I have often heard it said from people that design and build their own homes that you don’t really get it right until you build your third house!
Now that would be a luxury wouldn’t it? To get three chances to design your own house.
There is also a saying among builders “Measure twice – Cut Once”
The point about this is that you need to really plan beforehand. By planning I don’t mean a set of elaborate plans copied from some fancy magazines. Here are some handy tips for designing a house from personal experience.
- Brainstorm: With your spouse, partner and/or children, write down all of the thing you will be doing in your new home. Use verbs rather than nouns. e.g. sleeping, eating, playing rather that bedroom, dining room or play room. Think in terms of “spaces”. This is the space for eating, sleeping etc. Ideally use a mind map. Be creative. Don’t rule anything out just yet based on cost or planning restrictions. Start off big and scale down as necessary later on.
- Design from the inside out: Most people look at how other people’s houses look like as they drive past. You will be living in your house. Most of the time you will be inside looking out. A friend of mine, architect Peter Cowman used a concept called the “headspace” which was a mock-up of you house plan large enough for you to put you head in underneath and look out though the doors and windows.
- Design with you senses:
- Sight is the most obvious one, views of course are important but also light.
- Hearing: Are there noises that you want to avoid like traffic or noises that are pleasing. Is it possible to provide a buffer from noise pollution by planting trees which in turn will attract birds.
- Smell: If you live in a natural house like me, your home will have a beautiful aroma. Be concious of aromas and smells that will be present in your new home. Also plan to avoid odours.
- Touch: How will your house feel? Concrete-built house will be cold to touch. What will it be like to walk barefoot in your home. Timber can be pleasing but sometimes heavily varnished wood can feel cold do perhaps consider underfloor heating
- Taste: Well unless you are thinking of using gingerbread dough as a building material, you won’t be able to taste your house. You will however be spending quite a bit of time eating so consider creating a connection between food and your home by having a garden or by planting indoors.
- Sixth Sense: OK even if you are not into the paranormal, do try and get a feel for the site that you will be building on. Notice buildings that you visit like the bank or church. What is the feeling that you would like to have in your home. Some houses that I have visited feel more like shopping malls or art galleries than homes.
- Visualise: Try and visualise yourself living in your home not just to when you move in but also when you are older. If you have children or plan to have children how will the house be for them. What if your circumstances change such as unemployment. Is there a space in the house that you could set up a small business.
- When you complete the brainstorming process, try and group ideas and activities and start to create spaces for activities. Remember not every activity needs a separate room.
- Scale down: Your first attempt at sketching a plan is likely to send your project flying over budget. But consider “Occam’s razor” and cut out what you don’t need. Do you really need five bathrooms! Are there more fun things that could be achieved with just two or even one? Corridors are wasted space in a home? Eating can be so much more fun in a large kitchen rather than in a separate dining room (unless of course you have a team of servants!) Larger houses involve more expense in heating and cleaning.
- You might not consider yourself an environmentalist but that is no reason to avoid the writing on the wall. Sustainable construction will be cheaper in the long run by far and you might retain some respect from your children and grandchildren for “doing the right thing”