tops? [… etc.]


So what got me thinking about this anyways? Who knows … I have had some meetings with some folks about making some revisions at Casa de PeePee Borson but they aren’t any of the projects I listed above. Aren’t architects – particularly residential architects – supposed to have awesome houses? Based on what’s popular in my neighborhood, my house suckeths but my architecture buddies all like it, (but they don’t actually have to live there and useit). I think this time I might hold off until something actually happens before I start talking about it here on LoaA. In the meantime, maybe there are some DIY projects I might take on – I’ve always wanted to do something with concrete, just don’t know what, maybe a trough water feature or a planter or something.

Whatever it is, I’m sure I will make it harder than it needs to be.



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  • TerreSpencer

    Your blog saved my entire day yesterday and probably all of my co-workers’ sensibilities. It was a long shot, and it worked!

    Here is what happened:

    So yesterday, Monday morning, I arrived at work after wrestling with my precious 17″ MacBook Pro laptop acting up all weekend and also having had to attend an all-Sunday afternoon board meeting that could have most kindly be described as flat. Actually, ‘torturous’ might be more accurate, but board of directors’ meetings have no need of accuracy regarding anything at all, so I will stick with ‘flat.’
    It was chilly and my sinuses hurt and work was the involuntary time between getting in the car and getting to the Apple store at 6:30 p.m. to see if my precious laptop was salvageable.
    I arrived at work to a particularly accusatory email from a completely uniformed person who meant well, but at that point I went from whiny and scattered to low-growl grumpiness. Uh oh.
    I work with enough sharp objects—my tongue being the sharpest of all weapons that I wield makes this particularly dangerous—the ONLY responsible thing to do was find a reason to laugh. Fast.
    I needed humor in the worst of ways, my situation was deteriorating quickly. Remembering the side-splitting Twitter exchange between you and Jody Brown last week, I headed straight for your blog. Somehow I ended up in the section about your house and I was cracking up. As unlikely as it seemed, I was laughing myself silly in my cubie.

    Maybe the Advil was kicking in, but my head stopped pounding and I no longer had to fight back the urge to growl at my Inbox, and I was actually enjoying being at work. Your blog saved the day for me and the day flew by. Heck, I was singing Motown songs to myself most of the afternoon. (my co-workers all wear earphone thing-ys, so there was no damage to anyone’s auditory sensibilities.)

    Of course, my Mac was still on the fritz, but 6:30 arrived—and I left Apple with a new hard drive completely covered by AppleCare. (I heart you, Apple, I heart you) This morning I did a restore from a backup and my laptop is once again the thing of beauty and digital prowess that she was meant to be. All’s well that ends well, eh? Oh, and I am now a loyal reader of your blog. Thanks so much for turning one miserable Monday morning into an enjoyable day at work.

    Can you do anything about board of directors’ meetings?

  • Pingback: Like Bob Borson, my house sucketh…()

  • Tyler Adams

    You wait long enough – you’re gonna like those sconces. They’re already warming up to me.

  • Kat

    At least, reattach your cabinets so they don’t decapitate your wife!

  • Karen B

    Ah, the torture of decision-making for your own home. I spent 13 years trying to decide what to do to my little ranch-burger. Finally asked a colleague to take a stab at it and she saw a way around its issues that eluded me. Sometimes you need a bit of distance to solve problems. Needless to say, I have a leak under our side door that I need to get resolved and it’s been over a year and have I even called the contractors in to discuss solutions? Of course not, too busy…..

    Enjoy your home – I agree with the comment that your house has great bones – it’s just the details that bug you….

  • Bridget Gaddis, AIA, Leed AP

    My house “suketh” too. Mostly because I “bloggeth” instead of “worketh.”

  • Jwkathol

    You could probably post those sconces on Craigslist in some nor’eastern whaling village and sell them for a pretty pence! Then see them appear in next falls Pottery Barn catalog.

  • JFK

    There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less
    than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

  • Will C

    Great post! I am also a residential architect, work on a lot of great houses here in DC, and live like a squatter. I am so bad that I was contemplating paint colors in my bedroom into a second marriage, and I had trained my dog to jump over the hole in the floor in my back office while I was working on replacing the floor-took a bit to decide on flooring type, and I had to convince the installer to run hardwood floor parallel to joists-6 years and not one problem! Parts of the house are great-others are just sad-my kitchen was pink for at least 5 years till I broke down and painted it white.
    A final thought—you know its bad when the smell of 2 x 4 studs and plywood brings up warm thoughts of home and family holidays.

  • Great post Bob. I disagree with you when you say your “house sucketh”. It’s a great plan!! Strong central circulation. Strong outdoor/indoor connection….I always tell clients “We’re not stopping design at the exterior walls, we’re stopping it where we have to stop it, at the property line!” and your house has that going.
    My wife and I have built three houses for ourselves over the years, and YES, against all odds, WE’RE STILL MARRIED! In my current house I remember I sent you a photo of my pregola project, a means to get the visitor around my detached garage in the front yard and up to the front door in a meaningful way. Not much photos there but I’m on to the moongate and it’s being well documented. I’ll keep you updated.

  • Burçin

    Such a relief, I thought it was only me. It took us almost 3 yrs to half finish our apartment in Istanbul. We are back since more than a year, still have bare cables dangling from the ceiling. I am the architect, and the wife, and the hubby is also an architect . Maybe it is amazing that we made it so far even..
    Copper is back so maybe the sconces will be alright in a while, hmmm maybe not!

  • sguidry

    my house is the same way. 10 years after a major second floor addition and I still have many unfinished pieces. oh i have the material just not the finished product. anyway, get the material and I’ll visit for a week to help you finish….then you can help me finish mine!

    • once I passed 40 years old, the DIY’er in me said “ouch … my back!” but you are welcome to still come down and do the work at my house 🙂

  • archmom

    Bob, I loved your article. So funny so true. My husband and I are both architects and that only added to the delay of doing something with our 1950’s little house. Why couldn’t I have married someone who makes REAL money! Recently we had a small fire in our basement and FINALLY with that insurance money we gutted and are in the progress of re-finishing our basement. It has been tough! My brother is a small contractor who helped do the rough work. Between hime and my husband and with my being a ‘female’ I was overruled on all things technical. I was fine with that seeing as how I can now point fingers should anything go wrong 🙂 but at least we are almost there. Now if only we had enough $ to get that 50’s womb chair I’ve been dreaming about! Good luck to you and all your home endeavors!

    • I haven’t even begun to think about the furnishings…thanks
      (I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your womb chair)

  • Bob – You need to cash in on the human capital you earn through LoaA. The next time a student emails with a question, offer to mentor them through an on-going project at su casa, Miyagi-style. Wax on, Wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important. Love your blog.

    • hah – paint on, paint off, some more paint on…

      that could work!

  • I feel so much better about the unfinished projects in my home now. Architect’s can not afford their own taste and you, being a contemporary home designer have expensive taste. In order to have a great home you need to be the guy that hires the architect and not “the” architect.

    • I need to be the guy that wins the lottery and hires the contractor

  • Suzanne

    Lol! I feel your pain…try being an interior designer that took 2.5 years to pick a bathroom paint color and paint it…
    I always use the excuse that I’m too busy to work on my own house…

    • that excuse won’t work for me because I know the truth (and none of my friends have called me out on not doing anything yet)

      painting walls is easy – you’re going to have to step that one up a bit!

  • Randy Angell

    Thank you, Bob. I am going to have this post printed out as wall paper for my entry… which has been sitting there for 10 years, just waiting for me to make a decision on how to re-design the space… I could use it to wall paper any (or all) of the other rooms in my house, which each sit in some state of suckdome (you can borrow that term, if you like), because I, like you, have BIG plans. To quote Despicable Me’s Dr. Gru, “I’m going to do something very, very big! You’re going to be very, very proud of me!” Yeah, right. Ten years, and we’re still waiting… The manufacturer of a fabulous piece of pvc shut-off valve under the guest bath sink, has finally forced my hand at gutting and remodeling that space, after causing a flood that destroyed it. And yet, that room sits there, two months later (wait – has it already been THREE months???), because I have 15 ideas of what would make it hella-cool, but can’t seem to pick which one will truly be the “right” one! I have come to terms with the fact that this is the cross I must carry in life… but for those who also have to suffer the consequences of being a part of my life, I have good news: I’M GOING TO WALL PAPER THE ENTRY!! YEAH!


  • I think Ye Olde Sconces could be recycled to hold a pint o’ bitter as the Bard would say.

    • not sure that the ol’ Captain would appreciate his whale blubber fixtures being treated so disrespectfully (but he might enjoy a good ale)

  • robert ross

    The sconces are easy and they can be relocated when Casa PeePee becomes Casa ChiChi!

    For the rest of it I truly share your pain! By the time we get a second bathroom for the kids, they will be on their way out the door!

    • the sconces should have been dealt with – but sadly… they haven’t.
      Maybe the hard part is picking the thing that needs the most attention rather than than the one most attainable? so hard to decide

  • When I was a student in architorture school, some of the profs would have get-togethers at their homes, for students and their significant others. After the third one, my wife asked me, “Do all architects live in unfinished houses?” Forty-two years later, the last thirty-five in the same house, I think she knows. As I sit here, I look to my left and see a corner where the last little piece of base is missing, I look up into the pantry, where the Cambria countertop is not yet installed, and then there’s…

    • I have clearly hit on a character flaw for most architects – I said it earlier but it bears repeating – we need a support group

      • Love the post…keep the faith, you can do this, you just hit another wall! I know miracles are possible because we finally can take a deep breath in our inherited 1969 architects home after 3 dumpsters and 4 years of cleaning rodents nests, mold, and other forms of sad benign neglect. We have touched and waxed and cleaned and loved every inch of this beautiful home….totally worth it…keep up the fight it’s your equity and ego (?)

  • LOL, this reminds me of the saying that an attorney that represents himself has a fool for a client & while I am shocked that the sconces are still there I fully understand as a cobblers shoes always seem to be the last fixed.
    My .02, I would hand a blank piece of paper to your wife & ask her to prioritize her wants to see done list (and any material choices) as you walk out of the room. With the exception of a bathroom or addition, call in a respected contractor & tell them to get it done. Your wife will be happy & in the end that’s what really matters – sure it might not blend in just perfectly with a new addition but that issue is best handled then, no?

    • it is hard – if not impossible – for a residential architect (regardless of sex) to hand over the priority list to their spouse. In many ways, we architects are defined by what we do and passing off this sort of scope and responsibility seems unlikely. This is my cross to bear 🙂

      • Heh, I don’t recall saying it would be easy & just as a quick tip – I prefer to attach wheels to mine as it seems to make the load seemingly easier to bear : )

  • Roxanne Button

    This made me laugh…and sympathize. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a professional trait of architects to not be able to make decisions (and second-guess the heck out of the ones we DO make) about our own homes. My husband and I are 2 weeks into a mostly-cosmetic reno of our 1947 (mid-century wannabe) house. I cannot tell you how many times I have changed my mind about paint colours and light fixtures. And don’t get me started on bathroom tile and kitchen flooring. Whenever I start a sentence with “I’ve been thinking…”, my husband runs in the other direction.

    Is it because we know too much? We know what’s out there, and to have to suck it up and get something other than that one perfect, out-of-the-budget thing/material is too much.

    The other complication for me is that I design a lot of LEED & green buildings, and have kinda focused my career around that for the past 20 years. So, to pick something temporary that will be thrown out later is just not going to happen.

    But I have to agree with the comments on the sconces, Bob 🙂

    • eventually, those sconces will become the coolest retro fixtures…
      and yes, I tell my wife that we architects definitely know too much 🙂


  • jayorr5

    Great post! However, I would say that you are thinking about it all wrong. House is like a marriage (OK, not really but bear with me here). You focus on the faults, then bitterness and inevitable divorce ensues (in real estate terms, sale and taking up with a new property…). Remember the parts you loved at the beginning (or at least liked, or did not hate so much) and help your house – nurture it, bring out its good qualities, be its best self! I think you’ll feel differently and make different decisions.

    But yeah, ditch the sconces.

    • you are right about looking at the positive more often …

      funny thing about the sconces, the fixtures that I want to use to replace them would be mounted too high on the wall if I simply reused the existing j-boxes. What needs to happen is that the j-boxes need to be lowered and since the wall is plaster, lowering them would required some demolition and repair – but since you could never match the 40+ year plaster texture, you would have to redo the wall (and since you’re redoing THAT wall, why not do the others while you’re at it…)

      see what I mean. Everything is complicated.

      • Lexi

        Ah the perpetual “Little old lady who swallowed a fly” conundrum.

  • Right there with ya!

    • sadly – so many people are, we should start a support group

  • hhahahahaha. Casa de Pee Pee? That does it, I’m moving in. It sounds divine. Please make my bed ready in the Guest Sucketh and Never Leaveth room.

    • that would be “Casa de Yurt” and it comes with a “lawn mowing” requirement

  • Kyle

    I’m glad that you upkeep the image of the mature professional architect… And as for your “sucketh” problems… At least replace Ye olde Scones. I’m sure once your done you’ll feel much better.

    • I am all about maintaining the image – I just haven’t figured out which image to maintain…