Intro to Design

A Home Designed Just For You


When it comes time to design your home there are a number of things to take into consideration. Here is a general overview of some things you may want to think about.

When picking the location of your house it is important to take a look at your entire site and how it already functions. Designing your home to be in communication with the land is an important first step in building a highly functional and comfortable home.
Here are a few things to think about when choosing the location of your structure:

  • Spend some time observing the course of the sun, the prevailing rains and wind, and the slopes of the terrain. This will be the biggest influence when it comes to designing for passive solar efficiency.
  • Don’t choose the best place on the land. This will inevitably cause that magical place to disappear under the structure. Instead, reserve this place as a natural area or for an outdoor sitting area. Choose one of the least attractive places to clear and build your home, making that place more functional.
  • Consider location and distance to services if you are going to be on the grid or tie into the grid. It can become costly and unsightly to run long distances of cables to your new home.
  • Leave room for expansion! Plan where the future expansions may go and leave room around your house for them. You don’t want to find out you need another bedroom off the East but there is not enough land there.
  • Plot your zones. Do a simple bubble map of different land uses and how close or far from the house those activities need to be. Plot areas such as your garden, shed, outdoor entertainment, and so on.
  • Map where the natural flow of traffic is. See where you naturally feel comfortable walking and what natural landmarks you may wish to form paths to. If possible, allow well used animal paths to go undisturbed.

Designing the actual structure comes after the location of your house has been selected. This should be a very personal process and is not a good step to rush. There are a number of books available that can help guide you along this journey. A favourite among natural builders is A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.
Here are some highlights that are good to keep in mind when designing the layout of your home:

  • Work with a designer or well experienced builder. They can help ensure that your plans are feasible and help keep them within budget.
  • Prepare for expansion. Build what you need now, and plan where any expansions may go later. This will help you build within your budget rather than needing to take out a huge mortgage for that huge house that you only use 1/3rd of. Planning will also save a lot in renovation costs by having your walls pre-prepped for such work.
  • Think about aspects of other places that you have been that you have enjoyed or not. Those that you have liked can help you create places in your own home that feel good and comfortable. Avoiding things you have seen that you have not liked will keep unpleasant elements out of your own space.
  • Utilize the observations you made of where the sun shines and of other natural influences. Welcome the sun from the South, insulate against the cold from the North, place bedrooms on the East to wake up with the morning sun and keep a comfortable temperature in the evenings, and place areas that you use in the evenings on the West to get that nice evening sun.
  • Windows are important. Having windows on a minimum of two of each room’s walls adds comfort and flow to each space. Think about the size and location of each window carefully. A
  • Build outside the box. Give your home flow and charm by building with curves or offsetting the rooms. Build in little nooks, window seats, or other outcroppings.
  • Design around the activities you do in your home, not around the rooms you think are standard. If you are an artist, and don’t watch TV, maybe an art room is more appropriate than your typical ‘living’ room. If you like to entertain, plan for a large open space where people can gather easily.

Last comes all the little details. These are easy to get lost in when the finishing work starts. Think about the decorations you may want, sculptures on walls, custom made built-in art pieces, furniture and the like. Keep a theme in mind, at least per room if not throughout the entire house, and that will help keep the little things on track.

Most importantly is to have FUN. Designing and building your own home, regardless of materials, should be a fun and rewarding experience. How many times do you recon you are going to get to do this? Take your time and slow down if you feel things are getting out of your hands or you stop having FUN.