It might look effortless on TV or in magazine, but when it comes to making your own home a place that delight you, you'll quickly discover there are lots of things you need to know that require skills and trainings. Although architects and interior designers have special knowledge that could help you.
What's needed is a look inside the architect's 'toolbox' - the principles architects use to sculpt space and light, to imbue their creations with a sense of order. So they turn basic square into footage and volume - exceptional living space.
First of all there are principles having to do with space - with how volume can be shaped, molded and divided to give you a particular kind of spatial experience. For example, most of homes have ceilings that are all one height. There might be a cathedral ceiling in the living room, but other than that, the ceiling are all a standard 8 ft. 9 ft. high - which can be pretty monotonous. The principle called Ceiling Height Variety explains how you can vary the heights of parts of room, as well as the heights of parts of rooms, as well as the connections between space, to define one activity place from another, without resorting to solid walls. This results in a house that's more open from place to place but that also has a greater sense of intimacy to it. So the whole house ends up feeling more comfortable.
One of the most important things to understand here is that we experience space not so much by quantity alone, but by the interconnections between one chunk of space and another. When space is divided into discrete but visible areas, our senses tell us there's more there.
The second category in the architect's toolbox is light. In many ways we take light for granted. We put windows and skylight into the interior of a house. And we scatter light fixtures around to provide artificial light for the places and times of day when and where daylight isn't available. But if you've been to a truly beautifully designed building, you may have noticed that the lighting gives the structure an almost transcendent quality. It not enlivens the space but somehow draws attention to the surfaces of the building in a way that makes you want to explore it more.
Light is great animator of space, and when placed with an artist's eye, it can make even a simple square room into a place you'll enjoy being in. It doesn't require a big budget to transform a very plain structure into a visual feast, just by understanding where to locate windows and light fixtures for maximum effect. For example, if you place a window or skylight directly adjacent to a perpendicular wall, the entire space is flooded with daylight, giving it a brighter, cheerier feel. This is the principle called Reflecting Surfaces, and it's a valuable tool in enlivening even the simplest of structures.
The third category is what architects refer to as order. This simply means the way in which the elements in a design are arranged to give it an identity all its own. The room shown below, for example, illustrates a couple of principles relating to order. In terms of Alignments, the room is symmetrically organized around it's center line. There is also a distinct Rhythm to the space, created by the beams in the ceiling. And finally the room has a signature pattern - a set of small squares that form part of the lattice on either side of the window bay - that appears not only here but also in various places throughout the house. So it's a house that has a Theme and Variations. Most houses are lacking features like these that tell you, as you move from room to room, that tell you, as you move from room to room, that they are all parts of a singular whole. But a house that's a Home by Design has some underlying organizational features that help identify it as all one thing, no matter where you are in the house.
Sarah Susanka HOME by DESIGN