We’re building a new house, how do we make it our dream home?

Ask the architect: Hello, we’re a family of six planning to move out of our current home once we’ve built a new house in the garden. Could you give us some advice on what we should be aware of in this situation? How do we turn it into our dream home?

Answer: Planning and building a house from scratch gives you a unique opportunity to get it just the way you want it. Therefore the most important thing to do is figure out what you want! Naturally you also have to consider the restrictions, such as the physical environment of where you intend to build, your budget, neighbours compliance, and so forth, but in the initial planning phase it is important to let your imagination run a little wild. The reality of matters will catch up with you soon enough.

Before making any irreversible decisions it wont hurt to go through this list of items:

Materials: Which building materials would you like to use in your new home (and which are a big NO)? Wood (softwood, hardwood, plywood, composite, etc.), plasterboard, steel, concrete, glass, tile, rock, clay, earth? Picture your toddler with his tongue on the material you have chosen for you floor. Does it make you feel OK or slightly nauseated?

Even though we associate steel, glass and concrete with industrial buildings, these materials can make an interesting contrast in a home, perhaps in combination with more traditional materials for this type of buildings (wood and glass).

Consider this; do you want your home to stand out or merge into the environment?

A question of style: Describe your preferences regarding style with 3-5 words (for example minimalistic, futuristic, simple, fresh, urban, rural, naturalistic, rustic, traditional, organic, modern, classical, industrial, etc). Choose words that speak to you.

It could be wise to sit down with a pile of magazines and put a big black X over what you find appalling (like the mix of styles in the picture to the left?) and cut out pictures of solutions you find appealing.

Design decisions: Do you like walls to be straight or arched, 90 degrees on each other or in freer constellations. When it comes to design, the shape of the roof is essential. Do you imagine flat, skillion, gabled, hipped, arched or some combination thereof to support a style?

Spatial qualities: Do you want some of the rooms to have higher ceilings than normal, for instance the living room, kitchen, family room, hallway, or other? Make some sketches (on a piece of napkin if you want to feel like a real architect) to illustrate what you like.

Rooms: Make a list of which rooms and functions you’d like to incorporate in your new house. How many bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, etc. do you need? Do you wish to build a basement, garage or carport, or an apartment for outlet?

The site: Practical stuff like where to situate the building on the site, distance to neighbours, vegetation you wish to keep, etc, need to be taken into account. The size of the building site might determine the size of the ground floor, which will determine how many floors you need, and so forth. The planning department in your municipality will help you figure out the status and formalities.

Whether you intend to hire an architect for the planning and contractors for the building, or go to a house-catalog company for the complete deal; the better prepared you are – the better the result will be!

Hope this helps. Best of luck on this brave endeavor.

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