A guide to the design features that make a new home extra special.
Designing a house is a complicated business. There are an almost incalculable number of decisions and variables that shape the design process, and therefore, your home. Well designed unique homes are desirable, lovely to live in and ultimately more valuable than off the shelf alternatives. All too often self-builders and those doing major renovationsend up – thanks to the constraints of space and budget, a designer with limited vision or simply timidity about any building work out of the ordinary – with a bland home too. To avoid being sucked into bland you need a good design early on, and you need to stick to it. There are luckily, a few straightforward ideas that will help you (and your designer) create a home that punches well above its weight.
Make space for the stairs
Dont simply shoehorn the staircase in. They can be mean, narrow and tucked away (as per developer homes) or have drama and excitement. Stairs are always an expense but with some clever design and not a lot of extra money you can transform stairs form a perfunctory necessity into a show stopper. Try to put stairs in a double height space to accentuate the connection between levels and therefore creating extra interest.
No more tiny doors
Why do people stick to bland standard sized doors when a large door blank and an extra set of hinges cost just a few extra pounds? Dont go wider go taller – as it draws the eye up accentuating height and space.
Raise the ceiling
One of the things that sets the bland mode in new developer houses is measly ceiling heights. Almost invariably 2.4 meters and in many cases less, such ceiling heights create a feeling of slight claustrophobia and give wider, longer rooms an unsettling letterbox feel. The increasing invasion of downlights, smoke detectors, air ducts and speakers that litter ceiling sonly increase this top-heavy feel. The good news is that high ceilings make small rooms feel generous and are an absolute must for large spaces. Big rooms with 2.4m ceilings feel squat. You can easily attain that feeling of grandeur by designing ceiling heights of at least 2.7 meters and preferably 2.9. The extra materials used will add cost to the build but its worth it for a luxurious feeling of space.
Position windows from inside out
Far too often windows are placed to look symmetrical and neat on an elevation. The real function of windows is to create views and bring in light – not as a decoration for the exterior. Start by placing windows from the inside out and then try to make the elevation work.
A big front door
As a central part of the arrival experience, the front door is always worth spending money on to get right. Much like the hall, it sets the tone. Go wide and go tall.
There is huge pressure on self builders and renovators – especially with the growing trend in valuing houses using floor area – to do away with double height spaces. This is a mistake – double heights don’t waste space, they make space. In many ways it is the perception of space rather than a measurement that defines how a home feels. Use every opportunity to connect the different levels in a building with views and light creating interesting shapes, light effects and a dynamic experience.