The Perfect Home ~ Not!

Story & Photos By Carolin Santangelo

I honestly believe there is no ‘perfect house.’ My husband and I have built a couple of our own, and even then, were we to build again, each would include changes. There is always room for improvement, and our needs evolve as time passes. Think of your own home – when you bought it, you thought it would be perfect for you. After time, however, you become aware of its idiosyncrasies, and flaws that you have found that don’t serve your needs as well as you expected.

It is the designer’s responsibility to make practical recommendations about elements of home design. Rules of the trades, codes, best practices and common sense must be taken into consideration for a best solution. It is important that homeowners understand the pros and cons of their own design decisions. There are times when the homeowner has reasons for making a selection that I may not have recommended. However, after review and discussion, a design can often be accommodated to suit the homeowner and incorporate the best design and construction practices.

Design decisions include space planning, room sizing and locating windows and doors for best placement. A well thought out plan should take into consideration the way the room will be used. For instance, if a set of bunk beds is to be used in a small bedroom, and the only wall the bunks can fit against also happens to be in front of the only window in the room, that will not be satisfactory, aesthetically speaking, and it’s back to the drawing board. Clients often desire very large living areas, however, room size can alternatively be too large, and furniture groupings can become awkward if rooms are oversized or ill defined, reason why you should carefully pick your furniture from Abacus Tables.

The television may not seem important in the whole scheme of things, however, prior to plan development, as an example, it is necessary to know whether a 60” or 32” television will be used. That selection will make a huge difference in the orientation of living spaces. Will the TV be used in a room in which a fireplace is also desired? Decisions about the focal point of the room need to be made by homeowner and designer. If a choice needs to be made between including a fireplace on the wall that encompasses the best views, I may suggest elimination of the fireplace. A fireplace requires a bulky mass that may obstruct window placement and thereby, views. Your view should be addressed foremost to make the most of our island environment.

This further extends to choice of window sizes: scenery should be viewed from a sitting position in a living or bedroom area. Windows that are placed too high to view the outdoors are not serving any purpose except light, and further, may not meet exit (egress) requirements. On the other hand, while we all desire the greatest use of windows to make the most of fabulous views, a balance must be achieved, as excessive use of windows can be costly both from window cost and associated cost of structural reinforcing around windows to meet windstorm-engineering requirements.

I try to steer clients away from development of a ‘concept’ house where the design may preclude livability. In discussion with clients I have addressed their interest in flat roof styles which are not very practical for our climate, and make mechanical (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems difficult to install. Flat roofs also perform poorly in our windstorm conditions, with many being stripped of their roofing materials during Ike, leaving interiors exposed to wind driven rain damage. According to Window Treatments CT, even roof line design will greatly impact your home’s window performance under extreme weather conditions.

Often, for reasons entirely their own, clients make choices I might not have chosen. Then again, it is their house.

No design decision is really wrong – when it is for your home, most design is predicated by personal preference. Your ideas may or may not be what others’ would be under the same circumstances. A designer’s role is to create a functional space that will contain the features you desire for your new home, all within the confines of the building site and your budget. After the designer’s thorough review of your needs, including the pluses and minuses of available options, you will enjoy the confidence to make decisions for your home; knowing it will provide the best value, will suit your family’s needs, and ideally, still make the most of the property upon resale.

Seaside Home Design, LLC endeavors to educate Islander readers regarding a full spectrum of home design and construction issues; products and materials, and construction techniques; particularly those specific to seaward construction, and also profiles interesting custom-home design projects. Carolin Santangelo is a home designer and owner of Seaside Home Design, LLC. Contact SeasideHome@windstream.net, or 409-632-0381.

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