November 23, 2014

Envisioning our Modern Nature Home, first meeting with the architect: schematic design

We kicked off our home design process with a meeting of the minds last Friday night. We were asked to prepare in advance a document that would articulate what we want for the look and feel of the house (Vision), the primary materials we want to use, and the living spaces and their functions as we envision them (Program). 

Our vision is this:
A modestly-sized, environmentally sensitive, low-maintenance home that effortlessly integrates into its surroundings. Industrial and natural materials.  
A comfortable—sometimes luxurious—technologically enhanced, light-filled spaced inspired by modern design that melds minimalistic architecture and natural family living in fascinating and surprising ways; a relaxing retreat that invites nature to come inside.  
A floor plan that fosters intimate family interaction, and accommodates larger gatherings for entertaining. Spaces that serve a clear function and purpose. 
Transform the land into a sanctuary for good, easy living that brings us in tune with the river, ourselves, and each other. 
Materials: glass, concrete, wood, metal.

For the Program (a list of every space to be included in the house plan) we drafted detailed descriptions of each room's purpose and the elements we want to incorporate, from the guest bunk room to the vegetable garden and everything in between. 

Right now I'm most excited about the kitchen and project space: 

A chefs workspace with high-end appliances and custom details like a larder, spice drawers, open display shelving, cookbook shelves, ample counter space and storage; room to accommodate lots of cooks and spectators in the kitchen and at the large family-style table. The feel of an eat-in kitchen with an expansive serving table for 12+. Under counter refrigerator and freezer.  
Project Space 
A designated project space that can evolve with the kids’ play/work, and that can serve the adults in the house equally well. Natural light. Multiple work surfaces: work bench, computer/desk counter space, open floor space for working on larger art projects. Wall and shelving display areas for posting ideas, storing art work and 3D representations. Built-ins: book shelves, and other shelving for ease of access and storage of art supplies. Not static. 

We've shared a lot of photos that illustrate the "style" of house that we want, but the schematic design process actually works in reverse order. They will first look at the Program we created and then, taking into consideration many factors from the land (solar orientation, slope, setbacks and easements, etc.), a floor plan will be configured. The floor plan will then dictate the shape of the house, and the exterior elements will come last.

The design process is so interesting!

It's humbling too because while our ideas may be big, our budget will be another factor to help constrain the design. I really love the look of glass-faced fronts but, not only is that impractical for our particular piece of land, it is cost-prohibitive. Same with cantilevered dwellings and concrete floors; they just don't go together unless you have extra money you want to invest in structural support. Getting real about cost and design makes me feel like this is really happening, and the tremendous value of hiring an architect is apparent already.

Based on our Vision, Program, and ideabooks, by early December we should have a few first-draft floor plans that we can begin to work with and refine!


  1. How exciting! With all my friends building cookie cutter beige monster homes in the suburbs, it is way cool to read about truly unique construction that is well planned and individual. Excited to see this unfold.

    1. Thank you so much! We are looking forward to seeing how this process unfolds too, it's like a big surprise what the final design will be! Thanks for reading :)


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