Some Basic Thoughts
If you are in the fortunate position of having the opportunity to create your own home from scratch, here are a few thoughts.
A home is of course first and foremost, a shelter from the elements. I also believe it should be an expression of your personality and style but it’s all too easy to settle for compromise.
Why is it that most new homes built in the UK are of such poor quality and their design fails to reflect modern lifestyles? Doesn’t it make sense to build slightly smaller perhaps but to a standard that lifts your spirits!
I have been designing individual homes for private clients for over 40 years and most families actually have very similar aims – to create a wonderful light, airy and comfortably warm living space that also expresses their individuality.
Their homes don’t need to be extravagantly large. They are not obsessed with how many bedrooms they squeeze in, nor are they impressed with developer’s claims of “luxury executive homes” whatever that means?! Luxury in a home is surely best defined as light and space?
Most families’ lives today focus around the main hub of the home; the Kitchen, and most families want what used to be referred to as a “Farmhouse Kitchen”. This room has come of age and now represents the most expensive zone of the home with stylish yet functional streamlined food preparation areas and storage with well designed spaces for socialising and relaxing without invading the work space. Walk in larders and pantries have also made a comeback.
Washing machines have been banished to good-sized laundry rooms with enough space to swing an iron and to leave the ironing board set up.
Careful planning also needs to be given to other areas of the house such as:
- Utility rooms should be all about function and not be an afterthought.
- Storage; most families need lots of storage for “stuff” perhaps consider incorporating an old fashioned box-room or even adding a basement?
- Wet entrance lobbies (an air lock) where you can remove muddy boots wet coats and dry your dogs (or have your cat litter tray) and possibly with a WC for when you get caught short gardening.
- Bathrooms should have baths or showers to suit family members preferences and physical needs (it amazes me how often the shower head is lower than my head and baths are only long enough to immerse one half of me at a time). Install mirrors that don’t steam up and showers that you can get wet in with hot water supplies that don’t expire when you have one guest. Consider where you will place soap shampoo etc. rather than having to resort to balancing things on your head or holding them between your knees! Shower trays should be at floor level for easy safe access…perhaps consider a wet-room?
- A Dressing room works best off the main bedroom with direct access to En-suite bathroom and hallway, so that one person can sneak in or out of the home silently to catch the red-eye.
- Sitting rooms should have a focal point (a fireplace preferably).
- A study should be where you can concentrate in peace and the dog can’t borrow your papers.
- Peaceful spaces in general.
Every home in my opinion should include a ground floor room which if not actually planned as a bedroom can be used as such with a nearby shower room so that if you ever have the mis-fortune to break a leg, feel unwell or grow old, you can actually go to bed.
Perhaps expand this area to create a potential guest suite.
Open plan movement spaces rather than claustrophobic corridors.
There should be plenty of room for wheelchair access regardless of whether there is a current need. Standard Swedish doors and bathrooms are always wheelchair friendly just like British doors and bathrooms were in Victorian times.
We all need to escape the stresses of modern life and the greenery of the garden is another refuge. By good design you can incorporate this other dimension into your home, effectively capturing the garden as a visual extension to your internal living space.
What about a snug sunroom rather than “conservatory” to introduce bags of daylight without creating an environment like Mars?
In short, all of this can be achieved with good, intelligent design.
If you are in the early stage of planning then plagiarism rules! Keep a box of magazine cuttings, inspirational interior shots etc and scour bookshops for design influences (anything by Frank Lloyd Wright).
Remember when studying plans, that the ground floors of two storey designs can work just as well as bungalows and vice-versa.
Good orientation is key to successful design, so take time visiting your building plot to establish how the sunlight tracks around it; start to develop your site layout.
If there are significant slopes on your plot then start by commissioning a full topographical survey. This can prove invaluable for creating your house and landscaping design but also for predicting costs, then consider how best to introduce this sunlight into your home. Consider which zone of the home you are likely to be in at any given time of day. Perhaps morning sunlight in the shower room and setting sun in the sitting room! Orientate utility space and larders to the cold dark side but remember you don’t want to cook yourself in the Kitchen
Sunlight: Consider carefully where you will be at different times of the day.
Consider whether there are special views to enjoy which can be captured by well positioned windows and perhaps consider more than a single aspect to a room.
Consider not only how your home should look as you approach it (which clearly impacts on value) but also how you will enjoy the garden and potential terraced areas around it.
Consider how to create shelter from prevailing winds that can often be achieved by good setting out of ancillary buildings such as garaging but also by walling or hedging. Swedish roofs traditionally have a generous roof overhang to shelter the walls from the worst of the weather. This also shelters windows from high summer sun while low winter sunlight is captured. Simply extending this overhang further can create covered terraces.
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Simon Hayes, Managing Director
Tel: 01892 509230, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org