While the focus of this article is on the role of the architect or architectural designer as a home design imple- menter, the most challenging work is the preparation prior to retaining an architect or architectural designer and their support team. Much thought, analysis, and research is necessary to become prepared to address the many intricacies that make up home design.
This article will first address your lifestyle requirements, as this is what a home should nurture. Defining real liv- ing spaces will help you to decide on the actual square footage you require to sustain your lifestyle.
Knowing what you want in your new home is critical in determining the level of quality and the amount of space you need. You will be challenged with care- fully aligning your dreams with the real- ities of your budget.
The place where you will save the most money and make the greatest dif- ference is in the planning and design phase of your project.
Finally, after an exhaustive exercise in preparation, you will be ready to interview prospective architects and architectural designers and form your design and build team. In addition to the selection of your architect or archi- tectural designer, you will require other professionals during the design and build process. Always remember that nobody is master of ALL the skills nec- essary to build a modern house and a team approach is desired to assure success.
Know Your Lifestyle
A home should be a place that nur- tures your lifestyle. Thus, it is para- mount that you can define your lifestyle in terms of the spaces that you need to truly end up with a home that works for you.
A home should be a place that com- forts and inspires you to be creative and productive, so as to enrich and sustain your lifestyle. A home should express the way you actually live and use space efficiently so that the money you have to spend is used in the best way possible to build quality, beauty, and day-to-day operational efficiency. A home should be scaled to human proportions yet have some unexpected surprises. To design smart is to not waste money and resources on square footage that you won’t use but instead make the home an expression of you, your values, and the lifestyle you embrace. Thus, a home should have sufficient space to nurture your lifestyle but not be excessively large.
Designing and building a home or remodeling a home is not a simple task. It entails knowing your aspirations and needs, as well as the realities of the money you have to fulfill your dreams. The ensuing process is a struggle, and you will constantly be faced with the challenge of managing your dreams with the reality of a budget. Then, too, there is the emotional weight caused with having to reconcile differences of opinion in the different design features desired by a hus- band, wife, and family members, or different features desired by the man and woman in the household. This is one of the most challenging aspects of designing and building a new home or remodeling an existing one. Therefore, a lot of time, consideration, and compromise is required to understand and define the features individual members of the household want in order to achieve an end result that all will appreciate throughout their lives.
Your home should be designed to have both expansive social spaces and cozy private ones. Such a home should express the special craftsman details desired by its occu- pants. It should reflect the way people really live and respond to their personal needs and requirements as an expression of the lifestyle they embrace, and serve to sustain independent living and aging-in-place.
Too often, people designing and building homes end up with empty square footage that lacks human scale and feel. We are all familiar with the vastness of row after row of enor- mous people-storage structures densely packed onto the landscape. Such are the typical new large subdivision homes. Such homes are formula homes––box structures that require their occupants to adapt to preconceived and defined rooms that are unused instead of a home designed with adaptable spaces to accommodate the various activities that the occu- pants engage in on a daily basis. Instead of the traditional for- mal rooms defined as living, dining, kitchen, and family, an increasingly more favorable approach is to design the “living” area of the home to encompass family, living, kitchen, and dining functions––all efficiently interconnected and visibly open to each other. Varying the ceiling height in parts of this area is useful to define various spaces, yet retain the feeling that each space is part of the whole.
Other important considerations are that the home is con- nected to the outdoors through transition spaces such as porches, decks, patios, and sunrooms or solariums. Living should flow in and out of doors with the two linked together through landscaping. New homes designed for expansive lots can often support a compound of structures, each with indoor and outdoor living spaces. Fences, vegetative screening, trel- lises, gardens, courtyards, patios, and decks define outdoor space just as walls and ceilings do indoors. Climate will determine if your compound layout needs to all be connected and protected from adverse weather.
While it is commonplace when you are young, healthy, and fit to not think about getting older and remaining in your home, sooner or later the realities of aging will challenge every adult. Not only is there increasingly limited mobility that results from aging, but there is a host of other stress-related factors to which the typical home design contributes. The home building industry has inadequately addressed the idea of designing age-friendly homes, yet there are now more peo- ple in our country over the age of 55 than there are younger. An aging population will soon be challenged with how to deal with designing homes that allow people to age-in-place and optimize independent living.
A sensible approach is to design your home in which all everyday living functions are on one level. Should you build a second story, reserve that space as bedroom quarters for guests or visiting family, or provide elevator access.
Wherever possible, avoid any physical barriers in the design such as steps and stairs, humps and bumps, and reduce stressful bending and lifting. This applies to the design of all living spaces in the home, including kitchens and the positioning of appliances, and bathrooms and the fix- tures for bathing, showering, and personal grooming. The key is to think in terms of how the plan and the spaces––and fix- tures that support day-to-day living––will enhance livability as you get older.
True Custom Design Or Builder Plan Portfolio
A true custom design approach to a new home project is prefer- able if you want to optimize the spaces and design features that will best reflect you, your values, and the lifestyle you embrace. Often is the case in which a builder owns a devel- opment of so-called custom home sites and offers, as a con- dition of purchasing a lot, a portfolio of plans to choose from. Often a builder will offer a degree of “customization” to the stock set of plans, but rarely an opportunity for input into the design. Unlike a true custom home design process, the builder portfolio approach does not provide the degree of homeowner input into the size of spaces, room relationships, and craftsman detail that are the prime aspects of customiz- ing home design to the clients who will occupy the finished structure. Too often the stock plans, when actually construct- ed, result in an impersonal, oversized house that does not reflect the desired personality of the new occupants.
Still another option is to select a plan from a portfolio of stock plans offered by various companies. As with the builder plan portfolio option, there is limited opportunity for true cus- tomization. You purchase the set of construction plans and have your contractor build the home on your site.
Finally there is the option of purchasing a pre-fabricated home, which is shipped to your site. The home comes as a kit to be assembled on your lot. Several companies offer this option and provide a degree of spatial tailoring according to your requirements, but you are limited by the overall size dimensions of the particular model you choose.
The custom design and build option requires due diligence in the purchase of the property on which you build. You will need to ensure that you have full-access rights and that any limitations or restrictions conditioned in the purchase and use of the property, especially applicable design rules, are acceptable to you. If you can condition the purchase of the property on such acceptability, don’t hesitate to do so. You’ll also want to ensure that you approve of the views; soil under and around the house; access to the property; sunlight poten- tial during the winter season; weather protection from the ele- ments; pollution from noise, light, and smells; expandability for future structures, gardens, pools, ponds, and landscaping; site slope for natural drainage; water harvesting features and waste system options; and future parcel development potential.
Of course, the cost of land and construction are always barriers to achieving the end result you desire. Often people will want a home that is several times more expensive than they can afford. Thus, it is important to first understand the hard facts about the costs of building a home in the area you want to live. While a true custom design and build project can cost significantly more than the track home or builder portfolio options, building from scratch can be on par or even less costly if you plan intelligently. But for most prospective home- owners desiring to build from scratch, two main questions to consider are: 1) How can we do it so that the end result reflects our lifestyle? 2) How will we reconcile our dreams with the realities of what we can afford?