advice on design before meeting with architect

pauladd1963July 31, 2014


We will be meeting with an architect soon, and I would appreciate any ideas you have for our design that he will be creating.

We want to build a 1 1/2 story home - first floor master - 3 bedrooms upstairs. We are empty nesters and plan to live in this house for the next 15 years. We have out of town guests quite a bit - and don't want to put bedrooms in the basement. We plan on living on the first floor - but want the upstairs for guests and grandchildren. Our HOA requires minimum 3000 sq foot for a 1 1/2 story. The subdivision (2 streets - 40 houses total) that we are building in is mostly mid-age adults - with teenage kids. There are not many young children here - as these lots are not conducive to swing sets and trampolines. The homes were built between 2005 and 2011. The lot is a walkout - many trees in back within a protection zone - prohibiting tree cutting. There are several 1 1/2 stories in this neighborhood.

My main goal is to create a design that will stand the test of time - a classic design. I know the words timeless and classic can cause some controversy on this board - but for lack of better terms I must use it - and apologize in advance. We want to design something transitional - leaning more toward traditional than contemporary. I do want the great room open to the kitchen. I have had this arrangement in my last 4 houses and it works well for me. I will also have a formal dining room - I know these are falling by the wayside - but I have my grandparents dining room set and it will always be in my home! Another component that is not negotiable is an office. I work from home and need a dedicated space devoted to my work. We will be incorporating many aging in space ideas.

I would really appreciate any ideas from you all - on tips/designs that will be somewhat timeless. I have included a photo below - with a facade that we hoped to use as inspiration. (This home is NOT in our subdivision.) I think I began seeing the prevalent use of this design around our area in the 90's. We would use light stone and stucco (stucco is big in the midwest) with black shutters and door.

I know that one should not build a house for the next buyer - but just trying come up with something that will appeal to as many as possible when we go to sell - from an investment standpoint.

Please -what are your thoughts? Do you feel this type/style facade is a safe bet for us, based on above? Any advice - suggestions - in both the exterior and interior design will be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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Your question is a common one and an important one: what advice before meeting with an architect.

As a retired architect, my suggestion is to prepare a written list, for which you and your spouse fully agree, that includes: 1) your Needs; 2) your Wants. Needs are very different from wants, so be sure you understand and agree on the two categories.

If you have important furniture, fixtures or equipment that you want to include in the new design, identify them and their dimensions as part of your written list.

After that, there's really nothing else that a consumer can usefully do. Your photo above, for example, is just a common builder's house, which resembles every other builder's house across the U.S. It doesn't help an experienced and creative architect, except to forewarn them that they have a creative challenge ahead.

You must communicate your interests and aesthetic tastes to your architect, but after that allow her/him to use their own experience and ability to explore early, schematic designs with you and your spouse to arrive at an agreeable design to pursue and finalize.

Many consumers make a major mistake by taking photographs (like yours) to the architect and, from the beginning, limit the architect's ability to create something responsive and unique to your needs, site and budget. I hope you (and others reading this) are interested in maximizing what your architect can provide for you.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:30PM
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The lot is a walkout - many trees in back within a protection zone - prohibiting tree cutting.

What do you mean by this? At first I thought you meant it had a slope and would be a good fit for a house with a walkout basement, but you did not indicate that you plan on having a basement.

I agree with Virgil's advice above.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Virgil - thank you for your comments - they are all well taken. I will certainly rely on the architect's skills and expertise. The photo I included was mostly for an idea of what my husband and I both agree on as far as our tastes in a facade. The homes in our subdivision are all custom designed - but generally follow a cohesive look. I was hoping to get from a designer or architect - such as yourself - what is felt as a "classic" design - that won't scream a particular decade some years from now. That may be a silly question - sorry.

I will certainly convey all of this to our architect and he will have advice for us. Do you have any opinions on 1 1/2 story designs - other than cap cods? Thank you again for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it.

Dekeobe - sorry I was not clear. The back of our lot is wooded and the trees there are part of a no build-no cutting zone. The lot is sloped - pretty decent slope actually, and we will have a walk out basement. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:35PM
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Pauladd, thanks for taking my comments in the spirit in which they were offered.

1 1/2 story designs are possible in a wide range of historical and "modern" design idioms. It's really up to you and your spouse and your architect to explore and find what works best for you. Focusing on some predetermined design idiom before you even meet your architect is probably shortsighted and self-defeating, limiting the creative exploration that makes custom home design fun, rewarding and responsive to your particular situation.

That said, don't worry: there are many, many ways to design a 1 1/2 story home that will be enduring and timeless, if you and your architect communicate and work well together.

You will get some useful comments here, but your most important (and enjoyable) conversations will be those with you, your spouse and architect.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:05PM
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