When Brenda and I conceived the idea of downsizing our home once we became empty-nesters, we spent a lot of time thinking about just what kind of house we would like to move into.
Right at the outset, I'll admit that it was mostly I who wanted to nail it down. I grew up thinking that my money ought to spent mainly on durable goods. Pizza, or music album? I'll take the music album, thank you. And what's more, I internalized "A man's home is his castle." You spend a lot of time in your home, so it needs to agree with you and facilitate the way you live, not oppose it.
We started acquiring and poring over those books of home designs you can buy at home improvement and grocery stores. We would talk about what features appealed and which did not.
Then Brenda gifted me with "The Not So Big House" by Sarah Susanka and from it we learned a lot about the value of proportion and finish. We became more conscious of our activities and how we like to accommodate them. Not being formal people, we agreed to give up formal living and dining rooms.
Our time with books of plans began to be supplemented by walking through subdivisions under construction and discussing the designs that were being built. We started talking with the builders about why they put in certain things.
Now we found that there were large repositories of house designs on the Internet. I set happily to work to review them, and being an engineer, developed a spreadsheet for rating how closely a design follows the features we've identified as "desired."
We started talking with realtors about what's on the market. We rapidly found that their check-offs for "what everyone wants" are greatly difference from our wants. So, OK, we're going to be statistical outliers. No biggie - this will hopefully be our last home.
Brenda found us a class at Furman University on house designing and remodeling, led by an architect. That was good! We learned about "programming" a house, by considering each room, one at a time, and describing its function, its probable furniture, its probable size, its relation to other rooms in the house, and its relation to the outdoors, and also any change in function it's likely to undergo as time goes on. We wrote our own program - a 19-page paper describing how our "dream house" would fit together.
Knowing that the choice of a community and a specific lot will affect the choice of an optimal house design, I determined to put together a sheaf of the highest-scoring designs we had perused that would cover the bases of such things as: architectural style, foundation, window exposure, and footprint.
I know I've looked at over 2,000 home designs in our square footage range. I bought a home designer CAD program and I've "built" a couple of my own designs on that. All great fun. And someday, we'll actually make that move.
Where did this "hobby" come from?? Last Fall I was thinking about that, and I recalled seeing a LIFE magazine article in the 60's about a free-form house built with polyurethane sprayed over burlap. It was so different from the old farmhouse I grew up in that my imagination was piqued. So I, on a whim, googled for that house. I found the LIFE article:
I've thought about Ensculptic House every time I play through one of those grottoes on miniature golf courses. They're made of gunite, but the vibe's the same. I try to imagine living in a house with no orthogonal corners. 'Way cool - and if I can find $194K I can try it!