Below are a few ideas I first played around with when I started designing a new house for myself. As a fully qualified interior designer I am used to having the structure already laid out, so this was a new challenge for me. The only constraint we had was the square metres of living space we were allocated by the council, so the first exercise that seemed logical to do (and this is what they taught us to do when I studied Interior Design) was to set up a list of rooms and decide how many square meters each room would have. Then I thought about which rooms should be linked to each other, as shown in this diagram for the ground floor:
I then did the same for the first floor. This gave me a good idea of which rooms need to be close to each other and which rooms would be on the ground / first floor.
I then focused my attention to sunlight. The one disadvantage of our plot is that, although we have an amazing view, the site is on a field that slopes eastwards. This means that we get good sunlight in the morning, but not a lot of direct light after approx. 12 o’clock. Therefore, it was more important to ensure that as many rooms as possible get a good view, as this is our main advantage. To do this I came up with the idea of a ‘zig zag’ layout. If I had chosen a square layout (which would have been the cheapest option), only one room would have had a perfect position for view and light. By opting for the zig zag layout I managed to get the same result for 3 rooms.
I then tried to imagine walking around the house. I started by opening the front door: what do I do first when I arrive home (take off shoes, wash my hands)? Where will I be likely to go next (to the kitchen to drop off shopping or make a cup of tea / upstairs to get changed / etc.) to help me decide further where rooms would have to be in relation to each other. This is obviously different for each family so I will not get into too much detail here.
So after a while I got quite a good idea of what we wanted and how the house should ‘work’, but I needed the help of an architect to complete the design of the building. This was when we contacted the Cornish eco-build firm Ecofab from Bodmin: they completely understood what we wanted and their first proposal is pretty much what we ended up building! Here are some computer visualisations from the architects:
When you are designing a new house make sure you are not rushed into any decisions, especially if you are building the house for yourself – you don’t want to look at, for example, a window that should have been slightly larger for years afterwards!