What is home design and what does it actually mean to design a home?
Is the role of an architect to focus on fulfilling the brief and accommodate the requirements given by the client according to his/her best ability? Or is the role of the architect to take a brief and focus on creating the most extraordinary and brave design possible, a design that screams of unique touches and features?
Depending on the circumstances an architect should be able to do both of these things. Creativity can demonstrate itself in many different ways in architectural design.
Home design – The art of the invisible
Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) by Bill Dunster Architects. Photography by Flora Cselovszki. Example of 50 square metre studio flat. Environmental principles for a small flat that is designed to maximise the available floor space, views and light.
You might find yourself walking in a rather small and modest house that instantly makes you feel at home, the spaces seem to flow, there is a clear sense of orientation even if you have never stepped in this house before, and if you happen to look carefully you will probably find lots of storage space hidden away from view in the most surprising of places.
It is very likely that this house has been designed or extended with the help of an architect. The rooms are organised according to personal habits and are tailor-made almost to a particular lifestyle and needs. The intention is not to attract attention to design features and focal points; the focus has been on finding ways to come up with a sensible and considering solution. It is a harmonious and well thought-through home because lots of effort and skill has been put into it in an almost invisible way.
But would you consider it as a “designed home”? Would you instantly recognise it as the work of an architect or home designer?
While studying architecture I was under the impression that the larger the house is the more complicated it is to design it well and use the space creatively. After I started working on real projects I realized the completely opposite is true.
The smaller the space is the more problems you encounter when you look to accommodate very similar human needs and habits; and this is more true when one deals with existing houses or flats. Every little change has a domino-like effect and some houses are not very flexible in accommodating change.
I realized that it takes a lot of effort and a set of very creative problem solving skills to deal with smaller houses and spaces. An architect or home designer will always have to take on additional design challenges when he or she looks to extend an existing house or flat and this is often the case when designing home extensions to Victorian houses or garden flats in London.
Home design – The art of the visible
Sliding House by dRMM Architects.Photography and project credits: dRMM Architects.
Then you see these one-off, look-at-me houses that appear to make a design statement and often scream of design uniqueness and possibly of a high budget too. One does not have to be a professional to know that a structure like that was most probably designed by an architect. What makes these houses so obvious attractive?
I guess it is easy to recognize the braveness and technical knowledge that only an experienced designer would dare to demonstrate and know how to use. The advantage an architect has is based on the acquired ability he or she has to find design opportunities, to confidently think outside the box in order to express individuality, and to always be fully aware of which problems can or cannot be tackled in an unusual way.
This is achieved through playing with the possibilities of the structure and construction, through the use of materials and finishes, and with playing with ways to engage senses by combining functions and activities that a client would not initially think of. Architecture can provide the most private and safe spaces, or it can move you out of your comfort zone completely and stimulate your mind. Both outcomes can be very rewarding, especially if they can be combined in some genius way.
These architectural touches and, what would most people call, iconic gestures are certainly not necessary if the question is how to design habitable spaces to offer protection from the weather elements; and almost in all cases these design gestures come at an additional cost. Yet they are the manifestation of a creative, daring and honest collaboration between the client, the designer, the engineer and of course the bank manager; they are pushing design boundaries and allow geometry, an aesthetic or a sense of wonder to turn home design into a special journey.
The architect as a home designer
Whatever the approach might be, the designer should never lose sight of the original brief which often asks the creation of a home for the client. If you end up with a house that gives you exactly what you wanted yet so much more, and if it is a design that you would never have thought of yet all your requirements have been satisfied then your architect did the job well.
There is little point in arguing which of the two approaches to home design is the right one as they have very different aims, budgets, and focus as they respond to different types of requirement. It is fair to say that both design approaches require absolute dedication by the home designer.
Architecture can be a very visible and a very subtle art too. First impressions do matter but never trust them to say the full story. Italo Calvino called his recollections of Venice as “Invisible Cities” and got Marco Polo to tell the tales of cities that never existed but cities everyone still knew of. Home design is about the things that matter, even when they happen not to be visible all of the time.
GOAStudio – London residential architecture: We specialise in well designed home extensions, alterations and remodelling to houses and flats; this includes rear extensions, side and side returns, roof extensions, loft conversions and alterations to residential terraced (Victorian and Georgian), semi-detached and detached properties. George Omalianakis is a chartered architect with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB); as an architect he is legally obliged to carry professional indemnity insurance for the benefit of his clients. Google.