One of my favorite morning walks is down a nearby street that has a uniquely charming assortment of houses. If you look at it, you realize that the houses were once all roughly alike, a row of little white squares, probably built in the early fifties and probably still lived in by many of their original owners.
But the passage of fifty years has changed much. Different folks have added on to their houses in different ways. A porch here; gabled attic windows next door; a pop-out window on the house next to that. Some brave souls painted theirs a soft yellow with blue trim. One yard has a spectacular flower garden; another has a great climbing tree. The overall effect is lovely and not at all monotonous.
This gives me two thoughts. One, although I thought I liked variety in a neighborhood, I have realized that a truly charming neighborhood needs a certain amount of commonality, too. Adobe next to tudor next to ranch next to victorian is too much. It's good that there tends to be common elements in homes built close together (dictated by the history and geography of the location), but each interpreted by someone different.
Second, perhaps there is, after all, hope for the modern monstrosities of planned communities. Perhaps someday, after the restrictive covenants expire and the aesthetic committees die off, things will begin to change. Time and human ingenuity (not wholly supressed by mass-production) will soften the edges. Someone will dare to use a paint color that is not a shade of beige. Someone will abandon their structured flowerbeds and put in an overflowing cottage garden with a white picket fence. Someone will discover that big front porches are still an essential part of a home. Little changes, here and there, will turn the monotony into a canvas on which variety can be displayed.