Monday, May 4, 2015

Discovering Our House Design Philosophy

Long before we secured our piece of paradise on a mountainside in New Hampshire, D and I talked abut building a home for life in our sixties and on.

I borrowed books from the library on house plans and D poured over layouts online that are searchable by key words. Fueled with our separate researches we started taking about our ideal house. Open floor plan; no walls between kitchen, dining, and living areas. No need for a formal, separate dining room that won’t get used except on “special” occasions. Every meal is a celebration. Friends and family want to be in the kitchen where the action is and with two cooking or prepping at a time, there’s lots of action. A mud room (mud season is the fifth season in NH and it’s going on right now) is essential and the place for boots, hats, and scarves; and should have plenty of storage and room for the freezer and laundry. A walk in pantry. (I make a mean sauerkraut and tasty dill pickles.) A first-floor master suite with huge walk-in shower and his and hers sinks. The list got long. We didn’t find a plan that came even close to what we wanted—a house to fit our needs not require us to change to accommodate some architect’s idea of how we should live.

When we stumbled upon a design book (not a book of house plans) in the library called The Not So Big House we felt we had met a kindred spirit. Sarah Susankah’s 1998 book, subtitled A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live, is based on the philosophy that a house should be designed for how people live, not some preconceived notion of size. The Not-So-Big House is better rather than bigger, with attention to details, and, most importantly consideration of its specific inhabitants, not future resale value. Gone is the idea of the house as a series of separate rooms. (Really, breakfast nook, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room? A living room and a family room? All that duplication just doesn’t make sense today.)  

We now had our philosophy to guide all design decisions—function comes first. D started sketching spaces, floor plans, many iterations of how we want to live and how our house would serve us. He also, it turns out, is quite adept at visualizing roof lines. We would have find an architect to help us realize our vision, not one who dictated a lifestyle to us. That turned out to take time and (only) one major misstep.

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