Articles tagged "tricks"

Hallways, hallways, hallways

Placing spaces in relation to one another is the main purpose of a house layout. A good layout is therefore one in which the best use of these relationships is made. Imagine:

When coming home with groceries, the path to the fridge and pantry should be minimal. You would also benefit from having a countertop to place the groceries and sort through them. You would need to be able to get to wash your hands first as well. All of these little actions have there own flow and this flow can be smooth and elegant or it can make you run around the kitchen table four times looking for a towel and then making marathon races to the car back and forth tripping on the bags you already brought in but left in the hallway. Which leads me to the most useful tip on the list: kill hallways. Avoid hallways in your layout like the plague. They are expensive, inelegant and dull ways of fixing bad layouts and nothing more. That does not mean you should enter bedrooms directly from the living room of course, or that your dirty rain boots should sit next to the sofa. But avoid filling mismatched rooms with windowless hallways, they make for dark undefined spaces. If you must have a hallway, try to make it into a proper lounge or parlour, with two small armchairs and maybe some bookshelves, and don’t forget about sunlight.

10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 6


First-time modern home builders soon realize that, while their spaces look great, they have nowhere to put stuff. From Le Corbusier's first fancy modern buildings until today, the problem of home storage has been avoided by architects in favor of sleek design. Apart from basic usage areas like kitchen, sitting area, office, every house needs those additional spaces specifically purposed for storage. Built-in storage is also a great way to avoid hallways. Any mismatch in the way walls meet up can become the perfect storage room. But watch out, built-in storage becomes a fixed feature of the room: try to keep your layout flexible enough that you can still use the room if its function changes.

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.

10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 10


This entry is by far the less glamorous: pipes are noisy and expensive to repair. So make them short, accessible and far away from beds. A good trick is to stick kitchen and bathroom walls together and have a single inlet of water in between. That can be your technical space too, so while you're at it, make it accessible from outside. Place the bedroom toilet WC on a different wall than the bed, to avoid waking up in the middle of the night every time somebody flushes the toilet.

10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 7


Surprisingly many houses lack a downstairs bathroom. A friend's mom fell and broke her hip, she had to pee in a bucket for a month before they installed an elevator (yes, an elevator). It is a big problem with contemporary housing, as it is very hard to fix a toilet-lacking plan (elevator). This tip is a reminder to prepare for uncertainty and to not take decisions assured that things will always be as they are right now. We get old, we break legs, we fall ill, pandemics happen. What doesn't change is our need for toilets. Or does it?

10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 8


One of the main reasons for people selling their houses is the fact that the space has become inadequate. If only a couple of years ago, this house was a perfect fit, today you have kids, the kids have grown up and need more space, or they are adults now and left, or mom with a broken hip moved in , or… The list goes on. To take advantage of your house for the longest time possible, think about the evolution opportunities of the space from the get-go. Also, try to keep your rooms as flexible as possible. The same should go for individual rooms and for whole buildings. We can make our spaces adaptable, able to change along with their users, and that's the most sustainable thing we can do. Find the smallest changes needed to keep existing rooms usable, not scratch and start anew every time there is a change in context.

10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 3


A deep analysis of the site not only gives you clues about the orientation and bio-climatic techniques to follow. It also gives you good guidelines about where the other elements of your household can be placed. You'll say that garden, greenhouse, summer kitchen (ah yes, those lovely summer kitchens), garage, tools shed, all of these elements could very well be placed anywhere. But when they are well placed, they get so interconnected with the interior space and with each other that you wonder how on earth things could ever have been placed otherwise!

It's worth it to take the time on these details.


10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 2


Advancements in technology have lately made it possible for humans to bypass most of the natural building constrictions. If only a couple of decades ago, a harsh environment would have deterred us from building altogether on a specific site, today we can do almost anything anywhere. And it is almost the definition of our times that we are global. What works for you must work for me and what works here is bound to work there. And this is the way architecture had been made for generations. This does not mean we should disconsider the environment when we design. Bio-climatic design harnesses age-old sets of techniques for embracing and responding to the local environment. Much of the world's vernacular architecture responded to the regional climate, like heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, looking for the sun rays and avoiding the cold winds. What makes a house comfortable year-round depends on the specificity of the place. The basic layout of the building emerges from the questions you ask the land. Take a look at the Permarchitecture Site Analysis Checklist. You can find it here.

One thing that happens often when adding a loft or a mezzanine is this: you bang your head at the top of the stairs.  It's a thing that even architecture students do. You forget the difference in height when passing from one space to the other and it's usually at this change of heights that problems appear. Of course this is more the case of sloped roofed houses, not flat ones, though if there's is a change in roof height, you can get fooled there too.  The trick is to always always draw the section of the staircase when drafting a plan. Once you're aware of this mistake, you can easily self-correct.  Often, people lose sight of elements of the design that are important. It's only natural. Keeping your eyes open for forgotten details is the best way to avoid banging your head.

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!

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