What should its size be?
How much detail should there be?
so that you can create a home, not just a house.
I call it 'inside-out' design because I have learned that what is planned for the outside (exterior) of your home can be just as important as what goes on inside. Sure, you may want a family room with a fireplace and that opens into the kitchen. But subtleties like window placement, room symmetry, ceiling heights, and architectural details are the integral framework that interior design relies on. Good architecture is the foundation for an interior worthy of the pages of Home and Garden magazine.
Before working for an architect, it was relatively easy for me to lay out a floor plan that met all interior needs…the kitchen near an eating area…a bathroom near a guest suite. Now I realize that on the inside of a home, every wall, every tray or vaulted ceiling, every jog and turn in a hallway affects 101 different things on the exterior. Without an architect to consider such ramifications, a house starts to look quite lost and disjointed on the outside. Part of the beauty of a well-designed home is its seamless integration of the inside and outside elements. Without careful consideration of both of these crucial aspects of your home, that 'feel good' feeling of good design won't quite be accomplished.
Being an Architect, I get to wear a proverbial Three Cornered Hat. Each corner represents the roles I play as a Designer, a Broker and a Technician.
My role as a designer is all about being creative and thinking outside of the box. Great fun, no restrictions...the sky’s the limit! The extents of my imagination are my only boundaries…
Then, the Broker role says, “Hey, wait a minute, there are budgets to meet!” Each line I draw represents money my clients have worked hard for. It is extremely important to maximize the investment value of each and every line because in the end, as one my clients aptly expressed to me, “I am living in my portfolio.” That statement speaks volumes.
I thank Jack Breaks for making that comment because it altered my way of thinking. It is vitally important that I create spaces that become more valuable than the cost it took to build them, so the return on the investment can be positive.
My final role is being a Technician. Although this role is tedious, it is vital to the success of each project. Drawing a thorough set of plans gives me the opportunity to solve problems before they happen on site. These discoveries eliminate the costly surprises, and on-the-fly field decisions that always occur with incomplete and inadequate drawings.
My hat is has three corners, three corners has my hat, and had it not three corners, I would not be an architect worth much of anything!
Have you ever seen Star Trek, Deep Space Nine? There is a bar on this remote station and the bartender’s name is Quark. He is not a human, but a Ferengi, an odd looking species, with gigantic ears. Not a bad quality to have, if people always want you listen to and solve their problems. The great thing about my job is that I don’t have to listen to people’s troubles! I get to listen to their dreams. Listening is a key element to a successful design. In order to listen effectively, I must listen with my eyes, as well as my ears. Watching someone's body language often communicates information that is vitally important to the design process.
Listening is more than just hearing. It’s also attempting to understand what drives each comment, and deciphering the unspoken codes.
I often wonder why it is that despite the fact that there are basically no squares found in nature, we force ourselves to live and work in them. It is just not natural! Curved walls create dynamic, flowing spaces. Although they do cause contractors to get migraines, every time that I have incorporated them into a home, the results have added interest, and created a better flow.
I guess that we live in boxes simply because they were easier to build... and that just doesn’t seem right.
Designing a home, or anything for that matter, is in itself a daunting task. When the process begins, the relevant data sits there in a pile in front of me, much like a 1,200 piece puzzle that has just been dumped out for assembly. The individual pieces of information are small and have a specific role to play. Like a puzzle, the key to successfully completing a design project means having all of the pieces on the table when you start.
Over the years, I have developed a process of making a puzzle that works very well. It begins by getting all the pieces situated so the picture faces up, and then I set out to find those elusive side pieces. Once these are mostly together, I start sorting the pieces that are similar in color. This makes it easier for me to begin filling in the puzzle’s center.
As each piece gets placed into the puzzle, the next one becomes slightly easier to find until only one spot remains. The main difference between assembling the puzzle that sat on my parent’s dining room table at Christmas and creating a home from a stack of papers, is the picture on the front of the puzzle box. Even though I don’t know what each final design will become, I do know a process of how to get one competed--the process provides a framework for design.
What do I love about design? I can do the same process over and over again and still come up with unique solutions, each and every time.
Recently, I have been researching solar panels for my house. As an environmentally conscious person, I have always had an interest in what solar power could provide for our home, but never had the opportunity to make such an investment. Fortunately, the combination of today’s low interest rates and our ability to refinance gave us the opportunity to start researching our options.
Once I started my research, I quickly found out there were several different types of panel manufacturers and companies in the area that do turn-key installations (complete design, permitting and installation by one company). There are also two different systems available - one for hot water and one for electricity. Considering I had just bought a new 40 gallon hot water heater when we moved in (2.5 years ago) and only my wife and I live in our home, we chose to only research the electrical panels for right now.
Since we are big fans of carbon neutral living we knew the answers to why we wanted to do this (both personal and global). The big question was IF we could do this, and that unfortunately revolved around the initial investment and operating cost. Although ballpark estimates from 3 different companies were all somewhere around $20,000 to $25,000 for a typical house, all the present tax incentives provided by our state (
We were excited to find out the system would generate close to 80% if not 100% of our typical use (depending on the time of year)!
With the help of adding money to our refinanced mortgage (lower interest rate & tax write off), we are going to be able to keep our mortgage payment essentially the same and use the additional tax return to pay off the loan. This basically leaves us taking almost nothing from our personal savings in order to install the system.
To top it off, our solar panel system will actually make us money each month by selling the collected power to the power company as opposed to having batteries on site. (Check out Duke Energy and NC Greenpower for more details.) Overall, we are coming out ahead of the game with extra money each month and we are using less fossil fuel to help save the environment!
The three companies we talked to were:
Tech Shield remains a favorite product of mine, because it is such a simple, cost effective solution to saving energy.
In my opinion, creating lighting scenes is one of the most important elements of design.
Being aware of what surrounds you increases your ability to relax.
These days we are bombarded with more options than we care to have to review when it comes to selecting what we wrap our window and door frames with, bump the vacuum into, or hide the sheetrock joint at the ceiling line. These items fall into the category of interior trim. When selecting trim, keeping the basic design of these three elements in the same family is key to keeping the hodgepodge to a minimum. If a period style, such as Federal is being built, it would be architecturally incorrect to put anything other than moulding profiles that were common to that period of history. Consistency in design selections plays a key role in the enhancement of spaces.
In recent years, I have been pleased to see MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) being used for some of the trim components. When this product first hit the market, may years ago, trim carpenters didn't care for it because when cut, it would chip and flake. Since then, the products have become far superior and trim carpenters tend to prefer to use this product for crown. Its most redeeming features are that it does not expand or contract like wood, and it takes paint really well. With wood, when winter sets in, the low humidity often causes cracks to form along the caulk joints of trim because of the amount of shrinking that takes place. What we have found that works best is to use MDF for the crown, and keep the casing and base as wood, most commonly Poplar. This minimizes the cracking problem and puts easily repairable wood in places than can get damaged. Not only is MDF more stable at varied moisture content, it also is less expensive than solid poplar, and some manufacturers produce it as "green". What more you could you ask for of a product?
MDF used as crown moulding has become a great asset to residential architecture, combining workability, longevity, and cost savings into a single product. I highly recommend its use.
A vented crawlspace in the Southeast may very well be the worst code ever created. I, for sure, will never specify another one.
It is easy to become confused moving forward if you cant remember how you got where you are.