Saturday, 21 August 2010

House Plans - Build it yourself

In the "old days" people used to build their own houses. Many would buy a set of house plans and the construction materials from the Sears & Roebuck Catalog; the pieces would get shipped to there home site and they would build it. Today there are Architect Designed Sears homes all over the country that were built in the early part of the 20th century. Here are a few examples.

This trend went away after world war II when the baby boom began. There was an enormous demand for housing and as a result developers began mass producing houses. One cookie cutter house after another.

Times are sure different now and I wonder if it is time to learn a bit from our past. The economy is tight and people don't have as much money to spend, but everyone still wants a nice home to live in. So why not start building our homes ourselves again?

I would never recommend that you literally go out and start framing your house. You would have to be very skilled and knowledgeable to take on that kind of effort. But depending on how handy you are and your level of confidence there are many ways that you can save money. Here are a few thoughts on things that you might consider tackling yourself:
  1. Be your own general contractor
  2. Build your own decks
  3. Install your own cabinets
  4. Install your own counter tops
  5. Perform all of your own painting (exterior and interior)
  6. Install your fireplace surround
  7. Do your own landscaping
  8. Install your own appliances
  9. Install your own patio or sidewalk pavers
  10. Install your own music system
  11. Build your own special interior staircase
  12. Install your own light fixtures
  13. Install your own bathroom accessories
On my own home I did at least some work in each of the above categories. My strategy was to let the professionals perform all of the critical work (foundations, framing, roofing, siding, etc.); but I would do the work that I was confident I could handle. I saved a bundle of money, which made my home affordable. Be warned however that this is a crazy amount of work for you to take on yourself. Many times you have to be available during normal work hours. And forget about having any kind of a life during construction. You will be at your job site every single night and weekend.

If you think you want to take on this kind of an effort you might start by finding a great architect designed house plan at Simply Elegant Home Designs.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Home Design Ideas - Funky Fireplace

You can learn much from studying rooms that you love. Below I have attached a living room picture from a home I designed a few years ago. This turned out to be a very calm and soothing space. I wish I were sitting there now!

A few key points:
  • Windows were placed on both of the outside walls of the space. I always try to have natural lighting feeding into a space from more than one direction.
  • Fireplace wall design was asymmetrical. Here form followed function. We needed a hideaway for the flat screen on one side, but not both. That left space for a cozy bench on the other side of the fireplace.
  • A funky half oval shaped fireplace was used. This adds a very unique detail to an element that is normally very predictable (the rectangular fireplace box).
  • Yellow walls with cream trim; natural wood floors and leather - the materials and colors are comforting.
  • Dark ebony stained trim is used sparingly to cap off the fireplace and media cabinet and at the stair railing. This adds richness and sophistication to the space.
  • Recessed lighting above highlights the details of the composition.
The moral of this story is - if you are looking to remodel a space in your home; find pictures of similar spaces that you love. Then study them to discover what it is about that space that makes it work so well.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Beijing Water Park Redux

This post is not about Home Design but I thought it interesting to pass on. Remember the National Aquatic Center at the Beijing Olympics? That's where Michael Phelps won all of that gold. So what do you do with your Olympic swimming pool inside a stadium when the festivities are over? If you are China you transform it into a huge Water Park.

The 77,000 square foot building Sports seven-storey slides, a wave pool, a water bar, rides entitled Aqualoop, Ridehouse, Bullet Bowl and Speed Slide, whirlpools and ‘deep-sea tornadoes.

Amazing Structure - Amazing Space!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Home Design Ideas - Eclectic Kitchen

My better half (Kelley) sent me the kitchen photo below. She loves it and so do I.

Here are a few observations:
  • No upper cabinets - most of the storage is below counter height. I suspect there may be a pantry around the corner or pantry cabinets out of view.
  • Eliminating the upper cabinets allows plenty of glass
  • I like the mix of old and new. Actually its mostly new but a rather ornate crown molding and the carrera marble counters add a touch of traditional and soften the hard lines.
  • All of that counter space allows room for accessories to decorate the space. This starts to feel like another room rather than a kitchen.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Home Design Ideas - Floating Stair

Here is another nice home design idea - a floating stair. The residential design world tends to do things the same way over and over while commercial building design tends to be more experimental. Below is an example of an interesting floating stair that would be well suited to any contemporary / modern house plan.
The stair is supported be a series of steel stringers which span from floor to landing. By holding the bottom of the riser above the tread one gains the illusion of "floating". The flat wood paneling at the interior wall and the commercial grade "storefront" window system beyond add to the modern aesthetic.

So when you working with your Architect on the design of your new home, ask him / her to think about the details in a unique way. It is the details that will make your home truly special.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Rambler Redux

I ran across some photos of a 1970's era rambler that was for sale in the San Francisco area. This reminds me that there is an awful lot of housing product that can be re-inspired.

I have seen so many try to turn a contemporary rambler into an arts and crafts home or some other more decorative architectural style. In this case the remodeling does not try to make the house into something that it is not. They simply build on the strengths of the design. Below are some pictures of the renovation.

nice fresh exterior

cabinets are a little traditional, but the overall aesthetic is still contemporary

simple space with contemporary furnishings. the dark wood floors contrasted with the light walls adds drama

Compare this house to so many 1950's through 1970's ramblers that you have seen. It makes you realize there is much potential in those old homes.