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I just read this on Sarah Susanka's FB page

cpartist
8 years ago

Just read this on Sarah Susanka's FB page and felt it was worth posting here on Building a Home. Hope you agree:

"Not So Big Principle: Sequence of Places

When we think about what a house includes, we usually make a list of rooms. But in today’s more informal world, it can be more useful to think instead of a sequence of places. So rather than "living room," "dining room," "kitchen," our list would look more like this: "place to sit and read the paper over a cup of coffee," "place to pay bills," "place to work on scrapbook." Naming the places we want to have in the house, and then connecting those places to one another as in this home, is a far more effective way of creating the house of your dreams."

Comments (52)

  • Architectrunnerguy
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    She's talking about thinking of a house in terms of relationships instead of in terms of objects.

    At the risk of getting into too much design theory
    mumbo jumbo, the best projects are designed not as objects at all but designed as
    a series of connecting relationships and letting the object (like a house) be born
    out of those relationships.

    For example, the
    front of a house has to be understood not as a wall with holes in it but as a
    connection between the house and the street. A window has to be understood not
    as a hole in a wall but as a relationship between, house and lot, inside and
    outside, light and dark, warm and cold.
    If I think of a window as an isolated thing, that’s probably all it will ever
    become, but if I think of a window as an element in a series of connecting
    relationships it has the potential to become so much more.

    A picket fence is best thought of as something that orders the relationship between the house and the sidewalk. And all of these
    elements need to be thought of in its next larger context. A window in a wall,
    a wall in a house, a house on a lot, etc. A typical house has thousands of
    these relationships. Going back to the fence, the individual pickets in that picket fence only have meaning if thought of in terms of the space between the pickets themselves (another relationship), the fences distance from the house and from the street (two more relationships) and the fences height relative to the height of an average person (yet another relationship). If I'm thinking of the fence in those terms, sure it will still keep the dog in the yard but the fence now has the potential to do more than just that.

    To expand on what Virgil said, a great house isn't great because it has a marble topped island and upgraded appliances, it's great because all the relationships are considered and properly thought out.

    For those interested, another great thread started by cpartist garnered numerous comments on all this "mumbo jumbo" here: http://ths.gardenweb.com/discussions/3285825/what-makes-a-house-have-good-design?n=39

    cpartist thanked Architectrunnerguy
  • User
    8 years ago

    Starting a design with a bubble diagram doesn't preclude the use of enclosed or partially enclosed spaces to meet your goals. The currently popular relationships and uses of space can be so complex that the resulting diagram suggests one big open space that can be uncomfortable for many people. Sometimes it is good to make clear distinctions between uses in a house. There is no formula for knowing when to define spaces and when to open them up. Often I use parts of the house (stairs, L-shapes, counters, etc) to create partial separations creating definition but allowing visual connections and long sight lines.

    cpartist thanked User
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  • adkbml
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Interesting concepts. As a part of the design process would you also account for determining the percentage of time people planned on using those spaces to persuade an understanding of size or the possibility of combination spaces? For instance if people ask for a space to formally entertain or formally dine, would it be followed with a question for how often they plan on doing that? The same would go for over-sized master bathrooms.

    cpartist thanked adkbml
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    8 years ago

    JDS is absolutely right. Bubble diagrams and adjacency diagrams are simply tools for initial analysis, exploration and discussion. The key for successful design is lots and lots of discussion to learn what the notations mean in the minds of the family for whom the house will be designed, followed by a series of experienced creative options from the architect. There is no "secret formula" or secret sauce for the successful design of a house, or any other facility. But there is sound experience and processes--including lots and lots of discussions--which work successfully. These are the potential short-fall of pre-existing plans from the house plan factories, and the potential frustration of simply taking one's sketches or verbal descriptions to a drafter at the contractor's or the lumberyard.

    cpartist thanked Virgil Carter Fine Art
  • User
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Time used is not important enough to be more than a secondary indicator for size. the primary indicator may be practical/functional needs. If you want a big tub and/or a big shower and/or double sinks, you might need a larger bathroom.

    cpartist thanked User
  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    I am so glad the architects have chimed in to this thread. I'm hoping that those starting on their build projects read this because already there is so much good info here.

    I agree that bubble diagrams, or looking to what the spaces will achieve for the homeowner are tools, but too often I see people come on here with really no idea of how a house should flow or what priorities they should be considering. And as mentioned, many times there is a lack of understanding that space needs to be integrated as a whole and not the sum of its parts.

    It reminds me of beginning colored pencil artists who copy a photo and then are so pleased with themselves because it "looks just like the photograph." However what they didn't take into account was that the building in the photograph was leaning over, the girl standing there has a tree that looks like it's growing out of her head, the ice cream cone she's holding in her hand is 4x the size of her face and there's not depth in the picture because the photograph was taken with a flash. But, it does look just like the photograph!

    This is why I posted the above because it's not just the building plopped onto a piece of land willy nilly, or sticking a window here or there, or lining rooms up along a corridor. People play with CAD programs and then figure, "how hard could this be?"


  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Time used is not important enough to be more than a secondary indicator for size. the primary indicator may be practical/functional needs. If you want a big tub and/or a big shower and/or double sinks, you might need a larger bathroom.

    Exactly. My DH will probably spend the majority of his waking time in our new home either outdoors or in his study. His study is only 11' x 11'4". Size is not always the best indication of use.

    Conversely we made our great room great comparatively even though most of the time DH will be in his study and I'll probably be in my studio. However, we do like to entertain so we wanted a larger space so people can feel comfortable when they visit.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    8 years ago

    I thought the study size was very small . . . until I realized I read the previous sentence wrong. I thought it read, "My DH will probably spend the majority of his walking time in our new home either outdoors or in his study."

    cpartist thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • Specific ibex
    8 years ago

    This is a very similar approach to how the best software, applications and web sites are designed today. You don't go into it saying 'I will build a database, a UI layer, an authentication framework, etc'. You start with a user story, which includes who it's for, what they want to do, and why. An example is 'As a teacher, I want to search for a book by title, so I can check price & availability.' Then you break down what it would take to fulfill that into smaller elements, such as what you have to store, how the user accesses it, what other things they can do, etc.

    This approach is user-centered and use-centered.

    I find myself very interested in seeing how home design evolves as our needs change. There seems to be a strong trend of decreased dedicated space, and increased modularity. We no longer need 'offices' when laptops and tablets are so portable and our bills are accessible online. We don't need home theaters when you can get excellent sound from a small sleek soundbar. We don't need libraries when our books are digital. Even our recipe collections are often online now. I think we will need VR rooms in the near future, and it will be interesting to see how those manifest in home design. A small bare room in the basement?

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  • jn3344
    8 years ago

    A lot of people don't "get it" and that's okay because it takes all kinds.

    It's easy to mistake size for value; wow-factor for quality. We once looked at a model from one of the luxury homebuilders. They know exactly how this works. They are in the business of giving people what they want and they want bigger and glitzier than what their friends have. But not different.

    Our architect followed many of the principles being discussed here. We avoided many of the design dilemmas that every day people are posting here and on the Houzz side.

    Some people are simply not impressed with the house. Not enough bling for the money. Not enough square feet.

    So far this house is living almost perfectly. The compromises we made are the right ones.

    The process is more expensive up front. At a lower budget it may not make sense, but with a true custom home budget there's a real value to doing the design phase like this.

    We were at the lower end of true custom. I think we made the right decision but the alternative was 4800 square feet with everything shown in the magazines. Some people may choose that instead and I get that.

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  • chisue
    8 years ago

    We work 'backwards' from these concepts when people post their house plans.

    I 'walk through' the plans, looking for basic function and logical routes: Garage-Family Entrance-Kitchen; MBR-Closets-MBA. I'm looking for a Refrigerator convenient to the Family Eating Area as well as serving the Kitchen Work Triangle. Does the MBR offer an oasis, or is the kids' playroom overhead? Where is the sun throughout the day?

    With existing plans we can only see how they might serve the needs of 'most people'. I often see responses that seek to eliminate 'fussiness' inside and out, and expand spaces that are heavily used, yet given short shrift on many builder plans.

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  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    LOL Mark.

    "My DH will probably spend the majority of his walking time in our new home either outdoors or in his study."

    Can you imagine the wear in the wood floors if he did do that? LOL. No mostly he walks outdoors.

    His study will consist of a small desk area with shelving, a stressless type of chair (or one of those ugly tv chairs) and a TV. His away space. We both are firm believers in having away space and the problem with our condo now, is his away space also doubles as the guest room. In our new home, it will strictly be his space. Again, thinking about what is needed for the two of us and not just what is generic.

    LOL JN.

    Some people are simply not impressed with the house. Not enough bling for the money. Not enough square feet.

    I had someone here on this forum tell me they wouldn't build my home because it wasn't interesting enough. (Meaning, it didn't have gables stuck behind more gables, four kinds of siding on the front, 3 different styles of windows, round pillars holding up the porch, as well as craftsman knee braces in the gables, and didn't have lots of wasted square footage.) Seriously.

    I think we made the right decision but the alternative was 4800 square feet with everything shown in the magazines.

    Funny our house originally wound up being 2836 square feet and I figured out a way to eliminate over 200 square feet because it served no good purpose for our needs. Our bedroom is probably the smallest bedroom we'll have lived in, but again, unless we're in bed, we're never in the bedroom.

    I took a page out of Sarah Susanka's books and decided it was more important to have some of the details that make my home truly special. So I will have a frieze band at the 8' height going completely around my rooms. I'm going to have the craftsmanlike wider moldings for around my windows. and craftsman style bookcases separating my great room from my kitchen/dining area. I'm going to have my craftsman fireplace with the gorgeous tiles and bookcases flanking the fireplace. I have some other touches, including changing ceiling heights that will also help to make my home feel special. And that's just the bling.

    More importantly, my rooms will flow as I need and want them to. And my house will create a courtyard feel to my outdoors which I also wanted.

  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    There seems to be a strong trend of decreased dedicated space, and increased modularity. We no longer need 'offices' when laptops and tablets are so portable and our bills are accessible online. We don't need home theaters when you can get excellent sound from a small sleek soundbar. We don't need libraries when our books are digital. Even our recipe collections are often online now. I think we will need VR rooms in the near future, and it will be interesting to see how those manifest in home design. A small bare room in the basement?

    No we don't need dedicated rooms, but I still believe we need places we can "escape" to and too many open floor plan houses don't really account for that either. As noted above, DH will have his away space in his study, while I'll have my away space in my studio. Additionally the guest room will double as a gym (with a murphy bed) for when we don't have company. We will have places to come together to watch a movie in the great room, but can each retreat to our own space.

    We work 'backwards' from these concepts when people post their house plans.

    And that's part of the problem. Again I'm reminded of artists and how some of them work. They don't integrate everything together.

    With painting and drawing, what one does with the background strongly affects how the subject is viewed. Color can completely change how a subject is viewed. For example, a pink flower on a white background will look completely different than if it were on a black or blue background.

    I can't tell you how many times a new artist will finish their subject and then come onto an art forum and ask, "What color should I paint my background?" However this question should have been decided on BEFORE they started the painting and the background should have been painted first because it influences the subject.

    It's the same with houses and that's a big problem with generic house plans. They work backwards in that the house is there but has no relation to the surrounding area.

  • jn3344
    8 years ago

    I typically don't chime in on the house plans posted because really, where to begin?

    We looked at dozens if not hundreds of homes before deciding to build. Some real head-scratchers out there.

    MBR - exactly. Ours looks pretty big. But only because there's not much in it! High ceilings and big windows give it the volume and scale of a much larger room. We don't "sit" in the bedroom. We don't take tea here...or entertain...or do yoga here...or train dogs. So 14 x 14 is big. I worried about this. But the wide hallway, the arrangements of the closet and bath, the sightlines etc all work together to make the space appear generous and open. That's what you get with a pro.


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  • Architectrunnerguy
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Like others have said, I too generally steer clear of comment on "What do you think of this (my, our, my architects, our designers, etc.) plan". And in the rare occasions that I do comment I like to offer a concrete suggestion with actual pen to paper.

    One of the major reasons I don't is that a key ingredient, perhaps THE key ingredient to a successful project, is owner trust. During my initial meeting with an owner they will often reveal their ability or inability to trust others. And an indicator of that trust is a willingness to put something on the table in return for yet unheard advice. And it's the willingness I'm refering to when it comes to trust, not whatever's on the table. But whatever IS on the table also serves as a strong indicator that the owner recognizes a skill set that they are deficient in.

    In design forum like this one the potential to maximize that critical element of trust is very small. Sure, there have been ample success stories here so don't misunderstand me in thinking I'm detracting from those. After all, there's a reason I actually provide a drawn solution on this forum from time to time. But for each success story here the numbers are legion where it's "Trainwreck in.....trainwreck out".

    Another reason for not offering comment is that some are posts disguised as "we want input" threads but in reality are "validation" threads. You know it's "Suggestions welcome everyone!" but after 60 suggestions, there's 60 reasons given by the OP why their design can't be changed. I remember one where there were like 200 comments and all that was changed was the swing on the powder room door!

    A third reason for not commenting is, to post a plan here requires no "leap of faith" on the owners part to carefully evaluate the comments and reasons behind them. The project is just thrown out there. And that goes back to element of trust. A good designer, when given the chance will give the owner most, if not all, of everything they want but often in completely unexpected ways. But for that to occur it requires a leap of faith on the part of the owner and lots of trust. Posting a plan here requires no trust or confidence in others so it's all too easy to simply text a reply "That won't work" or "We prefer that" or "Doesn't bother us" without looking at the subtler underlying reasons why an alternate was suggested. Some do have that trust of course, again, the reason why I make drawn suggestions from time to time.

    And a final reason for not commenting here is the face to face personal connection is a powerful thing. It's the reason I do all my design work face to face. And those folks I meet are no different than the one's posting here, full of anywhere from great to poor preconceived solutions, full of thoughts of "Hubby likes it that way", full of "We bought this CAD program and have worked on this for two years" etc. but after a three or four hour design session where there's some bonding and trust (there's that five letter word again!) developing, Hubby usually winds up liking another, unexpected solution better. And that's an intangible that's very difficult to duplicate in an impersonal internet setting like here.

    cpartist thanked Architectrunnerguy
  • lazy_gardens
    8 years ago

    You start with a user story, which includes who it's for, what they want to do, and why.

    it's called a "Use Case" ... because until you what people will be doing, and with what, you can't design an effective space.

    We're planning a "dream house" and one of the steps is the mental walk through: What happens with a load of groceries?

    What happens with 2 cooks and one person getting a snack or setting the table?

    What happens when you have to pee in the middle of the night (I see elaborate master baths where the toilet is 40 feet and three doors away from the bed. Don't want to trek that far at 2AM).

    What happens when you are filthy from gardening and need a drink of water?

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  • mrspete
    8 years ago

    In one of Susan S's books she poses a question: What do you want to do in each room? That particular question was valuable to me -- and it is related to what you're saying here.

    For example, one couple might say that they want a master bedroom that's just big enough for a bed and a modest walk-in closet for their clothes. Another couple might say they also want space for two comfortable chairs, a TV, and a desk. The point is, consider well ahead of time what YOU want each space to do -- don't just build blindly because you're "supposed" to have this or that space.



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  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    8 years ago

    Some pretty good stuff here...pretty good! Thanks one and all!

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  • chellefnp
    8 years ago

    jn3344 - your story mirrors mine. Many of our friends have built huge houses with lots of unused space. We chose to keep it simple, inside and out. My master bedroom is only 13x14, but it has 4 windows which make it feel huge. The original plan had it longer by 4 feet. We chose to create a long narrow storage closet for seldom used clothes, etc. That extra 4 feet would have been wasted in the middle of my bedroom, but it is invaluable now.


    We originally thought we wanted some stone on the front of the house, but it just seemed forced and didn't fit the overall simple look we liked, so we skipped it. Not one regret, now it is timeless.

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  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    jn3344 and chellefnp would love to see some pics of your homes on your properties.

    From the architects, would love to see some examples from you too as to showing how it all is integrated.

  • Oaktown
    8 years ago

    Just a guess, but my impression is that in many instances it is not as easy to identify a "local person of talent" as some of you might think. The impression I get is that there is least that perception among the potential clients here. Or that there might not be enough "bang for the buck" with a truly custom design when an Internet plan is "pretty good/good enough"? Then there are the folks who know they want custom for whatever reason (e.g. Unusual property or household needs/wants). For the folks on the fence, my guess is if they knew that ARG were available as a "local person of talent" that it would be a much simpler decision. Instead, I think many will view it as a larger leap of faith than it should be -- at least this was the case for our family when we started the process.

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  • jn3344
    8 years ago

    We did a fairly exhaustive search and there were a lot of architects to choose from. After screening online we connected with about 12 and interviewed 7 in person. It's difficult because you are dealing with personalities. You just don't know. And we had dome issues with ours. However, we appreciate the professionalism and craft. Being from a family with artists among us I know how prickly they can be.

    I don't do pictures so much on online forums but here are some from right before we finished. 2680 Sq ft. Obviously we don't have the garbage cans front and center anymore!

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  • jn3344
    8 years ago

    Oaktown I think you are right. You don't need to go through this for the average lot in a typical residential development. It doesn't pay. It really is a matter of bang for the buck.

    There is a line beyond which it makes sense. Build budget over X dollars, or like for us, the land.

    That's what people on the outside are thinking..like relations. They say to themselves "I would rather have all Thermador appliances and a copper soaking tub" or "they could have bought a new Acura and a cruise for what they paid the architect."

    At a certain level, people can do all of the above. But most people have to choose.

    I am OK with how we did it but I acknowledge there are other valid choices.

    Good luck to everyone.

    cpartist thanked jn3344
  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Really beautiful Jn. Thank you for posting. I love how your wall of windows really highlight the water views. I do appreciate a well designed contemporary home and yours appears to be just that.

    Just a guess, but my impression is that in many instances it is not as easy to identify a "local person of talent" as some of you might think. The impression I get is that there is least that perception among the potential clients here.

    So true. I think people feel if they need to hire someone because they can't figure it out themselves, how can they trust their own judgement to choose the right design person.

    Or that there might not be enough "bang for the buck" with a truly custom design when an Internet plan is "pretty good/good enough"?

    The problem with this thinking is "pretty good/good enough" may be fine for a small item but we're talking about something you'll be living in for years to come and probably your largest purchase.

    For the folks on the fence, my guess is if they knew that ARG were available as a "local person of talent" that it would be a much simpler decision.

    Or any of the architects, (Mark, JDS, etc) who post here on gw.

    Instead, I think many will view it as a larger leap of faith than it should be -- at least this was the case for our family when we started the process.

    It is a large leap of faith. Not only are you trusting the person to design you a home that will meet your needs, and look good (however you interpret looking good) but someone you can work with and feel comfortable with since you'll be working together most likely for the length of the build.

  • User
    8 years ago

    What is an ARG?

    cpartist thanked User
  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Architectrunnerguy. LOL.

  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Oaktown I think you are right. You don't need to go through this for the average lot in a typical residential development. It doesn't pay. It really is a matter of bang for the buck.

    Again, a lot depends also on the lot and the build price. If you're in a residential development with million dollar homes, it might still make sense.

    There is a line beyond which it makes sense. Build budget over X dollars, or like for us, the land.

    I'm missing your point here?

    That's what people on the outside are thinking..like relations. They say to themselves "I would rather have all Thermador appliances and a copper soaking tub" or "they could have bought a new Acura and a cruise for what they paid the architect."

    However, with a really good architect, there's the possibility to get the Thermador appliances and copper soaking tub along with good design. In that case, it might mean a smaller house, but one that will actually work better for the people living there.

    Case in point in my build, I could have a house that is 3800 square feet. That is the maximum I can build on my lot over two floors. However if I chose to go with 3800 square feet, it would mean I'd have to give up my built-ins on either side of the fireplace, and instead of hardwood floors throughout it would mean a combo of tile and carpeting. It would mean no craftsman molding around doors and windows but instead, standard molding. It would mean no "frieze molding" at the 8' height both downstairs and upstairs. It would also mean no rafter tails on my outside, and probably only having the stone on the front elevation instead of completely around my whole house. It would also mean the builder's package for appliances, sinks and faucets and not include my clawfoot tub, or built-in paper cabinet. I also probably would have had to give up my pocket slider in my living room and the extra doors to the outside.

    Instead, I have everything in italics in a smaller footprint of 2600 square feet. At that size, the house fits us to a tee in that it will give us everything we need for now and in the future.

    At a certain level, people can do all of the above. But most people have to choose.

    Exactly. And as shown above, a larger home which is what people automatically seem to think they need is not always the way to go.

    I am OK with how we did it but I acknowledge there are other valid choices.

    Good luck to everyone.

  • Architectrunnerguy
    8 years ago

    Even though that's been shorthand for me for a while, I knew eventually someone would need to ask the question!

  • chisue
    8 years ago

    I thought "ARG!" was how frustration is expressed -- might originate in 'Peanuts'. LOL

  • Oaktown
    8 years ago

    Does anyone think that there might be demand for a different architectural services model? I wonder whether some experienced architects would consider limited engagements to consult in the early stages of site planning and design development, e.g. flying out for an initial site/client visit and again for a design charrette. And whether local designers/draftsmen/less experienced architects would be willing to "take it from there" to provide construction drawings, site supervision, etc. Might something like that expand the market for design services in general? I think it could be a win/win/win situation?

    That's my "out there" thought for the day. Everyone have a good one!

    cpartist thanked Oaktown
  • chellefnp
    8 years ago

    cpartist, here you go. Our lot is a cul-de-sac lot, shaped kind of like a baseball diamond so our placement and choice of floor plan was somewhat constrained. We are in the middle of a development that started in the late 80's, but one of the neighbors held on to this lot, thinking a family member would build on it. Luckily, the lot behind us cannot be built on due to a drainage pipe that runs underneath it, so we have a pretty private backyard in the middle of the city.


    View from the back door.


    My favorite spot in the house:

    jn3344--your view is amazing, love the windows.

    ~Chelle

    cpartist thanked chellefnp
  • omelet
    8 years ago

    cpartist, did you engage the services of an architect for your home? I'm probably late to the game, but I thought you came up with your design and refined it using insights from this site.

  • Architectrunnerguy
    8 years ago

    I do that some of that currently Oaktown, although I don't fly anywhere, it's all local. And none of it is in custom homes, it's all in developer/production housing. It's worked great to not so great.

    The biggest fly in the ointment is turf. There's been a few "designers" (but who are really permit drafters) who have been doing all the design work before the builder called me in. Now they're not doing design anymore but they're the last person to touch the drawings before filing for permit. I've looked at drawings gotten back from them and ask "What happened to the design the builder and I decided on?" and hear back "Oh yeah, I looked at it and thought my changes would be best". Obviously if the builder thought that I wouldn't even be here!! You then hear an ARRRGGG!!! (which is actually how frustration is really expressed!) from me. After that it's either an air clearing talk with the builder or I'm gone.

    Other times it's worked great. It all depends on the personalities.

    cpartist thanked Architectrunnerguy
  • Najeebah
    8 years ago
    depends on whether it's ARG or ARRGG?
    cpartist thanked Najeebah
  • lazy_gardens
    8 years ago

    "they're the last person to touch the drawings before filing for permit.
    I've looked at drawings gotten back from them and ask "What happened to
    the design the builder and I decided on?" and hear back "Oh yeah, I
    looked at it and thought my changes would be best".
    "

    If I were a builder, that would be the LAST drawing they ever touched!

    cpartist thanked lazy_gardens
  • cpartist
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Chelle, I remember your house when you posted it. It's lovely. Simple, and as you said, timeless. That view out the back is fabulous.

    cpartist, did you engage the services of an architect for your home? I'm probably late to the game, but I thought you came up with your design and refined it using insights from this site.

    No I did not because our builder said to us, "I have an excellent draftsman so you don't need to use an architect." And I figured I have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for and I have a design background...

    Well if I knew back in March what I know now, I would have found an architect to at least refine my ideas. I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of the style of house but needed the insights from architects as to how it could be done. I was lucky in that, as I said earlier, architects such as Virgil, Renovator8, JDS, and ARG were willing to help me refine my plans; most especially my elevations which gave me the most trouble.

    The biggest fly in the ointment is turf. There's been a few "designers" (but who are really permit drafters) who have been doing all the design work before the builder called me in. Now they're not doing design anymore but they're the last person to touch the drawings before filing for permit. I've looked at drawings gotten back from them and ask "What happened to the design the builder and I decided on?" and hear back "Oh yeah, I looked at it and thought my changes would be best". Obviously if the builder thought that I wouldn't even be here!! You then hear an ARRRGGG!!! (which is actually how frustration is really expressed!) from me. After that it's either an air clearing talk with the builder or I'm gone.

    OMG, do I hear you on this one ARG. I can't tell you how many times I sent the draftsman my changes (in red so it was clear as day what the changes were) and it would come back with something totally unlike what I gave him.

    The best example is when I enclosed the front room upstairs and made it a bedroom. I have the three windows in front and had a closet that ran the width of the room on the right. The draftsman decided to switch the 3 windows to two and make the windows 2x the height because we needed an egress window. It changed the whole look of the front of the house.

    I took one look at it, called the builder and said, "why would he make the change without consulting me first?"

    It took me less than 20 seconds to figure out I could cut the 9' closet in half and put an egress window where the closet was, thus preserving the look of the front of my house!!! But he fancies himself a designer.

    If I were a builder, that would be the LAST drawing they ever touched!

    Thankfully in my case, we're not being charged any more for all the changes.



  • DYH
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    The best book I ever read on architecture was, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, et al. It was written in the 1970s and using what I gleaned from that book, I built my first home in 1990. Built another home in 2003; another in 2005; I'm renovating a 1939 house now. Still think it's a classic book for anyone building, though it also is about towns and community.

    There is a modern, residential home version from the coauthor, that I've also read that is a wonderful resource for anyone building or renovating. The title is Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design.

    cpartist thanked DYH
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    8 years ago

    Many people like and say they have successfully used Alexander's et al books. The challenges for using them include: 1) trying to figure out which patterns (and how many) may be applicable to a specific family and their own life style; 2) trying to apply the "patterns" in the physical design of a house, as opposed to a philosophical approach; 3) reconciling the "functional" patterns with the aesthetics of the house (which in my opinion are of equal importance). For those for whom the patterns are useful, they are well worth studying and considering.

    cpartist thanked Virgil Carter Fine Art
  • chisue
    8 years ago

    I learned a lot from "Patterns" too. One of the things I learned is why some high rise apartments made me uncomfortable: The windows go all the way to the floor -- triggering a safety alert in our primal brains: You could fall!

    This wasn't in those books, but should be. You know that feeling when you go into a room, then can't remember what is was you wanted to do there? The explanation I read said that the brain is 'wired' to immediately focus on what's ahead when going through an opening. (Leave the cave; scan for danger. Leave one room; scan the next room.) Your brain over-rode the thought of your 'mission' while performing this primal task. I read that if you will return to the place where the thought of your mission originated, you may regain the thought. (Just hold tight to it when you exit that space!)

    cpartist thanked chisue
  • scone911
    8 years ago

    Many, many moons ago, I took Chris Alexander's intro course, called The Nature of Order (after the book) at Berkeley. As part of the course, we worked on one of his projects. The course itself was amazing-- like taking the Krell brain booster from Forbidden Planet. But working on the house was pretty strange. There were no real written plans in the conventional sense. Nothing ever seemed to get done in a timely manner-- people would debate the design ad hoc for hours, days, and weeks before making the smallest change. IIRC, that house took five years to build, and in the end the couple who commissioned it divorced.

    I think Alexander is a genius, but his process didn't mesh very well with American building and financial systems. The books, however, and quite useful and practical.

    cpartist thanked scone911
  • Rachel (Zone 7A + wind)
    8 years ago

    I did a lot of this as we tweaked our house plan.

    I needed a place to work. I take calls in the middle of the night a few times per week with Japan and Germany (3 region, USA is always near midnight). Because of sound transfer, I needed an office that was not located adjacent to sleeping areas. It shouldn't be near any thing except a powder bathroom. The den landed in the foyer area, and has doors that fully close. It is buffered from the rest of the house.

    We both work full time. To keep up with laundry I start a load in my washer on a 9-hour time delay on my way out the door in the morning, then flip it into the dryer when I walk in in the evening. I fold and put the laundry away right before bed. To eliminate needing a lot of storage space for clean clothes I put a door from my master closet to the laundry room which is a mud-room from the garage to the main living space. I go out and come in through that space which fulfills my need to do laundry ALL the time, and I can put clothes away directly into our closet or hang them as they come out of the dryer with only a handful of steps. The only clean clothes I have to "store" are for the kids. They take their clean laundry up daily after school as they walk through the mudroom to the main house after school. No stacked up laundry!

    We both cook and tag team dishes "as we go"... clean up and prep / cook zones do not overlap in my kitchen at all. This meant putting the dishwasher in a spot that was ill-advised on the kitchen forum but it is really working out well for the way we live.

    My sewing closet... case in point!

    cpartist thanked Rachel (Zone 7A + wind)
  • Rachel (Zone 7A + wind)
    8 years ago

    Also, I found doing a spaghetti diagram of how we will use our space extremely helpful in moving walls and doors around. I made a list of our daily tasks and put a pencil down as we walked in the door and went through the motions on the floor plan. This is before furniture was placed on the plan. I could see where natural walking paths would be, where I needed to widen a room to accommodate heavy traffic, and helped me to consider different flooring materials that could handle the type of traffic each space would see.

    cpartist thanked Rachel (Zone 7A + wind)
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    This is one of the challenges with Alexander's work. He tries to intellectualize the architectural design process, which like almost all other creative processes, is, sooner or later, intuitive and defies logical definition and sequencing. It's why design has long been called a "creative leap". But that was not fashionable in the late 60s when Alexander was active.

    cpartist thanked Virgil Carter Fine Art
  • User
    8 years ago

    Alexander's "A Pattern Language" is now 38 years old. A more recent book by two of his co-authors (Max Jacobson & Murray Silverstein) and Barbara Winslow is called "Patterns of Home, The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design".

  • PRO
    Sombreuil
    8 years ago

    My sis and BIL built a house in 1977 (In WV) inspired by Alexander. It is affectionately called the Hobbit House. My BIL later got his architecture degree at Berkeley under Alexander. Moved back here and worked for a custom builder. Never built another Hobbit House.

    Casey

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    5 years ago

    This thread is over three years old. If you are looking for advice you should start a new thread or contact a local architect.

  • jmm1837
    5 years ago
    OP might I suggest you start your own, new thread - you're more likely to get traction with a posting dated 2019 than one dated 2015.
  • GreenDesigns
    5 years ago

    Plus, paragraphs and condensed theses statements are your friend.

  • KXD
    5 years ago

    Thanks - I will delete and repost then :-) !

  • KXD
    5 years ago

    Hi Mark, GreenDesigns, jmm1837 et al, I have taken your advice and started a new thread - please see this link. Your thoughts would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

    [https://www.houzz.co.uk/discussions/house-layout-help-please-dsvw-vd~5583932[(https://www.houzz.co.uk/discussions/house-layout-help-please-dsvw-vd~5583932).

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