Sunday, May 13, 2018

LIVING WITH THE PLAN: How to Make Sure Your Dream Home is Right for You

LIVING WITH THE PLAN:  How to Make Sure Your Dream Home is Right for You                by John Henry Architect 2018

There are many things to consider when either purchasing an existing house or designing one from scratch.  It is easiest to simply walk into a house for sale and move through each room noting the finishes, feel of space, lighting, views, types of furniture (if staged) that can fit best, etc.  Outdoor spaces, shade, breezes, sun angles are also evident.

  With so much sensual information available (even characteristic odors due to age or even water damage) the buyer can make a quick assessment of whether the property will do or not.  And then it is the singular feature that grabs them emotionally: the incredible picture window, the amazing kitchen, the amount of storage, the size of the master suite and bath, the great views, etc.

  Even though one may be smitten by several aspects of a property the potential buyer needs to become coldly analytical about the great commitment they are about to undertake.  Location, the age of the home, possible insect infestation, ground movement, drainage, structural integrity, and other items including cost comparisons and mortgage facts and more should be factored into the buying decision.

  Important to imagine is how the buyer will actually use the house day-to-day.  What is the route he/she will take from exiting the car with groceries to the kitchen?  Does the Dining area accommodate the family and guests or is it taking advantage of any views – is it open to other spaces or isolated?  Is the Kitchen open sufficiently to work and converse with family – is it dark or brightly lit?  Is the Master Suite too close to children play areas, does it have enough closet space, are the counters sufficient for cosmetics, is it on the quiet side of the property, does it get direct light in the morning?  Are closets throughout the house large enough, is there space in the garage for lawn mowers, storage boxes, and tools?  Is the laundry room sufficiently large for your family’s needs?  Are split level floors going to be a hazard to you in coming years?  Would you have preferred a single story plan in the end rather than two-story?

  If the climate is wet most of the year will you damage a hardwood floor coming in and out of the house?  Is the roof simple or complex possibly needing attention if hard rains or heavy snows stress the tile or rafters?  If nearby trees are large and shady will they pose a hazard in high winds?  What is the condition of the driveway; will potential repairs to the house mean that heavy equipment will damage it?

  Of course, I cannot itemize every possible contingency but you should get the picture: consider your lifestyle and day to day living with the family you have now and how long you plan to live in the house.

  So I suggest: LIVE WITH THE PLAN.  Study the design of the house and how it is sited on the property.  Go through several scenarios in your mind how you will utilize an existing house.  Get a floor plan layout from the Realtor and write notes as you move from room to room.  Measure the sizes of some of the largest pieces of furniture you own and check them on the floor plan.  If you plan to remodel cosmetically your attention and considerations are different from possible structural wall changes and additions.  Seek a building professional to verify what you have in mind can be done.

  When working with an architect or builder on a new design from scratch most of the above considerations must be addressed as well.  You do not have the luxury of visiting the house as built; you cannot move through spaces; you cannot sense the sizes of rooms and lighting or views.  So even more important now: LIVE WITH THE PLAN.  Take all the time you need to imagine as best as possible how a new design will work specifically for you and your family.  Is the overall design aesthetic pleasing, even inspirational?  Does it make a statement about who you are or what you aspire towards?  Does it present the right effect upon entering?  Are there some things that should be visible and others hidden from view?  Are corridors short enough or interesting through the openings that are presented on either side that their length does not matter?  Is the kitchen triangle laid out well in order to keep footsteps minimized?  Will the location of the home theater bother others who may not be watching movies?  Does the rear porch have ample room for chairs and possibly a grill and does it extend sufficiently to shade well? 

  While renderings of interior spaces and computer walkthroughs may offer detailed and realistic depictions of the space, these are done at the end of the design process and may be too late as a check on the usability of spaces.  So you must LIVE WITH THE PLAN in a two-dimensional aspect and compare with your existing residence, even measuring out floor space to judge better.  Note also the width of doors: standard widths from yesteryear may be stifling and if you think you might be using a wheelchair make sure that ADA compatible baths and other spaces are designed with a look towards the future.

  Finding an existing house that fits your needs and aspirations perfectly is a difficult task but it is the easiest and most direct way to check your lifestyle and requirements with a fully 3D and operational property.  You know exactly what you are going to get by observing every aspect of an existing house.  Again, be diligent to avoid missing items small or large that may be difficult to remedy later.

  Starting from scratch on paper is a huge leap of faith.  There is nothing to walk through, only a dream that must be fleshed out methodically.  It takes time to plan and time to build.  You must be prepared to concentrate on every aspect of the design -- from general layout and aesthetics to finish details and specification.  

  LIVING WITH THE PLAN in either scenario means that you should make the best decisions in a calculated method in order to Make Sure Your Dream Home is Right for You.

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