Re: chicken and egg question - choosing design items
From: Jennifer Lynn Mccoy (poljlmpanther.Gsu.EDU)
Date: Fri, 2 May 1997 20:41:48 -0500
At Lake Claire Cohousing in Atlanta (just completed), we did a combination
of group choices and builder choices.  Group committees researched and
chose things like siding, windows and cabinets.  The architect chose the
wet cellulose insulation.  The builder gave us options on appliances -- an
allowance of a dollar amount, and then we could upgrade the appliances
from a wide choice provided by him.  The builder chose the minor things
like door handles and faucets.  We chose paint colors as a group -- one of
the more intense bonding experiences!  We chose a single interior color
for all units, and three exterior colors, deciding as a group which units
would be painted which color.  And all this by consensus -- (we also paid
extra when we didn't like the first colors that went up and had them

One thing I can't emphasize too much: standardize, don't customize.  Our
architect and builder were too nice after we signed contracts and allowed
us to customize - architectural changes as well as finish details.  That
confused the subcontractors, who made mistakes installing things; slowed
the project; and raised the price (we paid 20% on all changeorders).  The
result is we have 12 custom units which we're all happy with, but they're
all much more expensive than originally envisioned, and it was difficult
along the way.  

One other piece of advice -- listen to expert advice on things like design
and paint color.  We made big mistakes in the beginning because the group
wanted to make its own choices.  E.G. on paint color - no one had the
expertise to know how the chips actually translate into interior and
exterior walls (though several thought they did!) and so the group
rejected the colorist' advice that we had sought.  When the paint went up,
the group groaned, and after several trials and errors, finally let the
colorist "fix" our choices to achieve what we were striving for.

Jennifer McCoy
Lake Claire Cohousing, Atlanta
jmccoy [at]

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