Good Design in Opposing Styles

As an architect, I’m often asked about what I think is good design. Now, what people are really asking is what styles I prefer- modern, traditional, ornate, minimalist. But good design is not bound by style so much as it is by broader, more classic issues. Good design means that a home is built in proper proportion and order with well defined spaces.

Let me use two examples to illustrate my point. The first is a hand-carved walnut paneling heavily wrought with detail meant for a new construction traditional style home. The second is a modern contemporary home. How can these opposing styles both be rooted in good design?

When I work with clients who want design rich with detail and depth, I always stay rooted in tradition. For me that means maintaining scale and proportion- more, in fact, is not always more. Looking at the hand-carved walnut paneling, you will columns and intricate scrollwork. You will also see plenty of blank, i.e. non-carved space, where we have allowed for depth in an in-laid part of the panel. This blank space serves as a much-needed foil to the sophisticated carving that borders the top and bottom of the paneling. Without some blank space to bring order and proportion to the carving, it would look busy and distracting rather than elegant and refined.

Many clients are looking for the wide-open spaces offered by a modern, contemporary home. They want a plethora of natural light and open concept living throughout the home. Both of these objectives can be achieved while still maintaining good design practices. The desire for natural light must be balanced with the need for privacy and intimacy in the home. Floor to ceiling windows in public spaces in the home are utilized in this property, while on the second floor you’ll notice that there are still many windows, but they are smaller in scale. This lets in light while preserving private space.

To achieve the openness and airiness that accompanies modern homes, we used stand-alone walls to divide rooms into their various sections, rather than full walls with doorways. This way we have defined the spaces for their intended uses, like the kitchen and dining space, but have still cultivated a sense of flow throughout the house. Without some definition, modern homes become impossible to furnish and live in. 

For every project and client, we try to set aside our preferential notions of style and instead focus on good design, no matter what. Styles will come and go and fads will drift in and out of favor. But like a great painting, a well designed home will remain relevant and beautiful for a lifetime. 

French Chateau Style in the Modern Era

French Chateau architecture is inspired by the 15th and 17th century country estates of French nobility and royalty. You can see the features of the style in the home’s construction,  including smooth stone walls and complex roof lines with steeply pitched, hipped roofs, corner turrets, and french ornamentation.  

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Convenience Can Have Consequences

Even though the rest of the world may be crazy, I think your home should be a place of calm amongst the chaos.  That’s why I believe in design that is intuitive and making spaces both functional and beautiful.  A front door should look like a front door- there shouldn’t be any hidden meanings. 

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Lingering Ghosts of Bad Decisions

Is there a rattling in your attic?  A hissing noise coming from your basement?  A steady drip from your faucet?  Is your home slowly driving you crazy?  

I hate to say it, but you are being haunted.  Those are the lingering ghosts of bad decisions.  When you should have called an electrician, you called your friend who does wiring “on the side”.  When you needed a new furnace, you bought one on Amazon and installed it yourself.  Instead of looking for an expert, you found a shortcut and now you are paying the price.  

When you’re ready to exorcise those remodeling demons, call an architect.  Not only can an architect save you time and money through thorough planning and budgeting- they can also save your sanity and help you love your home again.  

Is Bigger Always Better?

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including our homes, but where you allocate that space in your home can really make a difference.  You don’t want to sacrifice square footage in common areas for a larger bedroom.  Where you need space most is not in the individual rooms, but in the areas you move through.  Adding more space to the hallway will make a house feel more expansive.  

How the space is allocated in a room is also really important.  Adding enough distance between countertops is the difference between a functional kitchen and one that is too cramped to work in.  You also wouldn’t want to take a square foot or two in a bathroom to make a larger bedroom in an ensuite.  That would make the entire area feel too crowded and awkward.  

While we might love our wide open spaces in Texas, when it’s time to build you want to think strategically about how to use your home’s footprint.  Adding or subtracting a square foot here or there can truly make the difference between a home that working for you or against you.  

Soft Contemporary Style Mixes Clean Lines and Warmth

Contemporary homes have a reputation for giving off an almost utilitarian vibe.  In designing this soft contemporary style home, we tempered the severe lines and neutral colors with warmer design elements.  The exterior of the home blends natural stone with crisp plaster.  This home offers plenty of space with 4 bedrooms, as well as 4 full bathrooms and 2 half bathrooms.  Natural light is a priority with plenty of windows on both the front and back of the home.  

Good Drawings Pay for Themselves

People love to share their renovation war stories.  It’s rare to go to a dinner party where guests aren’t commiserating about the cost of construction, delays, and budget woes.  When I hear these things, my first question is, “Did you use an architect?” and the answer is almost always a resounding “no”.  If only they knew how much trouble using an architect could save them.  Construction is not something you can make up as you go along, so a thoughtful and complete plan is a requirement.  

While it may seem optional to hire an architect, the process of working with them will help you save time in the end.  Professional architects and builders are experienced in dealing with local authorities and construction.  Navigating the permitting process to get approvals to build can be tricky, so having someone help you along can greatly reduce those headaches.  

Additionally, an architect will help you make timely and cost-conscious design decisions.  Making choices about everything from faucets to floors up front will help you stay on time and on budget.  Agonizing over a backsplash could cost you a month in construction time by creating an installation scheduling conflict.  Further, blueprints can help you truly visualize all of your design choices and then you can plan the costs accordingly.  A good budget can keep sticker shock at bay.  Finding out your construction loan is inadequate halfway through a project is a recipe for stress.  It’s no fun to live in a house you can’t afford.

The cost of good drawings may seem like a luxury, but I can assure you that they will pay for themselves in the end.  Less stress, quicker construction, and peace of mind are all worth the investment.