Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Houses for Better Living (Part Two)

             Part Two continues the list of residential design principles started on part one.

              Houses should have a “narrow”footprint.The idea is that the proper amount
              of light and air get to all the rooms; any wall that is farther than 25 feet
              from a window is too far.
             All “rooms for living” such as living and dining rooms should have two
              ways in and out of them. This will ensure proper circulation when you
              have a party. 
              Grand stairs belong in “Gone with the Wind” Southern mansions. Most
houses do
              not need to express the stair this way; in point of fact, it is fitting to keep it tucked to
              the side since it leads to the private areas of the house. 
Plan of a house designed by David Adler (note stair hall).
Stair hall with stair "tucked to the side"
 Whenever possible, avoid long corridors but, if they cannot be avoided then
              create stopping places along the way for a bench or a “phone table”. In
              tropical climates these corridors used to be on the exterior of the house, so
              they would overlook the lush exterior gardens or patios.  
Visual relief in interior corridor
Exterior corridor provides access to house's rooms
          The “focal point”of a living room or dining room is usually the fireplace;
               whenever possible, the preferred position for a fireplace is on the long walls.
               Where there is no fireplace, the focal point may simply be a view.
               The “focal point” of the kitchen is typically the stove so, make it the center
    piece.
               The “focal point” of the bathroom is typically the vanity so, make it
                prominent.
Kitchen focused on range
Living room focused on fireplace
    Avoid entering bedrooms on the side of the bed. Enter the bedroom
    facing the room so that you can see the totality of the room instead of
    immediately bumping into the biggest piece of furniture right under your
    nose as you walk in.  
Enter the bedroom facing the whole room
Some people compare our present “post-recession” time with the “post-depression” time of the late 1903’s and early 1940’s.  At that time, architecture in the US was beginning to feel the impact of European Modernism but, there were several architects who kept traditional residential architecture alive such as Royal Barry Wills, Dwight James Baum, Cameron Clark, James Robert Cerny, John Straub, Paul R. Williams, and H. Roy Kelley. In1938, the editors of Life magazine sponsored a competition in which they paired four traditional architects with four modernist architects and four real clients.  Royal Barry Wills was paired with Frank Lloyd Wright; Wills won the competition. In a 1946 article on Wills, published in Life magazine, the editors noted (against their own editorial preference) that colonial designs were "excellent utilitarian objects" and were therefore no less rational than any other modernist design of their time.

House floor plan by Royal Barry Wills

House floor plan by Dwight James Baum
Today as before, the “tension” between traditional and modernist design preferences is still very much in the air. The architectural establishment has virtually ignored any recent contribution of traditional architects.  Still, houses, cultural, public, and commercial structures are being built following traditional architectural principles. There are many contemporary designers who claim that innovative designs will contribute to solve our financial woes. There is no doubt that innovation should play a significant role in the solution, but given our human nature to dwell comfortably in rooms, we must also pay attention to time proven principles that focus on the person who occupies the room.



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