Read part 1 here
We all know how bad it is for our sleep to watch TV before bedtime. We associate the bed with Netflix binging. Blue light messes up our brain waves. It's plain bad. Yet we do it out of habit, like the automated monkeys we are. Ask yourself: do you really need one? If you do, you are welcome to it. Just make sure it's a conscious choice, not a reflex.
- Morning rituals
All the things we do before the children wake up and the day starts. For years Alex used to make coffee in bed for us. It was our morning ritual. You might have tea and the newspaper on a wicker chair. You might do Yoga and meditation. Journaling.
Imagine the space that would accommodate that activity and incorporate it into your design. You might end up placing it outside the bedroom and that's fine too. Or you might not have morning rituals in which case, you're probably an alien.
- Placement of the mighty bed
Fengshui will probably tell you that the bed must be head towards the East, or the North. I have slept in countless places in my digital nomad life. I never noticed a difference in my head position relative to the equator. If you feel the need to use that, go ahead. Another feature stands more prominently on my priority list with regards to the bed: the door. Our ancestral brain needs to know where danger is at all times. Standing with our back to the entrance makes us feel vulnerable. The same goes for desks or reading lounges.
I think that's about it. If course this list is far from …
The bedroom is one of those essentially "yours" spaces in a home.
It's funny because, not so long ago, it used to be a pile of straw on the floor in the main room. People all slept in one big room, the same room where they spent their days as well. The one room of the house. It was easier to heat, of course, and furniture was still a sort of foreign concept. Instead, the room was empty in the middle and chairs or benches were stuck to the walls.
We now have the luxury of private sleeping areas and we should make the most of it.
Master bedrooms with en suite bathroom and dressing room can be pretty cool. So can tiny den-like sleeping spaces with a fantastic view. Let's see which combination might fit you.
Here are some things to consider when designing your own bedroom.
It is one of the nicest things to start your day with. Seeing the sun getting ready for the day at the same time as me puts me in a good mood for the whole day.
You want to know where to place you bedroom windows so as to get the most out of the East morning view as possible. That means placing the bedroom on the East side of the house obviously, as well as placing the windows in such a way as to see the sun in most of the years' mornings. Note that from December to June, the sun moves a lot. A North-East view will let you see the sunrise in June, but it will be at five am! South-East is where Sun rises in the winter months at 7-8 AM. Of course, you can have windows on two sides, which …
We wake up in the morning a bit too late. Alex gets the dogs for a morning walk, while I am left to my own devices, free to ritualize at my own pace. As any new-agey intellectual, I know all about the benefits of a good morning routine. If Tim Feriss does it, it must be good, right? So I start off with a cold shower, which, you will say, does not go well with my personality. Well, it doesn't, but I try nonetheless, and it really perks me up to start the day with something that requires so much willpower. Next up, sports, meditation, journaling, writing, the list could go on until noon! What could I integrate in my home design to accommodate this lengthy (and frankly, mostly imaginary) process of self betterment? Maybe make the uneasy parts a little easier, add new potential to parts that work?
Habits form by triggering. Take a look at Charles Duhigg. He says that the loop of habit formation is: cue, routine, reward. So a sequence of triggers that keep us on track would be a good starting point. Something inviting, than lures us into doing the routine. That would be reinforced by a space that makes the routine as pleasant as possible and finally by a soothing space to get your reward.
If it's morning showers, the trigger is just waking up, so that's easy. You might consider having a well-lit, large shower, with a view to the outside, like an inside garden filled with plants. I know, it sounds dorky and expensive at the same time, but trust me, thinking stuff ahead …
Blessed are the souls who build in the tropics! For they do not know the contradictions we face up North.
Features that will help against the summer heat will hinder the fight against the cold. Obviously. The only help we have is the Sun, gracefully changing angles as the seasons move. In following that change, we can use it and have unmovable features of the house change their use as the Sun moves. A classic: eaves just big enough to let the sun in when it's low in the sky and keep the sun out when it's high.
But there are other things that can't change behavior as easily. Big windows and openings will loose heat in the winter no matter what. West facing windows that are great for wintery afternoons will for sure transform your living room into an oven in August at the same time of day.
A way I can think of to combat this is flexibility. Having elements that you can adapt to the situation. Even better, elements that adapt themselves, depending on smart sensor readings. Shutters that close themselves when it's getting under a certain temperature. Vertical louvers that move with the sun. Like thermostats but better.
We now have the technology to do all of this in the blink of an eye. We can even control air humidity and purity, lights, hot water, and give you all the stats on your phone. I love all of this, even though I see the loss of poetry that we risk in going too far.
I read a while ago a beautiful book called Ritual House and the little magic of houses swaying with the …
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 3
Now this is South-facing window 2.0. The idea of having a space that heats up in the winter sun but protects you from the wind and the cold air is just mouth-watering. Big bonus, you can have plants and veggies growing in there as well, all year in most climates! A passive greenhouse is a windowed-up space that is stuck to the walls of the house (or half-buried in the ground) so that the mass of the walls gives heat back to the space and helps keep steady temperatures. South-facing, obviously, as you would need to get the most exposure as possible. Though recent studies try to explain to us that lack of sun exposure is not the depression-causing villain we thought it was, I still firmly believe that a well positioned passive greenhouse can be the bringer of many winter joys. If you have space, bring that daybed in here, along with books, a desk, and WiFi, and you will not come out of there until the end of March.
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 2
Brace yourself for the ABC of bio-climatic design: Face your living area spaces facing the sun, to soak up all the heat you can during the day. Add an eave above the said windows, long enough to block the sun in the summer as it goes higher and higher in the sky. Do not forget to place a comfortable day bed or armchair for reading right where the sun hits in the mornings when you want to read your paper, or in the afternoons for when you will be sipping tea. Otherwise, the whole thing was for nothing, in my opinion. Maybe your living room will have a fantastic view of the sunset, or maybe, like in my case with cold afternoons, you only have the mornings to rely on. So plan ahead, and design your February sunbathing into the space. You will thank me later.
Lets be frank: a sunshine-less house is just depressing. I've lived for two winters in a house in the middle of the forest. It was niched along a valley and had a big hill in front. That wasn't a problem in the autumn when we arrived, as the hill was far away enough that the sun was passing right above it. But by the time December came, the sun started disappearing sooner and sooner behind the hill. "One day, S said, we shall go on that hill and scrape the top of it off!" We were a sad bunch, all of us, huddled around the stove, heating ourselves up in this darkness of the winter afternoon that was our alone. Because the rest of the houses, while few, were all either to the left of the hill, or to the right, or above it. So the darkness was ours and ours alone.
The big hill was just high enough and close enough for the winter sun to hide behind it for two months, starting from about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This meant that our stone house, which was supposed to soak up the afternoon heat and give it back to us gradually throughout the night, keeping us warm, well, didn't. We were chasing the sun all mornings, and longing for it all afternoons. One day I was contemplating the warm rays of sun disappearing from sight and leaving me cold and lonely and swore I shall never have another human being endure such a trauma!
So here I am, evangelist of the January sunshine, preaching those who will listen about the countless ways (well, …
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 4
Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" is a big promoter of placing windows on two sides of rooms. His argument was that light coming from at least two sides opens up a room and changes the atmosphere completely. It is certainly true that well lit rooms are great to live in, but it is hard enough to give all rooms good window space, let alone on two-sides! But Alexander is adamant about it: "This pattern, perhaps more than any other single pattern determines the success or failure of a room". Y
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: bonus
You are the one designing your own house and every design and layout decision must be driven by context. As long as you remember basic principles and manage to avoid common traps, you are truly free to do whatever you want and that’s the beauty of designing your own house. The trick is always to imagine the flow of the actions taking place in the space. They are the ones who will determine the layout. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to book a one-on-one session of permarchitecture with me. It will save you tons of time, money and stress, I promise. And it's fun too!
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 9
Now, with social distancing and working from home becoming the norm, a new name has been added to the list of essentials: "the home office". Some love it, some hate it, but for a lot of us, home offices are here to stay, along with entertainment use of the computer instead of the old TV/couch/coffee table trio. This space need not be enormous or have a room of its own. But it does need to feature the possibility of privacy and silence, and decent background for video calls. The rest depends on each of us and our own workflow.