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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Developing Clarity
Article: Bob Skolnick
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In order to develop the space allocations and floor plan for your new home, the architect will have a lot of questions about how you live today and your short-term and long-term plans. We have prepared a checklist of questions you should ask yourself and the family to have ready the information to help you inform your architect and interior designer in conveying your goals and tastes. They will need to see your present home to determine what you like and dislike. Do not be concerned, they recognize that you are building a new home to improve your lifestyle, and you may have shortcomings in your present home.

In order to start the design process, you need to have your own internal family conversations and be able to have clarity when sitting first with your architect, and interior designer and ultimately your custom homebuilder. Here are a few key questions that you can expect to be asked:
  • Try to define your budget with respect to your maximum ability to convert another real property asset and/or financing of the construction of your new home. You need to advise the architect and interior designer of the budget parameters so they can best advise you on obtaining maximum value from what you have to invest in your new home.

  • Identify how long you expect to live in the new home. It tells the architect whether you are designing for the immediate family needs or whether you need the house to transition in its use over time. Young children affect the immediate utilization of space, while the future arrival of aging parents are important points to be considered.

  • If this is your retirement home, do you need to plan for a live-in caregiver and handicap accessible rooms?

  • How important are natural views? What are your preferred neighborhoods? Both affect lot selection.

  • What architectural styles, Tuscan / Mediterranean, Southwest / Pueblo, Spanish Colonial or Contemporary, do you like. Will they work in the neighborhood you prefer?

  • Do you like morning or afternoon sun and how do you enjoy it?

  • How many bedrooms and full baths are needed for now and in the future?

  • How does your family spend its time together–in the kitchen around the island or counter, in the family room, in the media room or in the outdoor living areas?

  • How much cooking do you do daily? Are there any special cooking equipment needs?

  • Do you entertain often? If so, what are the sizes of your parties?
  • Do you plan to have an office and / or study in the home?

  • Do the children need a separate study and / or entertainment area?

  • Is outdoor living space important? In addition to cooking, what space is needed for eating and talking?

  • How much space needs to be allocated for outdoor recreation areas? Do you plan to have a swimming pool?

  • In your private living space, such as master bedroom and bath, do you need areas to relax and read?

  • How much closet and storage space is ideal, and where do you need it for daily living?

  • Should the master bedroom and bathroom be adjacent to the children’s rooms?

  • How much garage space will you need for vehicles? Will you need significant storage in the garage?

  • Will you need a hobby room or workshop area?

  • What furniture do you plan to bring from your existing residence?

  • Is there any art or artifacts that require specific wall and floor space to display them?

  • Do you have favorite colors and textures?

  • Do members of your family have different temperature preferences for comfort?

  • Do you have a preference on exterior types of construction – wood frame, ICF blocks, brick, adobe or rammed earth?

  • What type of roof design and materials do you prefer?
    It is also a good idea to clip ideas from magazines and mark pages in design books. The better you can convey your preferences verbally and visually, the better the design process will be facilitated.
  “I think a designer is absolutely going to have influence, but the complements and the expertise of an architect is an ideal situation…I think that an architect and a designer work hand in hand.”

Wayne Hilton,
Sher-wood Cabinetry
  “You actually create how these spaces are going to interact; how the actual family is going to react to them, and the architect brings that together…”

Ed McCormick,
McCormick Architecture
  “ I like to make sure the house flows, starting from the front door all the way to the back wall – everything has to flow in your mind…”

Javier Carrera,
Carrera Group, Inc.
  “It’s not only your building, but what’s surrounding the building that completes the design…it’s very important that the architect plays an integral role in how those outdoor spaces relate back to the physical structure.”

Steve Newby,
Steve Newby Architects
Defining Your Vision and Converting It to Building Plans

To develop the homeowners’ perception of their finished home, an architect needs to be very good at the asking of questions. The homeowners must be fully aware of what is being presented and feel comfortable in asking any questions they have. The design process is a two-way conversation.

Armed with your preferences, answers to their questions and a tour of your present home, your architect and interior designer will be able to visually bring alive your new home. You have identified your lifestyle priorities, and now rooms can be sized and traffic flows and site line patterns can be applied to develop the working floor plan. Most often they will start with a bubble diagram, which defines the relationships of space. Accomplished architects and interior designers are good at hand sketching areas and elevations, which is the next step in developing a floor plan.

There have been quantum leaps in CAD and 3D imaging software and programs like Google Sketch Up that are available to further define your vision. In the design process, consideration of view preferences and natural light affect room and window placements. A working floor plan will take shape and sometimes renderings and three-dimensional drawings will help complete the space assignment evaluation and placement of major furnishings; all of which assist you in decision-making. Some architects like to make a scale model to show the exterior architecture and the interior room sizes and relationships.

Space Planning

Planning the space needed is a very intimate, special, sit-down meeting where you actually create how these spaces are going to interact; how the actual family is going to react to them, and being sure that you’ve caught every space that’s necessary, resulting in a diagram of functional relationships. Two important keys to effectively organizing a floor plan are managing the solid-void relationships and resolving traffic and circulation patterns. The first thing is to get the room relationships defined. Considerations of the family makeup, such as children and their ages, aging parents, live-in housekeeper or caregivers have a strong impact on the relationship of rooms and spaces. The location of master suites in relationship to other private and pubic areas is relevant. The use of family gathering and entertainment areas is also significant in defining space allocation. Most often the kitchen is the center of family interaction. Outdoor living areas and recreation space affect orientation of the house on the lot, placement and size of doors and windows.

Selecting Your Home Lot

Once you have a clear idea of the approximate square footage required to meet your family lifestyle requirements, then the lot has to be purchased before a working set of plans can be developed. The lot size and orientation affect the architect’s floor plan. From a family point of view, the selection of a lot has obvious considerations, such as proximity to schools, shopping and work. Once you have the neighborhood or community defined, you need to look at lots that will accommodate the size of the house you are planning to build. Your architect will examine for you the neighborhood covenants, city building requirements, the topography of the lot and the soil stability. Mountainside lots have certain challenges tied to elevation and rock content, valley lots have to take into consideration soil stability. Your architect may need to order a soils analysis test or pull records for recent developments in the same neighborhood. Sometimes a structural engineer might be engaged to solve a lot stability issue. Your architect will work with city or county agencies to seek approval of your home’s building footprint on the lot. ///
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