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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Design Considerations
Article: Bob Skolnick
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Lighting is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of home design, and it’s probably the most difficult to achieve the effects that you want, simply because natural light changes by the time of day and by season. The incorporation of natural light should be addressed at the earliest stages when you are doing the bubble diagrams and the lot orientation. Infusion of natural light through solar tubes, skylights and windows gives your home warmth and comfort. It defines a room and affects its use, and changes the room as the sunlight changes its direction. Windows need to be placed considering framing specific views, both major and minor. You need to consider the passive solar light and heat into your home from the sizes and placements of windows and glass doors.

    “The first thing I do is I work about adjacencies – room relationships – so, I make sure I get my room relationships the way the client wants them.”

Jeffery Huff,
The Design Alliance
A lighting plan is essential, whether natural or mechanical, to properly determine the placement of furniture and art. Often a room will benefit from a plan that offers lighting layers. This provides the homeowner with the ability to light a room based on time of day and use. Kitchens need strong light for cooking and homework at the counter during daytime hours. In kitchens, mechanical light can be augmented by solar tubes and skylights for the daytime lighting plan. In the evening, the lighting plan for the kitchen should be adjusted to mood lighting when not in use and when the light from solar tubes is not available. This applies to all rooms, changing the mood from work lighting levels to intimate and relaxing lighting levels. Nothing changes a room’s personality more than with changes of lighting levels and light coloration. Placement of furniture and art is accented by the lighting planned to highlight each item.

Ceiling heights must be proportional to the size of a room. A large room with a low ceiling or a small room with a high ceiling will look out of proportion and also affect the proportional placement of furniture. Often ceiling height changes are used to identify moving from public to private areas. Floor elevation changes were common several decades ago and really do add to separation of rooms and transition of spaces, but you have to consider how different elevations and steps or stairs play into the movement of older adults living in the house. Your house placement in a sloping mountain lot may necessitate floor elevation changes.

The front entrance of your home is the first impression to visitors and should be sized to the level of guests that you invite to your home. Often we are challenged with space allocation for the front entry. Front entrances can be given grandeur by incorporating transparent walls, domed ceilings and placement of large windows and hand-carved doors.

Color and textures are subjects where your personal tastes are very important, yet offer you an opportunity to take a dramatic change and evoke a new style from your present home. Selection of wall colors, flooring, ceiling surfaces, kitchen tiles, bathroom fixtures all have to be done with a degree of harmony. It is hard for you to visualize all of the elements working well together. This is where architects and interior designers excel. They will show you options and samples where you can create different vignettes to try before making final color and texture selections. Often views through larger windows and major pieces of art are factored into room color selections.

Comfort often translates to air circulation and heating and cooling systems. An architect will design your systems for maximum efficiency providing for the appropriately sized units, zoned controls and passive solar hot water. A well-designed system will allow different temperature in different areas of the home, catering to individual family member preferences. Often, the placement of ceiling fans provides the air circulation necessary during moderate times of the year. Ceiling fans also add an artistic element to each room’s design. We will cover that element in a separate article in this edition.

Surfaces affect style, design and acoustics. Architects and interior designers are aware of the types of floors, walls and countertop surfaces that are currently available in the design market. In this region, the use of floor carpeting has been minimized except in bedrooms. Tile, travertine and hardwood flooring are the norm and are hard surfaces with acoustical impacts. While these types of flooring are attractive and fit well in all of the common architectural styles in the region, they do affect the acoustics of a home. In order to soften the effect of many hard surfaces, draperies, area rugs, hallway runners, fabric wall panels and furnishings serve to soften the acoustics. Ceiling heights and materials also contribute to the acoustical plan. Architects and interior designers receive special training in implementing an acoustical plan that is buffered and soothing.

Furniture is typically one of the last decisions, but most often defines the space and provides a unique signature to each home. They also must be selected for function and mass to accentuate certain rooms or sections of rooms. Family lifestyle also dictates the use and comfort requirements of furniture. Families with active children have different furniture use and requirements than retired adults. Interior designers excel in locating furniture options whether through local retailers or through national manufacturers that offer numerous styles and lines. Many times the homeowner may accompany the interior designer to major furniture markets in cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas or High Point, North Carolina. Incorporation of existing furniture into a new home style must be considered early on as the retained pieces should be in harmony with new furniture selected. Accessories are truly a matter of personal taste and always finish a room. Today, the trend is “less is more” and people are looking for an uncluttered lifestyle.

As you can see, the designing of your custom home is a detailed process and requires the expertise of professionals and your dedicated involvement to the decision-making process. At the end of the day, you will have a very special home and the satisfaction of being the leader of your own design and build team to accomplish that end. ///
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