Are you considering building a house? If so, you may have a very specific idea in mind about what you want it to look and feel like. The homes of others are often a strong influence. The way you felt when you were there is the way you want to feel at home.
It is good to have a goal in mind; the challenge is not to stop there.
It’s convenient to have firm ideas of what you want, like going through a fast food drive-thru. You can quickly get your needs met by ordering off a simple, predictable menu. But for special occasions we go to restaurants where we can talk to a server about what we like and don’t like, and receive recommendations tailored to our needs. The more important the meal, the more we want an advisor.
Like a fast-food worker asking whether you want pickles and onions, the average contractor often asks little more than nuts-and-bolts questions about the design of your home. In contrast, residential architecture is about defining what the concept of home means to you.
Here are a few examples of questions to consider when building a house, asked two ways. “Level 1” is surface-level, and deals with features of the structure. “Level 2” goes deeper to deal with the benefits of structure as they relate to daily life.
Level 1: “How big do you want the dining room?”
Level 2: “How often do you entertain guests and how many people do you tend to invite?”
Level 1: “Do you want the kitchen closed off or open, in view of the dining room?”
Level 2: “Who cooks in your family? Do they like to talk or prefer privacy when they’re in the kitchen?”
Level 1: “How much space do we leave for the yard?”
Level 2: “Who plays and uses the yard? What do they do? What do they want to be able to do?”
The deeper-level questions are probing lifestyle, seeking to determine how the space will be used and building the space around that customized ideal. The goal is to build something that fits you, not make you adapt your lifestyle to suit someone else’s standard. These are the questions that architects are trained to ask.
If you’re in a hurry for lunch it’s not a big deal to grab a quick bite of something less than ideal. But if you’re designing a place to spend your life make sure it is built for yours, not for the next person in the drive-thru lane.