How to design your dream home? (Part 2)

By Phil / On Jul.11.2015 / In / Width 0 Comments

Welcome back to the blog series that teaches you how to be your own home designer. Well earlier in the week I caught a Youtube video of an architect talking about his own design process, starting with a plan sketch of the site, producing a bubble diagram showing the room layout relationships, positioning the kitchen to receive the early morning sunlight and the lounge to receive the late afternoon sun, views out from the site, and all that good stuff. So why you may be wondering aren’t we doing any of that here, well the designs we will be developing are going to be fairly generic in layout, with the emphasis on making them look good, however if you have a site already, you may want to think about these aspects too right from the very start. The good news is all our layouts will be fairly rectangular so swapping rooms about to suit the characteristics of an individual site shouldn’t be too hard to do, so let’s not get too bogged down in basic planning stuff.

This week I took my free-hand sketches and put them into a computer CAD program for further development. If you don’t have access to CAD computing, then you can use a traditional drawing board and draw out each elevation, but now we have CAD, it gives us a better way. My preference is to build a very basic block model in 3D, and then create images to visualize the whole design development process. The most commonly used computer CAD programs in the building design industry are currently AutoCAD, Microstation, VectorWorks and Archicad, but there are plenty of cheaper options and possibly some free open source ones in addition. If you can use a CAD program, or can teach yourself to use one, then this will help the process along enormously. With each of the designs I used a basic one meter square grid, and assumed a floor to floor / roof height of 3m.

Below are the first tentative images of the developing designs, sequenced as in Part 1:

Traditional – I was tempted to scrap this design, as my sketch looked like every house I had ever come across, living in England, so I figured no need to redeign it. In the end I took inspiration from over the water, in the US they have their own take on traditional house design. With this in mind, I drew a rectangular block with a traditional hipped roof, and simply added a number of gables to create some interesting patterns on the facade. I dropped the height of the roof part way along its length, again to create some visual interest. In later blog posts I will start to define the materials and it should start to take shape.

Mediterranean - I had a bit more of a clear idea about the design aesthetic on this, so was able to progress it a little further, based on traditional features of Mediterranean homes. I started with a square base plan with towers in each comer and one on top, with the garage in a single storey block to the left. To connect the garage to the main block convincingly I needed to extend the main block into a rectangle. The resulting design looked a little bulky so I dropped the left side to single storey creating some transition in height. At the back, I created an additional single storey wing, again on the left side, thinking the building would then wrap around the pool, in a pleasing way. I drew up a concept plan, to help fix the size of the towers, not wanting them to become a planning problem later. The central tower I thought could usefully become a chimney, so I downsized it from the initial sketch design, and positioned it suitably above the intended lounge.

Contemporary - I started out thinking to slope the facade of this design, to give it a dynamic look, only the results looked rather stupid, so I returned to my original sketch with the structure seemingly snaking up the facade, a technique which is not uncommon in contemporary design. I played around for a while with solid and void, solid balustrade versus glass balustrade, open trellis versus solid roof, and just picked the options I thought most attractive.

Modern - Reinforced concrete is ideal for modernist architecture, it allows planes to oversail giving a high degree of flexibility of form, although too expensive for most domestic construction, here in the UK. I started out with a simple two storey block model with one floor overhanging the other by 2m, which is about as much of an overhang as can be practically achieved. I then simply played with positioning the areas of solid and void, in this case wall versus windows, and chose the options I felt most appealing. The position of the garage, pretty much has to be to one side, so I fixed that from the start, it could go in the middle, but would break the plan layout rather and a garage doors isn’t a great focus for the eye to land on, so off to one side or out of the way all together is preferable. I extended the single storey block to the left to add some interest, then decided to do away with the cantilever on the left side, thus creating planes of different depths on both levels, which I considered more pleasing to the eye.

Deconstructivist - I spent rather longer on this one as it had the potential to be more of a problem. Arbitrary slopes on the facade can look great, but they also have the potential to look terrible. I started by modelling the free-hand sketch I made in part 1. A storey height roof slope across the full width of the building can create a dynamic look, but it would also limit the head height inside the building, so rather than use one slope, I decided to slope the ground floor wall up to meet the roof slope of the first floor, at least visually on the facade, thereby keeping a high percentage of accessible space at first floor. The plan initially was to keep the garage side as single storey, so the roof was given a dual pitch in profile as I didn’t need roof height over the garage at first floor. The rear elevation could simply have been mirrored around a centre line, but that would not have lead to a complex roof geometry, I felt I wanted, so instead, I rotated the general principle of the front elevation around the building centre point, to generate the back elevation, forcing the roof ridges to travel diagonally across the depth of the building and create additional variation in geometry. At the rear, this placed the high point of the ground floor wall on the same side as the garage, with the line of the main roof coming down to meet it, however, on the rear elevation it was some way in from the right side, offset by the garage width, and in appearance it was somewhat visually awkward, so the ground floor wall was given a second pitch following the line of the main roof. The two elevations were at this point quite different, but the rear looked more appealing, so I adopted the dual pitch for the front elevation as well. A canopy was added to the ground floor glazing as the facade looked a bit flat, and to function as a solar shade.

Let me know what you think in the comment below.