There are well over a million new housing “starts” in the United States each year, but only a small fraction of those houses are custom designed. It's a sad thing. Your house is the largest single investment most people make in their lifetime. Your house has a major impact on you and your family. It's not just an object, it's your home. It's the environment you occupy and interact with during a larger portion of your life than anywhere else. And we are all shaped and influenced by our environment.
“But I can not afford a custom house design,” you say. Well that may be so, but even if you are selecting from standard plans or picking out a plan from a book of house designs, you can make better choices and understand what your perfect house can be by learning a little about what constituents good design. You need to raise your level of awareness.
As an architect I am often asked, what is the most important consideration when you design a house? In my opinion, the single most important quality is that there needs to be purposefulness to the plan. In order to achieve this, your home plan should have a main theme or concept as the core of the design plan. This should lend organization, as well as flow, to your house plan.
The most direct and simple methods of organizing a plan is often the best. One that I have used as a basis of many plans is the classic “four square plan.” The main shape of the house is a square, with an axis that acts as a connector. This is the idea used in the classic “Georgian Style” house. The main rooms of the home are in each of the corner squares, with a hallway and stairwell as the center acting as a connection between rooms on the same floor. The upper floor would also have a similar pattern with bedrooms in the corners, bathroom at the end of the hall. As you walk through a home like this, the spaces feel right since they are organized in a way that makes sense.
Take a look at a typical house plan. It will probably have some of this purposeful organization as the underlying concept. Perhaps the center hall is wider in one area, such as in the foyer. The stairwell may curve, or go off to the side of the center axis. You may find larger room in the rear that still fits in with the organized plan. Try to think about how you want your rooms to fit together and make the spaces flow in an orderly way.
Other organizing concepts are more complex, and may be the right one for you. Thoughtful planning will help you arrive at a meaningful, and purposeful floor plan. No matter what, your house design requires a plan that fulfills your needs. A house may be elaborate and expensive, but without a plan with integrity and unity, it will not feel right. You want to feel settled, content and happy in your home. Design your home with a purposeful plan so that your home becomes a perfect fit for your family.