-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, November 07, 2004

books about designing a home

We've been reading some books as part of coming up with a design brief for Eric. As part of the initial design phase we get two iterations worth of plans... At the first stage he comes up with a couple of different designs, and then based on our comments he refines that to another design. It's just of the floorplan initially, but even so, it'll be a huge leap forward for us to get that far. To get us off to the best start, however, I'm determined to pull together a detailed brief that captures all our wishes and ideas for the house. It's taking forever to do though!

A big part of it is reading books. Here are some that I've got that are particularly interesting / helpful:

"The Not So Big house" - This was recommended by Eric and it is utterly brilliant. The principles it extolls of designing the house around the way you live are perfect. The followup book "Creating the Not so Big House" is also brilliant

"Pattern Language" - This is apparently a seminal book influencing house design. I'm a little bit bemused by the first half of the book being about designing cityscapes! but it's fascinating still, who would have thought that the decline in quadrangles was a factor behind the decline in little local events like dances, fetes etc. It explains why in Venice, where there are hundreds of little quadrangles, there is such a thriving sense of local community.

"The Organised Home - design solutions for clutter-free living". It's been quite helpful to me in terms of sparking ideas especially at the micro-level. It's also been unintentionally very amusing as well. It is written obviously for the Greenwich Connecticut crowd, there are pages about flower arranging, place settings, hostess gifts, etc. A classic quote: "Note in your household journal any table settings that work. Several months later you may have forgotten how terrific the amethyst wine glasses looked with the ice-blue placemats"!!
I'm also planning to buy the companions to this book, The Healthy Home and The Stress-free Home.

"Introduction to Permaculture" - The basic principles actually make a lot of
sense, although the one worrying thing that from what I've read so far doesn't seem to have been included is the artistic/"look and feel"/design side of things. In that, I don't think if you are really into permaculture you're supposed to care what something looks like, but just rejoice in the fact that it is all being done in line with the principles. Some of the ideas are really cool though, I would never have thought about designing in for the chook house to have airvents that go into the greenhouse, so that their bodyheat and CO2 etc can help keep the plants warm.

"Dream Home" by Mark Wakely - This is a musing about what home is, etc. I read it on the plane and it was a nice light read but interesting. It also sparked ideas I'd not thought of before to input into the brief, like designing in certain things so that when we get old we will be able to easily adapt it for our frailties! For instance, making sure that the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, and if you have an edging in the hallway around waist level (e.g., where you have boards or wallpaper underneath, then an edging, then just paint above) then make the edging bit a little wider than normal so it can double as a handrail if you ever need it.

"A Place of My Own" by Michael Pollan. This one of my all time favourite books. I've read it at least 4 times since it came out and it was what sparked my desire to build my own house. It was also *the* book that made me feel comfortable about the idea of working with an architect, in the sense that it gave me a feel for the kind of contribution that an architect can make. And also a sense of why there can be tensions between architects and builders! The book is about this guy who decides to build a hut in the woods for a study. He had his architect help in the design, and also a friendly builder to help him do the work. The book is partly a journal about the process but it meanders off in all kinds of interesting directions. Like, how he ended up getting the practical design drawings for his in-swinging windows from an old Greene & Greene house design in the Columbia University library because the guy who made the frames remembered once working on a renovation of one of their old houses. It also talks a lot about how architecture has evolved, and the significance of flat roofs and Venturi's gable, etc etc.

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