Beauty Isn’t Everything: Why Design Doesn’t Sell

My favorite place in the world is inside a home that is not mine. It’s in my home town and it’s for sale and I’m secretly hoping it stays on the market till I can get my hands on $5,000,000. I’ve toured it more times than I feel comfortable admitting but now that I live out of state, blog posts will have to tide me over.


The Specs:

34 E Shore Dr. The Woodlands, TX 77380

5 beds, 7 baths, 8,400 sqft


This house is what design dreams are made of. It’s a collaboration between nationally acclaimed (and personal favorite) architecture firm Alpine and up and coming Kevin Design. It’s being sold furnished and is worth its weight in imported antiques and original art. It is located in The Woodlands, a planned golf course community outside of Houston in the designer neighborhood of East Shore; it’s basically a planned community within a planned community. The house has been for sale for 3 years and has undergone 6 price adjustments, yet is now somehow considerably more expensive than it was 3 years ago. If that seemed confusing, it’s because it ignores all logic and reason. While I would sell all my possessions and then some to own this home, I have some ideas of why it isn’t selling.

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From the curb, the house does not look 8,400 sqft. It is beautiful but unassuming, which does not fit the profile of planned community within a planned community. People in this neighborhood want pillars and fountains and circular driveways. To illustrate this concept, I included a photo showing neighboring home, which my family has affectionately nicknamed the courthouse for obvious reasons. It sold in a week.


The house stays true to Alpine’s European style, placing a heavy focus on creating intimate spaces for people to gather. Nowhere is this more evident than in the living space. Instead of a grand entry, guests enter directly into a great room that houses three modest seating areas, two fireplaces, and the formal dining space that does double duty as a reading and game table. I love this concept, but it does not fulfill the 18-foot-ceiling-spiral-staircase-crystal-chandelier vision people expect with a house of this size and price.


The kitchen is open concept with honed soapstone counters, a range imported from France, a walk-in pantry, a separate prep room, eat-in-dining, and 2 bays of windows. I have nothing but praise for this space.


The home has 5 bedrooms and 7 baths, but the main structure only houses the master suite and 2 guest suites. The other two bedrooms are located in apartments above the two freestanding garages. This gives the floorplan flexibility for a mother-in-law suite or home office but limits bedroom options for families who want to be under one roof. It also makes the house feel much more intimate. I can say from personal experience that while the house feels large and beautiful, it is easy to imagine utilizing all of the space. If someone is looking for an 8,400 sqft house that feels like an 8,400 sqft house, this is bad news.


This home was not meant to feel like an estate. The lot is only a little over a half acre, limiting the options for grounds. With this space restriction, Alpine did an excellent job creating distinct spaces for outdoor living. There is a central courtyard housing the pool and spa, outdoor kitchen, sitting area, and dining porch. The front of the home takes advantage of lake views with an open-air front porch and screen porch. Finally, there are two large lawns on both sides of the home. This configuration means you have many places to gather outdoors, but no huge dramatic garden. This video gives a detailed look at the outdoor space.

Again and again, this home choses intimacy over extravagance. It was built with a lifestyle in mind and that lifestyle includes gathering in the kitchen, sipping coffee from the front porch, and congregating around the fireplace. It designed for a buyer who has a lot of money to spend on a house but doesn’t want a house that aims to prove they have a lot of money. For more information, see the listing and this interview of the Alpine discussing the home. The highlight is when he refers to the 8,400 sqft house as a country cottage. Ah, what a life.



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