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Architect Basics

Trends in Architecture

Healthy Homes

In harmony with the green revolution (and heavily influenced by it), today's trend-savvy architects are designing homes with the environment in mind. Recent studies have shown that many of the materials we've used for years to construct and fill our homes are actually toxic. This is true for exterior and interior materials. Paint, siding and cabinet materials are just a few examples. If you work with an architect, they will likely specify earth-friendly materials to be used throughout your new home.

While the materials used in your house are very important, some other design elements also contribute significantly to creating a healthy home. The newest HVAC systems do much more than simply heat and cool the air. Many feature fully integrated climate control systems which filter out common pollutants, maintain optimal moisture levels, and even automatically adjust when they sense a rise or fall in temperature.

Finding an architect who specializes in environmentally friendly homes is ideal, but any quality architect can design a home which is as easy on the earth as it is beautiful.

Size Matters

One of the biggest current trends in architecture is all about size. In today's tough economy, fewer homes are being built. Homeowners who can afford to build, however, are asking for smaller homes. Gone are the days of mini-mansions. Today's homeowners have realized that most families simply don't need all that space! Not only is it expensive and wasteful to heat and cool, but it encourages families to spend time apart. A smaller home still gives each household member all the personal space they need, while fostering a sense of family and togetherness.

Part of this architecture trend is related to home design. Instead of elaborate designs, simpler styles are becoming popular once again. These basic “box” styles can still be incredibly beautiful to look at when designed properly, and they offer a lot of versatility.

This is one trend that absolutely pays off. Not only do families report enjoying their time at home more when that home is smaller, but the utility savings speak for themselves. It's also much less expensive to furnish a smaller home. You can purchase a higher quality of furnishings without going over-budget when you have fewer rooms to fill. This gives you a sense of luxury while maintaining a wallet-friendly home.

Backyard Structures

Erecting an additional livable structure (not a shed) on your property used to be reserved for the ultra-rich or those living in rural areas. This trend is rapidly changing. Many of today's hottest architects are designing livable structures for placement in the back or side yards of existing homes. There are a few reasons for this trend.

Today more than ever, families are moving together. Children who have graduated from college are coming back home, either as a means to save for their own house or simply because finding a job is tough in today's economy. In addition, many older generations are moving in with their children as an alternative to impersonal retirement communities. For many cultures, living in a multi-generational home is traditional. Addition living quarters can also be rented out to generate extra income.

Regardless of your reason for desiring an extra dwelling on your property, these structures are a valuable investment. They can be simple or luxurious, depending on your budget. Either way, they offer many different ways to save money and, should you decide to move, they add enormous value to your property.

Common Mistakes - What to Avoid When Working with an Architect

Like any home improvement project, working with an architect has its potential errors. This is an area where you want the fewest number of problems as possible. The following are some of the most common mistakes, as well as pointers for avoiding them in the first place.

Common Mistake - Choosing Just Any Architect

This is perhaps the biggest and most common mistake homeowners make when dealing with architecture. Sure, it takes a bit of digging and asking around to find the best architects in your area...but is this really an area where you want to scrimp and save on time? The design of your home paves the way for many years of either headaches and eyesores or beauty and enjoyment.

We'll clue you in as to the best ways to find a local architect. For now, we'll just point out that research is key when selecting an architect. Ask about certification and years of experience. Ask to see pictures of completed buildings which the architect has designed, and go visit those buildings if possible. Ask to speak with references...these former clients can give you invaluable insight.

However you go about finding an architect, you can avoid this common (and often costly) mistake by simply doing proper research.

Common Mistake - The Impersonal Home

As we mentioned, simple is trendy once again. However, don't make the common mistake of assuming that simple means boring or one-size-fits-all! Far too many homeowners tell their architects that they want a simple home...and nothing else. This usually results in a very plain and simple home without a single personalized element. This certainly isn't the end of the world, but if you're going to spend the money on an architect, why not make use of their knowledge and have them integrate some personal touches into your new home?

A great deal can be done to customize a home while still retaining a simple and no-frills approach. Many of these things relate to your household. Do you have older family members living with you? Level doorways, lowered countertops and easily accessible bathroom fixtures would be thoughtful and useful touches.

There are as many types of customization as there are different types of households. You don't have to customize every feature of every room. Simply remembering that customization is an option, even on a budget, will help you avoid this common mistake. Sit down and think about where you would benefit most from a customized design element, then let your architect know about it. Chances are good that they can work it into their design without draining your wallet.

Common Mistake - No Budget

Creating - and sticking to - a budget is one of the easiest ways to avoid a common mistake during this process. Consider your income and budget out an amount that won't leave you and your family living on ramen noodles for the next few years. Yes, this is your new home, and you want the best. However, you don't want a beautiful home that you can't afford to furnish. Take an honest look at your finances while creating a budget, and then stick to that budget like glue. A few hundred dollars over may be acceptable...a few thousand over is not.

Common Mistake - The Unnecessarily Luxurious Home

For many homeowners, working with an architect is an extremely exciting experience. After all, how often do you get to design your house from the ground up? While being excited is certainly not a bad thing, letting your excitement lead to poor choices is a very common mistake.

While caught up in the fun of planning your property, it's easy to talk yourself into thinking that luxurious and costly additions are a good idea. There's absolutely nothing wrong with building a greenhouse or planning a wrap-around four-season porch...if you can afford it. Far too many homeowners find themselves saying yes to these fun, luxury additions without really thinking the idea through.

Before you commit to any unnecessary addition, be absolutely certain that it's something you can comfortably afford. Remember that you can always add on in the future, when you have funds to spare.

How to Find the Best Local Architects

You're up on the current trends. You have a few ideas for customization that will make life in your new home easier and more enjoyable for your unique household. Now what?

Looking through the phone book can be an intimidating prospect. All those names and numbers...how can you possibly tell who's the best?

Thankfully, there's an easier way. Home improvement websites offer a wonderfully simple method of finding an architect who is local and properly certified. You can look through the architects closest to you, reading reviews by former clients and (in some cases) viewing pictures of finished design plans.

Alternately, you can post your project online and let the architects come to you, offering you bids on your project. Regardless of which approach you take, ensure that your final choice is properly licensed, has plenty of experience, and can offer you good references. Finding an architect whose overall style blends well with your own is ideal, but as long as you communicate well, any reputable architect can provide you with plans which perfectly suit your needs.

Working with an architect to design the home of your dreams should be a fun and exciting venture. By following some common-sense guidelines, you can help ensure that you end up with home plans you can afford and which you absolutely love.

Posted by: Diane
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