4 Rules of Great Home Design

Written by Richard Taylor of RTA Studio
Updated January 13, 2016
architect examines building blueprints
A great architect on your side can make a building project run smoothly. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Knowing what you want in a new home will make it easier to work with an architect for your house design and blueprints.

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You may not be an architect, but many of the things you need to develop a good home design are qualities you already have: the ability to do a little research, plenty of patience, knowledge of your own personal comfort, and reasonably good taste.

Follow my four rules of thumb and you’ll be well on your way to better design.

1. Research leads to good building design

Before any real design work begins, you need a thorough understanding of what you want, and of your home site.

This starts with researching your building site; locating other buildings on or near the site; mapping out the best and worst views, noting the climate and sun angles throughout the year, and measuring the slope and anything else that might affect your home’s design.

Simply walking your site at different times of the year and in different weather will tell you a great deal about how your house might fit, and how the design should respond to the conditions of the site.

The other part of what you need to do is less tangible — writing down your dreams and desires. But a little research saves the day here, too. There are magazines and websites full of ideas you can use to prime your design pump.

Organize your ideas by room and put them in file folders.

Now you’ve got a “swipe file” to help you define your likes, keep track of your ideas and communicate your tastes to whoever’s going to help you get this project designed and built.

2. Start slow with building plan

You’re excited. You’ve been thinking about this for months: planning, dreaming, collecting ideas and gearing up to get started on the design.

But there’s danger in moving too fast. As designs begin taking shape, they become more “real” and more difficult to change or even discard completely — something you have to be willing to do.

A slow start means keeping the design “loose” and deferring any irrevocable decisions until you’ve looked at lots of options.

Keep things in the “brainstorming” stage as long as possible. Keep your sketches loose, and be open to change on a whim.

3. Design your home from the inside out

Too many homes are designed from the outside first, leaving awkwardly sized rooms inside. Good design should fit you, not the other way around.

Designing from the inside can be something as small as making sure that your bedroom fits your king-size bed without blocking the window, or as large as deciding whether you really need a dining room, living room, and other “formal” spaces in your house.

But mostly it’s about figuring out how you’ll use your rooms — and then designing the spaces to fit. You can start working that out on paper with scale cutouts of your furniture or even by putting some chairs out in the yard and moving them around.

That way you’ll be sure everything’s been accounted for, and reduce “leftover” space.

4. Simpler plans are better and more affordable

Good design is almost always simple design — neat, uncluttered, simple geometry, good proportions and appropriate details.

Simple forms enclose more space within a smaller perimeter. That makes simpler forms less expensive to build.

Don’t be fooled by big, fancy homes; keep it simple, keep it restrained and you’ll have a better design.

A version of this article has appeared on the RTA Studio blog “Sense of Place.”

About this Experts contributor: Residential architect Richard Taylor has been designing custom homes and remodeling projects in Dublin, Ohio, and across the country since 1990. You can follow this Experts contributor on Twitter and Google+

As of  Jan. 13, 2016, this service provider was highly rated. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Nov. 4, 2014.

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