When was the last time you sat in front of your towering rocketship front entry to enjoy a cup of coffee, or took in the view from that bay window in the garage?

Today’s buyers want to spend money where they can touch and feel it, in places such as a front porch or nicer finishes, not on gratuitous details.

Sure, the fancy design defaults of yesterday found success when money was free, gas was cheap, and more was more. But today, many of these same elements end up adding budget and complexity to a home without producing returns.

It’s easy to understand how the architectural arms race got started. The bump-ups and bump-outs that became ubiquitous during the housing boom were the direct result of a desire to differentiate our homes. The intention was good. (After all, who wants to live in a generic house with no identity?) But the irony is that those efforts toward differentiation often ended up producing the opposite effect. The more elements we added, the more everything started to look the same.

For most builders in the present economy, downscaling and simplifying are a matter of survival. Simpler building forms are easier and more cost-effective to build, and they are easier and more cost-effective for homeowners to maintain over time. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to scrap every plan and elevation in your portfolio and start over to achieve this mission. Toning down and tightening up that grand façade may be simpler than you think.

Courtesy Marianne Cusato

The images here illustrate a four-step transformation from a typical home design—circa 2005—to a home designed with both budget and buyer in mind.

The goal is twofold: return the design of our homes to a human scale, while also increasing the home’s efficiency in terms of materials, massing, and energy usage. These steps will add value to your developments by creating special places buyers are proud to call home.

Marianne Cusato is the designer of the original Katrina Cottage and author of the book, Get Your House Right. www.mariannecusato.com.