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kitchen window- north or south

E K
last month

We are working on our floorplan and I’m debating the kitchen placement. Would you rather have the kitchen at the front of the house, with a north facing window- or at the back of the house with a south facing window?

I am located in the Midwest, where temperatures reach 100+ in the summer and typically stay around freezing in the winter, with a few colder days sprinkled throughout. Northern hemisphere.

Thanks!

Comments (49)

  • bpath
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Well, I love a front-facing kitchen window. I’ve had one a few times, and it is still on my list for the next house. Our current kitchen faces front, north, under a porch roof about 5’ deep. I love it. I’m also in the midwest, Chicago area, and the sun can be pretty bright in the south windows in winter, where our dining and living spaces are. Of course, in winter it is dark when we are making dinner (sometimes even when making breakfast), so we have to turn the lights on anyway. I do wish the kitchen opened more to the south-facing rooms, part so it had better access and view to the backyard than it does, and part for the winter light.

  • cpartist
    last month

    How wide will the eaves be on the south?

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  • artemis78
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Ours is at the back of the house, south-facing, which I love. The back of our house is private, while the front is very public. But we're in a temperate climate so it never gets that hot, and even with moderate temps the room does get warm in the summer. (In fact, the kitchen isn't heated at all because of this.) Might be balanced by warmth in the winter, though! We also live in an urban area so people are always walking by the front--might feel differently if both the front and back of the house are private.

  • herbflavor
    last month

    with 365 type of glazing on good windows..[dont get cheap windows-upgrade if you can ] and a solar shade or the like you should be fine even with south or south west exposure. the issues as far as glare/ uv/ heat/ etc with our southwest facing kitchen window is buffered with the enhanced features we picked for the window glazing. I think the kitchen's orientation to the adjacent areas inside the home is probably the thing to be evaluating..mostly..

  • judianna20
    last month

    Historically, homes were built with living areas facing south. But, that was long before HVAC.

    The choice is yours. I prefer a south facing kitchen and awnings with a remote.

  • judianna20
    last month

    @artemis78, I want to know where you live. Your climate sounds divine.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    There is a myriad of information needed to properly answer your question and design a home. Are you drawing the plans up yourself or are you trying to take something to show an architect?

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    For me, lifestyle and privacy preferences would trump north or south orientation.


    If I were building a home it would have the kitchen in the back with a pass through window and easy access to the back yard. I love cooking on the BBQ, sitting on my back patio, watching the birds and bunnies and squirrels.


    One of the things I love about my current home and disliked in my last home is the sightline into the home from the street.


    In my last home I had an 8' window in the front of my home that looked into the living room. I had to have curtains covering the window or people being able to see into the living room.


    My current home also has an 8' window in the front of the house, but it is in the foyer and faces the back of the fireplace that is in the living room. Someone walking up to my front door sees only the foyer. The living room has a 12' double sliding glass door facing the back yard. I don't need to cover the windows with curtains. Don't have any on the front window, have vertical blinds on the slider, but have only closed them on a few occasions


    The other consideration is access to the kitchen when you bring groceries into the house. I appreciate being able to bring my groceries from the garage directly into my pantry or through the pantry and into the kitchen in my current home.


    The only time I have had a window that really didn't work well was an east facing window in an office that had no shade and glared onto the monitor of the computer and baked the room. Again it was in S. CA and we didn't have central air and seldom heated our home, just opened and closed windows and curtains to control the indoor temperature.


    That one window needed insulated curtains and a reflective film on the window to keep the temperatures down.

  • E K
    Original Author
    last month

    Mark, at this point I am placing rooms on paper to take to an architect. He is extremely busy so the more I have done myself the quicker we can move things along. I’ve done calculations for the eaves on the south-facing side (the back of the house) to make the most of the southern sun. What other info would you like to see? Thanks!

  • socks
    last month

    Will you have a back yard with children or pets you need to watch? my kit is on the back which was helpful when the kids were little . i could be in the kit and keep an eye on them.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    last month

    IMO you do not take drawings to an architect and if they told you to do so get a new one. Homes are designed for the plot they sit on and often a front facing kitchen becomes the first space you see when entering a home so is that what you like ? IMO it depends on your style often. We have a 1956 MCM ranch it has huge overhangs and we have a large South facing wall in our kitchen that never gets the sun after the spring but in the winter the sun warms the space . This is all stuff an architect works on so IMO make that appoinment ASAP What do you mean by you designed the eaves that all needs doing by the architect .What are you planning to take advantage of the sun as I mentioned this requires a really good design from the beginning.

  • ShadyWillowFarm
    last month

    I think that the decision to place the kitchen at the front or back of the house is more important than the north/south orientation. Where is the kitchen wrt your parked car? Will you have to lug groceries through the whole house to get to the kitchen?

  • bpath
    last month

    I agree with Shallow.

    And, knowing one's preference (for room placement and for type of eaves) is important to bring to the architect, perhaps on a bubble diagram.

  • M Miller
    last month

    My kitchen faces the back. I cannot imagine coming down to the kitchen in the morning in my bathrobe and having the windows be front-facing.

    I have to agree with Patricia - you trying to save time for your architect (and it IS an architect, not a draftsperson, right?) is like going to the dentist and doing a little drilling on your own tooth in advance to make things go quicker. You cannot do an architect's job. In fact, I think you will slow him down because now he will have to either wedge the plan into what you've already done, or un-do what you've already done and start from scratch which he should do from the beginning.

  • bpath
    last month

    I think what you can bring to the architect is a discussion of different kitchen placements. You might have good reasons for facing front or back, and so much depends on the lot, how you want the house to flow, and there just might be a way to get both front and back.

  • chispa
    last month

    My kitchen faces the side yard with the breakfast table area facing the backyard. The kitchen has a large triple window 11 ft wide x 5 ft tall and it faces North. I'm in FL so it works well as I can keep the blinds open and get natural light all day long. The breakfast area and family room face East with large sliders opening to the lanai, pool and backyard.

  • LH CO/FL
    last month

    As everyone has said, there are so many variables that only apply to YOU, how you live, what views are like from all sides, etc. My current (ocean-front) kitchen faces the back of the house, due east, so gets sunrise, moonrise, views of the beach, dolphins, ships, etc. I couldn't imagine not having a pleasant view from the kitchen, but wouldn't give up views in other areas of the house either. This is important to me, but not to everyone. To get this view, my kitchen is also on the highest level of the house, so groceries go up 5 levels, but it's worth it - to ME.

    It all depends on you!

  • artemis78
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @judianna20 we're on the east side of the San Francisco Bay--plenty of other challenges (fires! drought! earthquakes!) but happily climate isn't one of them. It's between 65 and 75 most days with at least some sun, and on the rare occasions when it freezes or flirts with the triple-digits, the newspapers get apocalyptic. We took the advice of our HVAC contractor some years back, who couldn't see any reason to install a heating duct in a south-facing room that was "designed for passive solar before there was such a thing as passive solar," and have been happy with what the sun (and the vintage range) do on their own.

  • judianna20
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @artemis78, sounds perfect. I am on Cape Cod surrounded by the 5 different bodies of water. We have no Spring to speak of...the waters are still so cold and with the wind bringing its chill, it feels more like March than May. I say our weather is January, February, March, March, March, June. But, I love it.



  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    "[The architect] is extremely busy so the more I have done myself the quicker we can move things along."

    I guess if a house's design was just a task to be performed, that would be good. In a creative profession (architecture) there are things that can impede the creativity and therefore negatively effect the outcome. You may be hindering the full potential of what your house can be, and be paying an architect to be a draftsman.

    Ideally an architect will compile a list of a clients needs and wants, and a room list, through an interview process. With these lists, a site survey, and a site analysis an architect will come up with a solution to a problem, a house that meets the needs of the client and fits the site.


  • herbflavor
    last month
    last modified: last month

    if the architect is so busy he cant give full attention to the process why are you using him. I wouldnt pay someone for a service to find out I have to DIY part of the service myself. Usually there is back and forth with refining plans but he should be providing you with something from the onset which he gave full technical evaluation and skill to. Not Right . wasting time here. I dont go to a Doctor to have him say..write all your symptoms down...go home and look it up and give me some ideas and then come back and visit me with your ideas. there are plenty of architects who do good work that can execute the process in totality.

  • dan1888
    last month

    South facing windows get sun at very different angles in summer and winter. In summer the sun can be high at 89 degrees at noon. In winter it can drop to quite a bit lower depending on your location. 23 degrees in mid-December. With the correct overhang protection, no sun in April through September. Lots flooding in increasing into mid-winter. Here's a calculator. Look up your Lat and Long to plug in.

  • E K
    Original Author
    last month

    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, although I am surprised by the opinion of everyone regarding the meeting with the architect. It’s interesting to me that it seems to be unheard of to go in with a plan. That seems like a good idea in my mind, although I am used to completing all projects myself so perhaps that is why.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month
    last modified: last month

    An architect is educated, trained, experiences, tested, and licensed to do what they do. I do not know your qualifications, but an architect is a good team member to have when designing a home and allowed to do what they do.

  • dan1888
    last month

    You can put a lot of effort into the kitchen layout and design. Plenty here will help you. Many architects seem to lack in that area.

  • herbflavor
    last month

    re: going in with a plan...leaves out things youve never thought of with regards layout / use of best optimal exploitation of your site....utilizing the architects background and expertise. I would think starting with an architect would be the one time you would think....I'll tell him our budget and lets see what he comes up with . preconceived ideas can hamper results......there is this way: go to a book of house layout plans...select the one you want and find a builder.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    "go to a book of house layout plans...select the one you want and find a builder."

    And you will be building someone else's house. In designing a home, an architect will spend a good deal of time gathering information about the client and the client's site to best utilize it to meet the needs.

    Not all architects have extensive knowledge of kitchen design, but many do, both commercial and residential.

  • herbflavor
    last month

    many people take pre made plans...tweaks and alterations to suit. someone else's house...? not following....no house is someone else's house....a row of cape cod's built after the war ......very similar ..probably same builder but not one is the other persons house. If she is making her own plan...why doesn't she browse through all the possibilities in a book within her sq foot avail as opposed to pretending some architect is actually doing something that he/she is educated and intended to do.

  • Jennifer K
    last month

    For me, the direction the window faced in the kitchen would be secondary to the position of the kitchen with regards to easy access to the deck and garden. If you grill a lot or grow your own veggies, that connection is very important. I would prioritize southern exposures for spaces where I want to sit and bask.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    It is impossible to converse with anyone that tries to change what they said.

  • apb0
    last month
    last modified: last month

    A architect is an essential if you want the best house for that particular lot. You might find the videos of Eric Reinholdt (https://thirtybyforty.com/learn) useful as he shows his process---how he goes about designing a house and the first thing is always considering the SITE. Its topography, its light (he draws this out in arc around the design so you can see how it lights various rooms), its climate, etc. Definitely, don't draw---make list of wants and needs and wait for the architect.


    For a great video on siting and sun --- passive heat, etc. with example in a Maine climate: https://thirtybyforty.com/architecture-video-tutorials/

  • JP L
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I'm in the middle of this type of situation myself currently - and here's what I did. During the pandemic, I couldn't resist attempting to "design my own house" while waiting for things to open back up, and I came up with a layout and configuration that I really liked. Instead of taking it to the architect (I was imagining how I would feel if someone walked into my office with a project just already laid out like that - it would be pretty insulting and start things off on entirely the wrong foot), I made notes on *what* I was trying to achieve with each change (in other words, what outcomes I want from the project ultimately) along with the things I wanted to retain (ours is a renovation vs a new build) and other "deal-breakers." It wasn't so much a wish-list as it's not based in intangibles or fantasy - maybe the exercise of mocking up a sample design helped me finalize my wants, needs and requirements in a backwards way? These are my talking points when I meet with the architect and review his draft designs. I definitely didn't hand him a layout (I'd be pretty embarrassed as I'm sure it has massive problems - this is not my area of expertise!). In early meetings, I actually did say things like "I've considered that we could do x but open to suggestions" but left it at that. So far, so good - turns out, architects are really skilled at creative solutions to problems, and are way better at designing than untrained folks. Who knew? I also think he may have *saved* us budget/money, as some of my options were unnecessarily expensive.

    On my end, however, it was important that we hired someone who listened to all of this and didn't attempt to sell me on something I didn't want, or try to talk me out of the outcomes that we wanted. Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised - like with all professions, architects come with a range of levels of skill and/or desire to perform.

  • judianna20
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Are you building with a company who has architects on staff? Or are you hiring your own contractor and need to provide him with a plan suitable for him to present to the town building dept to pull a permit?

    Your land, has it been engineered? This is the point of my post.

    Do you know how many bedrooms are allowed? Many towns demand 10,000 sq ft of land for every bedroom.

    Will you be on town sewers or will you have a title 5 septic system?

    Our experience: we went with an engineering firm to do all the prerequisites. (I suggest you choose one in your town, if possible). Everything we needed, they were able to do for us.

    We had our builder (one we have had for over 30 years). The firm had a draftsperson who took our inexperienced drawings and turned them into blueprints. The firm had a structural engineer.

    The firm presented the blueprints to the town. Once approved, work began. No problems, no issues at all.

    An article for you to read.

    https://www.precisioncraft.com/log-homes-blog/draftsman-architect-difference/

  • herbflavor
    last month
    last modified: last month

    back to the original statement"we are working on our floorplan" thats good....in doing similar, many people resource for themselves online house plans..plans in books..plans you pay for etc. why is she pseudo -hiring an architect? You can find a plan in a few different ways and present it to a builder.....in fact several times in my personal circle that has been done and the builder creates the end project with sourcing out to kitchen professionals for that part. this woman is wasting her time thinking an architect is worth the money when she has to DIY her plan.... she is best going straight to a builder who will execute the plan after she chooses a plan as close to her desire..and its not hard to do that. Is she literally sitting with graph paper at nite thinking she has to draw up her house plan....ridiculous....that can be fraught with do-overs ..things not known about re construction etc.... . Yes Mark "trying to change"..yes ..change what her process is to get a better outcome not waste time and save money.

  • E K
    Original Author
    last month

    Here’s the situation. Maybe a little more background info will help.

    1. We own 12 acres.
    2. We are building a house on this land.
    3. I have spent hours looking at floor plans online and in books, and have found a few that seem alright.
    4. I want to take some sort of plan to our builder so I can get a general idea of what it would cost. Our budget is not unlimited, so I don’t want to create a house with an architect that we cannot afford. That’s why I want a general idea that the builder thinks will be in our budget, before I see the architect.
    5. Yes, I know that prices will change, etc etc.
    6. If I had an unlimited budget, I would love to design a perfect house for our land that would be net zero and maximize everything we possibly could. But I do not have the cash at my disposal for that. The last thing I want is to build “someone else’s house” but with increasing costs and interest rates, I might not have any other option.
    7. I value architects 100%. I was working with one that was charging us ~15k. So I’m not afraid to spend money on it. But I’m not going to waste their time in asking them to design a house that I can’t afford.
  • JP L
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Definitely - one of the first questions our architect asked us was about budget. It's a waste of their time and yours if they design something you can't ultimately afford to build. Our architect has an understanding of building costs and is tailoring his design to meet our budget. I think you might be going backwards - getting a builder to bid on a draft plan then going to an architect? Ours included in the design process going out for bids and reviewing those so that we can make a decision - in the event that they all come in way over budget, we'd iterate on the design to make it work.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    Shop around for an architect. Talk to several.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @Erin Kihlberg - I completely agree with you on creating a design/plans on your own.


    I am the youngest of 6 kids and am 60 years old. Between us we have bought and sold and built a lot of homes. With each experience we shared knowledge. Some of us have used architects, some chose builder supplied plans and one used a plan she identified on the internet.


    The most basic of our homes was designed by an architect. It was mainly planned by my brother. I think his wife just agreed with whatever he wanted, so they have a simple 3 br, 2 ba home with a living room, dining room, kitchen, full basement with an office and storage areas for all of my brother's sporting goods and a massive garage that can fit their two cars and his truck and his boat and has plenty of storage room for his lawn mower and more toys.


    My other brother also has a massive garage that can fit his boat and toys, and a massive basement for more toys, but his wife definitely had her say, she has a designated sewing room and two kitchens - one upstairs and one in the basement that she uses for canning and preparing bulk meals. Their home was selected from a builder's selection of homes for their development. The only change was to extend the garage.


    My oldest sister also selected her home from a builder's selection of homes for her development. She was able to make several changes - increased the width of the home, adding 8' to the width of the garage and 8 feet to the master suite end of the house, which allowed them to enlarge the pantry as well as enlarging the master and master bath. She also changed the formal dining room into an office and enlarged the eating space in the eat in kitchen to accommodate larger gatherings.


    Both of their homes function really well and are really nice homes. The few changes made by my sister did improve functionality.


    My other sister has the nicest of all of the built homes. She found her plan on the internet and asked her builder to assist with making some changes. She measured all of the rooms in her previous home and all of the closets and cabinet space and storage space. Made notes of what worked and didn't work in her previous home. Noted everything imaginable. She made notes as she cooked and cleaned and lived in her home. She made notes on the activities of her husband and kids and what rooms of the home were used all the time and which were seldom used. She noted that her daughters had issues with sharing spaces and when it worked well. She went to open houses for new homes and existing homes. Asked friends and family about sinks and bathtubs and laundry rooms and what they liked and what they didn't like. She figured out exactly what she and her family wanted and needed in their next home. The planning paid off. She has a home that is beautiful and functions well for her and her family from the moment they get up in the morning till the time they lay their heads down to sleep. She has a place for everything and everything is where it is needed.


    For an architect to study how you live and understand your needs at this level of detail would take a year of interviews and would cost a fortune. Going in with ideas and notes and information on what will or won't work for your home gives him/her a fighting chance of coming up with a great design that functions the way you need it to work for your family.


    I am the only one of the kids that has not built their own home. I was planning my next home when I toured an existing home that was perfect. Like my sister, I knew exactly what I needed and found a 2000 sf 2 bedroom/ 2 bath, MCM rambling ranch that felt like someone had designed just for me. It needed a lot of cosmetic work and needed electrical, plumbing and HVAC work, but the floorplan, neighborhood, lot and style were a perfect fit. I don't think I could have or an architect could have done a better job of matching my home to my lifestyle and needs.



  • David Cary
    last month
    last modified: last month

    With 12 acres of land, I would assume the front is still very private.

    I would vastly prefer the south for the kitchen and am surprised by how some people don't seem to care. A bright sunny kitchen is one of the most important things for a house. You are always spending time there so it would seem one of the most important rooms to be sunny. A formal dining room or bedroom - not so much.

    Flowers will grow better on the south side of a house - do you like to look at flowers when you are cooking, making coffee, cleaning up etc?

    I would guess that someone on 12 acres cooks more than the average person. A total guess but 12 acres implies rural area (especially when you mention a budget) and then the time to get to a good restaurant is longer and Grubhub not as quick either (if even available).

    With 12 acres, you can do whatever you want with orientation. That south wall is paramount. Plant some deciduous trees for summer heat control.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @Mark Bischak, Architect - "Your wrong" is not a strong defense. I work with business data analysis. On the surface it sounds cut and dry and some parts can be cut and dry, but when we are working toward improvement you have to fully understand the business and fully understand not only what the business wants, but understand the purpose for which they want to information and the depth and breadth of the data that is available, where the gaps are, what may be missing and you need to look at the data in many different ways to ensure you are not coming up with the wrong conclusions. Seeking to understand is at the core of design. Without information you will deliver mediocrity.


    Is it because police are inherently biased that blacks are over represented in the incarcerated population? (34%) This is what data analysis would tell us if we didn't fully understand the issues.


    What you will find if you dig deeper and gain a greater understanding of the problem is that the largest population of incarcerated people is functionally illiterate (75%).


    If you look at literacy you find that only 14% of black 4th graders were reading at a proficient level where whites had 44%.


    Now it would be easy to come to the conclusion that blacks aren't as smart as whites. They aren't learning how to read at the same rate as white children.


    But then we have to look at the demographics by income. Students that were eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) had an average score that was 28 points lower than that for students who were not eligible.


    Now you need to determine why poverty and literacy are correlated. Is it poverty that causes illiteracy or illiteracy that causes poverty or are the two intertwined and how are they intertwined?


    It is the same with designing anything - you have to go through the layers or you will make assumptions based on a base line survey that may not apply to their circumstance or go deep enough to discover the intricate details that make the difference between a perfectly functioning home and mediocrity.


    I love the movie/book Cheaper by the Dozen. The semi-autobiographic account of the Gilbreth family - mother of the work triangle. Time motion studies allowed Lillian Gilbreth to determine the most functional design for kitchens. Great design that has lasted for decades was the result of years of analysis of time motion studies.



  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @Mark Bischak, Architect


    Just happened across another post.

    OP "Wish my architect would have been more creative. I’m only noticing the flaws now."


    https://www.houzz.com/discussions/6266933/add-character-too-simple-front#27756476



    In my mind this was a mediocre outcome and had the OP been more involved, educated herself on styles and what she loved and what she didn't like and given the architect ideas of what would fit her ideal she may not be so disappointed in the outcome.




  • Jackie Kemper
    last month

    We built our house decades ago. I certainly wish our kitchen was on the south side rather than the north. It would be so nice and cheerful to have the morning sun in the kitchen. That is my only regret.

  • Jackie Kemper
    last month

    We are also in the Midwest with those temperature extremes. But we have lots of trees for shade.

  • beth09
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Pick the best view. That's what you're going to look at while you spend a vast amount of time in that room. I say this also living in the midwest. And, I have a south facing kitchen, but it's still somewhat dark. :)

  • bpath
    last month

    Why a front-facing kitchen will again be on my wish-list for our next home: I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I hang out at the kitchen table, lingering over coffee, doing paperwork, projects, etc. Oh, yeah, I cook and clean up, too. I like/liked being able to see the school bus at the previous stop, so I knew if my kids were going to catch it at the corner. I liked being able to see DH coming back up the driveway because it’s just too wet to walk to the train, or see him coming up at the end of the day, time to pour two glasses of wine. I like seeing the delivery truck come, the garbage trucks, know if the mail has come. Yeah, i guess I could put driveway monitors in, but what fun is that? On 12 acres, depending on where the house is placed, I want even more warning about the trucks, and not have the deer set the monitors off, too.

    I like seeing the world go by, who’s out walking. It helps that the house across the street is lovely (and has the garage in the back with the driveway along the far end of the lot).

    Do I like light? Of course I do. There are lots of ways to deal with light. And there are ways to have the kitchen have both south and front exposure.

    It all depends on how YOU like to live, how the house is placed, what your site is like.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    My mom had a galley kitchen with cupboards all the way across both sides. No eye level windows as it was between other rooms, but the entire kitchen ceiling was taller than the adjoining rooms and there were clerestory windows on all 4 sides. It was light and bright all times of the day and had the extra benefit of additional storage.


    Found an old photo that shows the raised area of the kitchen.



    We had clerestory windows in several areas of the home to add natural daylight.


    Here is a view of the back of the house where you can see the clerestory windows in the hall (wood section in just to the left of center of the picture) and in the living room (lowest elevation - windows beside the door) and the dining room just above the living room.



    Sorry I don't have any pictures on this computer of that show the clerestory windows from the inside, but it is a unique way of increasing natural daylight in your home.



  • PRO
    RappArchitecture
    last month

    Most people spend a great deal of their time in the kitchen. If natural light is as important to you as it is to me, I would be inclined to put it on the south side for that reason.


    Given that you have 12 acres, perhaps the notion of "front" and "back' isn't as critical as it might be on a smaller lot with street frontage. I would think you have a fair amount of flexibility in siting the house on such a large parcel.


    Having said that, the people on this post that suggest you let your architect design a house that works for you AND the site are steering you in the right direction.


  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    last month

    Build the house Jennifer grew up in and you can't lose.