An Architect's Wish List for the New Year

By Bud Dietrich, Originally Published in Houzz

A wish that we all find just the right amount of home we need (image courtesy Smollen The Builder).

I look forward to this time of year. Sure, there are lots of holiday parties, good cheer and glad tidings. It’s a time for wish lists, certainly, but more important, for ideas and resolutions for the year ahead. My wish is for all of us to improve our relationships with our homes. I know I will be working toward that end just a little harder.

I wish we all find just the right amount of home we need. Not so big a home that it becomes a burden on our resources by wasting so much of what we have, and not so little a home that it makes being inside uncomfortable and awkward. Like Goldilocks, let’s all find that happy middle ground between the too hot and the too cold, between the too hard and the too soft.

So think about what’s right for you and ask your architect or designer how you can inhabit that sweet spot that’s perfect for you.

I wish that all of our homes be good neighbors. While a complete break with the past and history may be cathartic, there’s been too much of it in the past century. Let’s find what makes a place special and celebrate that by respecting it. This isn’t to say that we should be trapped in some century of yore, only that we can be familiar when being progressive.

Consider Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, and ask your architect or designer how to look at the past for inspiration and the future for hope.

Good Houses Are Good Neighbors, Too

I wish that that we all keep it simple. Rooms with walls so angled they are almost impossible to furnish should be banished from every architect’s and builder’s lexicon. Just because something looks good in a floor plan doesn’t mean it will work well and have a long shelf life. This doesn’t mean that everything should be so simple that it’s banal. Rather, a simple start that gets built on and worked through will offer a richness of character that will be joyful over the long haul.

Don’t look at the plan as a drawing, but as a home, and ask your architect or designer how it can be kept simple yet rich and livable.

I wish that we all acknowledge the importance of detail. 
Even the simplest ideas, the most basic forms and the most common objects can take on a truly transcendent character when detailed with thought and care. In so many ways, this attention to detail is what can elevate the most basic houses into the most glorious homes. And for me, taking care to better detail projects is a definite New Year’s resolution.

Think about the textures, colors and materials you love and ask your architect or designer how the details will be used to bring your project to life.

I wish that our homes be inviting and open to conversation. Rather than being closed and remote, away from the public world, our homes can beckon all who pass by to participate in the life of the inhabitants. A porch and large windows that reveal the life inside enliven the public realm and allow all of us to share just a little of the stories we all have inside us.

Think about what you want to reveal about yourself and ask your architect how that will be achieved.

I wish that the materials we use be natural.Nothing made by human hands comes close to what is found naturally. The luminosity, variety and overall character of natural materials bring a home closer to us, as we want to touch, see and experience these homes all the more. As for maintenance, a well-detailed and well-installed natural material will often look good for decades, while most things manufactured can wear out their welcome in much too short a time.

Think about using quality natural materials and, if budget is an issue, save money elsewhere, such as by building less house.

I wish that our homes bond with and become inseparable from their land. Whether it’s Palladio’sVilla Rotunda or Wright’s Fallingwater or anything else, all good homes start with an inexorable bond with the land they are part of. Form, color, view,topography, landscape etc. are all elements that inform and influence a home’s architecture. In the best cases, the land would be poorer if the home were not there. In the worse cases, the opposite is true. 

Whether you’re designing new or adding on to an existing house, ask your architect to consider how the land and home will bond.

I wish that we all have fun making our houses into homes. All too often we get bogged down with worrying about whether or not we’re making the right decision, if we’re spending too much money, if we’ll like the end result etc. All I can say is, stop! Make sure to hire a good team, communicate your needs and limits, trust in their judgments and enjoy the ride. You’ll find that you can really have a good time and create a memorable home without all the angst.

Image at the top of the post courtesy Smollen The Builder.


December 31, 2013