Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Psychological Home Design

A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution

We have been designing several remodels lately and my clients will tell me that they just need more space. What most of them need is to use the space that they have more effectively. I have also seen houses that are for sale sitting for long periods of time in neighborhoods where homes have been selling because of these same old dated floor plans. I read an article the other day about what the most important item that potential home buyers are looking for in a house. I was pleased to see that the number one answer was a well designed floor plan. A house that is properly designed for proper site orientation is important, but having it custom designed to how a modern family will live in it will be incredible.

If we look at older house floor plans we will notice that homes were designed for a more formal lifestyle. Let’s look at society in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was commonplace for men to wear a suit and fedora to watch live sporting events. The men were usually the bread winners and worked from eight to five during the week. Women generally stayed home to take care of the children and the cooking and cleaning duties. Children had no reason to play in the house and were generally spending their leisure time outside. Typically, the women stayed in the kitchen which was segregated from the parlor or formal living room, where the men usually gathered. These floor plans were specifically designed to section off certain activities, custom made for the lifestyles of the day.

What you may or may not have noticed is that most of today’s houses have these similar design traits. Our houses still have formal living rooms and formal dining rooms, large soaking tubs in the master bath and segregated kitchens. Our lifestyles however have completely changed. Both spouses generally work full time jobs that spill into our home lives and usually share the household chores. Our children would rather stay inside and play video games than ride their bikes down to the park. Not to mention that because each household has several vehicles, most of the parks are within driving distance rather than safe biking distance. Today the only person at a live sporting event with a suit on is an NBA basketball coach or the players as they enter or exit the locker room.

Over the years I hear the same things from most of my clients when I ask them what they don’t like about their existing house. The number one answer is that they only use their formal dining room on holidays or special events. They eat and then immediately leave the room and gather in the kitchen or living room. This is a wasted room in a house because of the room’s psychology. The formal dining room is usually at the front of the house, open to the foyer with a small door to the kitchen or butlery. It normally overlooks the driveway or the street front. As people with generally informal lifestyles, we want to be in open spaces where we can multitask and interact with our families. We want to watch television while we clean the kitchen and help our children with their homework. To go hand and hand with the formal dining room concept we still have a separate breakfast room for everyday eating and usually a raised bar for even more informal dining. That’s three places in our home to eat. I guess that this is how was decided to get the best of both worlds. So now we have two informal dining areas and a formal dining room only for special occasions or because (and I love this one) it’s needed for resale, through years and years of brainwashing. Depends of who is buying I guess; Eisenhower’s - Definitely, Baby Boomers - Maybe, Gen X - Not really, and Gen Y - No Way.

1 comment:

  1. Love how you crossed the evolution part. Indeed it was an evolution, then total revolution of custom home building, mostly because of the implementation of energy efficient products, and the ability to personalize the house however the owner wants. More and more people buy custom new homes Toronto nowadays just for these very reasons, but also to fulfill their dream of having a home that fits like a glove.