Most people when starting their home design begin by looking at architectural styles and images of homes online. Most floor plan websites refine searches by categorizing these styles. The issue most discover, apart from the convoluted mixture of styles, is the design they find does not work with the site and does not meet the functional needs of their family. This blog will give you insight into why starting your design with a style in mind is problematic and can lead to extreme functional sacrifices for the sake of aesthetics.
In architecture school there are many debates related to styles and how useless the classification of them can be.
The first thing to understand is that styles are not truly known until after there inherent trends have past. The issue with architectural style is that style is related to a specific place, in a specific point in time. Style is the effect of building materials used (historically those materials found close by), available building technology, and functional attributes related to space (we do not use our homes the same as in the past). For a more in-depth look into spatial functionality check out or other blog here.
To mimic a past style today only captures the aesthetic of a past time and place. It is made to work with modern day spatial functionality and placed in a location foreign to its roots. This mimicry can very easily be mistaken for a falseness and movie set quality. In addition, there is a lack of craftsman available to achieve such complex forms and decor using unfamiliar construction techniques. If such craftsmanship is found it will cost you a fortune.
Now days we want our homes to function very different than in the past. We want our homes to be open and spacious. We want them to be well connected to the outdoors and take advantage of views. As an example, this functionality becomes impossible without large openings contradicting many styles of the past. The building technology of the past could not create such large openings for they simply did not have the ability to structurally support them.
Be Vernacular but Unique.
The term vernacular, in architecture, refers to the architecture of an area. Its a domestic approach to creating architecture. Creating an architecture that responds to its context and works with its surroundings. This is done in several ways, from shaping a building for capturing a view to using nearby construction materials. Frank Lloyd Wright did it best through what he called “Organic Architecture.” At Taliesin West he connected the architecture with the surrounding desert landscape by using the surrounding boulders as aggregate for the building’s concrete walls. This aggregate is visible on the exterior and visually connects the building to the desert landscape creating a truly unique vernacular architecture.
Approach the functionality of your home first. Use materials which work with the area, and the building technology of today. The ultimate goal being to create a home truly custom to you and your family, creating your own style. Conforming to a style can cause major functional sacrifices and cost much more to build. Rather than mimicking a style we look to use the style as a way to have a conversation about quality and aesthetics. One of architecture’s greatest qualities is its flexibility. A home that fits your needs, your site, and your look. A successful design will result in a building unable to be classified into a stylistic category known today but perhaps the future. A truly custom home.