Harmonizing Design to Create Atmosphere

Good architecture evolves from an interdisciplinary approach to design

By CHRIS TEXTER, AIA

The other day I had the pleasure of picking up an old catalog of floorplans from 1974. Over 185 single-story floor plans to choose from! Key features included sunken living rooms, indoor laundry rooms, and large master bathrooms. It was entertaining to browse through the floor plans imagining the designers creating these 1970s spaces, thinking about how homeowners lived in their homes in those days, and how floor plans have evolved in the 40 years since then. While looking at the plans I was imagining them in all three dimensions. I cringe when I hear the question: what is right, the exterior elevation, the interior design, or the floor plan? These are not mutually exclusive elements that somehow are linked together at some point. They are cohesive and cast from the same mold.

The mold is formed long before floor plans are even started. The atmosphere of a neighborhood starts early in the overall conception of the community as the circulation is laid out and enclaves are shaped. More precise land planning of neighborhoods plants the seeds of personality. As the homes are designed from floorplans, exteriors, to interior design the character is shaped. It is further defined and reinforced with landscape architecture and finally matures with home owner personalization. Too often each of these character’s defining moments are done individually in steps with little inspiration informing the next phase of development. Great communities happen when these opportunities of creation are done in concert with each other – the land plan shaping the outline of the home, the plan shaping the exteriors and the interiors.

As I thumb through the floor plans I see gently sloping ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass and courtyards. The floor plan is creating space, creating the interior of the home. As in 1974, today’s home design vision is formed in three dimensions. The designs of today emphasize three key interior spaces: owner suites, great room kitchens, and indoor-outdoor connectivity. The interior space formed in these areas usually starts with a floor plan. Owner suites have evolved from a functional space in 1974 to a retreat today. At all price points, a design providing elements to invoke a sanctuary and relaxation are important in the owner suite. To complete the vision of this space it must be translated through the interior design. This includes not only the shape and proportion of the space but also the colors, textures, patterns, and materials in harmony creating the atmosphere.

Great room kitchen design is of upmost importance to create harmony between the spatial concept and interior finish. Kitchens are wide open and on display, compared to 1974. The geometry of the layout, the cabinetry, islands, and countertops must create unity between the different functions surrounding the kitchen. Most often the kitchen is adjacent to, if not ‘in’ the, family room, dining room, and garage. This space is the hub which all other spaces draw inspiration from. The relationship of cabinetry to the ceiling and lights extends into opportunities for special ceiling features such as artful light fixtures, and ceiling treatments such as beam and millwork. The plan provides the foundation on which the interior features can crystalize. The kitchen island is one such form that anchors many great rooms. The shape, size, color materials and details of this prominent piece set the tone and mood for the entire space.

Blurring the lines between the interior and the exterior, plans with entire walls of glass that fold or slide open expands the entire interior room outward and extends the interior design to the exterior, blending with the exterior style. This trend creates unique opportunities and challenges with ceiling treatments, flooring, and furniture selection and placement. The opportunity exists to extend these finishes directly to the outdoors.

These are just a few of the key areas of a home where design of the plans and interiors create the atmosphere of the entire home. Creating atmosphere is not just a floor plan or a color, it is a fusion of spatial geometries, textures, materials, warmth, coolness, and patterns working in harmony and contrast. Far different from buying a floor plan in a catalog, today home design involves a team of designers working in concert together to realize a vision and create the character of space, home and neighborhood. Well-defined neighborhood character amalgamates together community concept, landplaning, floorplan, exterior, interior and landscape designs. When a home owner adds their personal touch, it makes Home.

Chris Texter, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is on the Board of Directors and is a Principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning. He may be reached at ktgy.com.

 

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