Quality vs. Quantity
Though “budget” has always been a key element in the home design process, it has risen to the forefront today more than ever before. This is due to a combination of the slowdown in our economy and an overall shift toward a “greener,” more environmentally conscience, less wasteful mindset. To design in today’s conditions, we design around a homeowner’s lifestyle, letting that lifestyle drive and prioritize the process. We start defining the key, functional spaces by assessing how family members use various spaces and what is important for the family—a common gathering space, cooking, dining, doing homework, relaxing. We extend that to how space is used beyond the immediate family—for entertaining, for occasional guests or for more permanent guests, like live-in in-laws.
What we find is that most “living” is done from a central location: a well-designed kitchen with easy access and openness to spaces for eating, conversation and entertainment space, along with access to outdoor spaces. We see a trend toward reverse story-and-a-half plans (master bedroom on the main floor with secondary bedrooms in the lower level, as opposed to on the second floor), which allow for efficient use of space yet are more economical to build than their story-and-a-half counterparts since no second floor has to be built. And we see a trend toward outdoor living spaces with primary, direct access from the main living level, not from a walk-out or lower level. Traditional spaces like formal living rooms and even formal dining rooms are not oft-used space and as such are being removed from the design to save cost and to use the space for other, more functional space.
In this “other, more functional space” category, the growing trend is to use that space for a guest suite or second master suite on the main level. Whether it is for the comfort of a sick or sleepless spouse, to house elderly parents or to accommodate guests or disabled family members, this trend is becoming more popular. As such, guest suite space is being substituted for other, more traditional spaces so that the addition of a guest suite does not increase the size of the home’s footprint.
In an attempt to squeeze effectiveness out of a smaller home footprint, we also have taken a look at using typically unused structures for functional use. Areas under a home’s garage floor and under a home’s front porch, while part of a home’s footprint complete with foundation walls, traditionally are filled in with dirt before the concrete garage floor or porch is poured. In most cases, it is, relatively speaking, a very inexpensive proposition to instead “suspend” the garage or porch floor, creating usable space below. The space can serve as storage, wine cellar, workshop, home theater, etc., with the point being it is space that then doesn’t otherwise have to be added elsewhere in the home’s design.
A final cost-saving measure taken in today’s design is what we refer to as “the big shrink.” Once the main floor’s footprint is defined, including rooms, their orientation to each other and initial room size, this process begins. The architect will look for places to remove excess square footage. A snip of six inches here, a slice of two feet there, and “the big shrink” is on. What we typically will do is a modest “shrink,” followed by ever-more aggressive space cuts. We then present each to the homeowner in the form of a revised floor plan until the homeowner “feels” the pain of the shrinking activity. This point varies for many homeowners, but typically we are able to remove at least 10 percent of the footprint size by performing this step. We focus this “big shrink” on the main level footprint since that footprint defines the space that will be available for lower level and second-floor spaces.
Whatever the means—foregoing traditional spaces like a formal living room, creatively using space under a garage or going through “the big shrink”—there is no doubt today’s home design is geared toward quality space, not quantity. As you look to design your custom home, work with your builder, architect and designer to employ these ideas. Your pocketbook will be happy you did!
Stay tuned to our blog as many of the ideas introduced in the above topic will be explored in more detail in blog posts throughout the Outdoor Living Show Home project. And click here to learn the specifics of how the homeowners of the Outdoor Living Show Home applied the above principles to the design of their home.