17 Oct 2009

Owner as Architect – Should You Design It?

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Are you a do-it-yourself person? Do you love the satisfaction of doing something yourself and spurn the notion of hiring someone to do a simple task or service? Have you ever hired a cook, maid, lawn maintenance, plumber, auto repair or realtor? If you haven’t, you’re a VERY busy person. But, you probably don’t do everything yourself, I’m sure you eat out occassionally, take the car to a quick service or hire a realtor to sell/buy your home. When you hire someone else, it’s because you don’t have the time or expertise to do the job you deserve. Well designing your home may fall into that category so don’t do it alone if you don’t have to.

Can you design your own home? Of course you can and I can help! Many clients approach me after designing part of their home because they need advice, finishing touches or a building permit. I designed my own home and understand the challenges of making everything fit and including everything I want all within my budget so I appreciate your efforts to design your own home. Approach your home design the same way you start a home improvement project. Do your homework to make sure you understand what it takes to design your home.

What does it take to design your own home?
  • understand how you live. How you live and how you’d like to live can be very different.
  • understand the difference between needs, wants and effect on your budget
  • understand home systems and components and how they work together. Everything needs its space.
  • understand building products dimensions and uses. Some products don’t play well with others.
  • understand what the city inspectors or builders expect to build your project
  • understand code requirements
  • know when to start/stop
  • know when to ask for help
What to avoid:
  • don’t try to modify or meld stock plans. The result is seldom successful and space dominoes (minor adjustments that magnify) are frustrating
  • don’t design exclusively in plan. The plan, section and elevation are parts of the same design and you must develop them together
  • don’t use arbitrary dimensions. Building materials come in standard sizes. Ignoring the module adds cost, but no value.
  • don’t design it in one day. Good solutions take time. Let the design simmer and return to it later.
Secrets to success:
  • Start design with your lifestyle in mind. Design a home that moves and lives the way you do!
  • Don’t start in scale, but develop scaled drawings early because scale changes everything!
  • Look at pictures – loads of pictures and keep looking at pictures. Pictures are your most valuable tool!
  • Start over several times and see your second generation ideas will be better than the first ones

If you’re completely comfortable with all of these then consider designing your own home; otherwise pick an architect you trust to take your vision to the next level. I know no one hires an architect for his/her beautiful drawings. Your drawings are as beautiful as mine are. I’m realistic enough to know you hire an architect because you want a home built or remodeled and that’s where my expertise benefits you because I’ve been there done that. My job is to get to know you so we can get to know your home and ultimately help your builder build or remodel your home. So do what you can, be involved and hire an architect because even though I can do it for you, we’ll both get more out of it designing it together.

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About the Author


Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 27 years experience in design, construction observation and life.