18 Winners from the Architect's Toolbox

Over the past several months I have been working on an assortment of posts that identify and describe different tools that architects and other designers use when designing a house. These tools (proportion, layers, relations, happy accidents and more) can help create a house that’s more than an easy shelter — a house that fills more than a pragmatic need. Using those tools in a proficient manner will likely lead to a house that inspires and nurtures you.

Mahoney Architects & Interiors

Scale and proportion. These are two of the simplest tools to use incorrectly. Who hasn’t seen an ill-proportioned elevation or space? Maybe the columns are too thin or the windows too significant. In any case, as it goes wrong it can be very unsettling. So getting scale and proportion right is something that architects and designers try to find.

Eck | MacNeely Architects inc..

Located spaces. Not every space is foreground or background. Some spaces are simply in between.

Sometimes we create this type of space to stake a claim to get a space of their own and at times it’s to create a transition between the two. No matter the case, find out how architects and designers create these in-between spaces.

LDa Architecture & Interiors

Vestibules. Originally conceived as an air lock to keep gusts of cold winter air from entering the home, the vestibule has taken on a personality all its own.

Not very inside nor outside, a vestibule is supposed to be a transitional area that keeps rain, mud and unwelcome guests from the house appropriate. These transitional spaces, even though more common on older homes, can make their way into a more modern aesthetic, as can be seen here.

Randy Brown

Bridges. For a number of sites, the ideal solution to connect the home to its property is a bridge. Whether tenuous, ethereal, forceful or lively, a bridge could create a desired transition space between outside and inside, between landscape and home.

See how bridges can create these transitions and choose a part of their own.

Bosworth Hoedemaker

Roofs. There are many important functions to get a roof. Though its primary purposes is to lose water and protect us from the elements, a well-thought-out roof does much more. It can tether us to the landscape or let us soar upward and away. Along with the very best roofs can do both at exactly the same time.

Connections. Homes connect to the ground in various ways. Some burrow and anchor themselves in the ground. Others gently touch down at the minimum way. Some appear to slip along the surface, seeming like they can slide to and fro.

Placing the way a house is connected to the floor goes well beyond technical, structural issues and speaks to how we understand our connection to the ground.

Watch a few of the possibilities here.

Eck | MacNeely Architects inc..

Layers. Art and designers use spatial layering to make smaller spaces appear larger and more interesting by connecting to — or suggesting — spaces outside. We can create this effect by breaking up a space into bits that have defined beginnings and finishes utilizing framed openings, columns and “floating” walls to indicate more. The outcomes are richly complex spaces.

Smith & Vansant Architects PC

Considered hallways. So many halls are handled as afterthoughts throughout the design procedure. Instead of being contemplated spaces that can enhance our everyday experiences, these hallways allow us feel like the proverbial mouse scurrying to and fro.

This does not need to be the case, because these glorious halls manifest.

Winn Wittman Architecture

Rotations. A rotated square and motion along a diagonal are just two apparatus architects and designers use to achieve accent and a feeling of greater size.

Both instruments rely on a grid of 90 degrees — and the sudden introduction of an element askew from that grid.

Dara Rosenfeld Design

Bedrooms inside a room. Art and designers occasionally create a room within a room to reduce the scale and provide a more romantic setting — nesting a space within an area, a little like Shaker nesting boxes along with Russian matryoshka dolls.

So next time you get beneath the covers of your own four-poster bed or engage in a conversation in an inglenook by the fire, do not forget that you’re appreciating the kind of space architects are generating for centuries.

Watch some recent examples here.

Smith & Vansant Architects PC

Interior railings. Sure, building codes dictate that railings need to be a certain height, have the ability to withstand a certain force and be in a position to prevent a small world from passing through.

But railings are so much more. The code dictates are the beginning point. See how many architects use railings to bring a whole new dimension of style in their layouts.

Aleck Wilson Architects

Natural light. Art and designers relish the opportunity to explore ways to bring natural light indoors. Whether it comes through a side window, skylight or natural light enlivens a space.

One of the wondrous facets of this design element is how the light varies with the time of day and the seasons. Capturing and shaping this light will enhance your house and your life in the most basic and profound ways.

Dick Clark + Associates

Open corner windows. The traditional method of making a space is to construct four partitions, each connected and perpendicular to the adjoining wall. Doors and windows can then cut or “punched” into the walls to join rooms and present views and light. This all started to change in the 19th century when architects started to create “cornerless” rooms.

Eliminating the defined corners of this space was just like removing the corners of a square bowl. The space within the area, such as the water within the bowl, would flow freely, spilling out to the adjoining rooms and the exterior, due to modern glass and glazing technology, as can be seen here.

Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

Window particulars. Even though there are many designs and sizes of windows, my favorites have reduced sills, tall heads and deep shows. See why here.

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

Solar electricity. In a current ideabook we toured a smartly designed house as one that’s respectful of Earth. In a second story, we introduced the Hudson Passive Project, a house that relies almost entirely on the sun because of its cooling and heating. Taking advantage of the sun’s power is growing in importance as a design tool.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Rain displays. Better materials and practices, including tighter envelopes, have made our homes easier to cool and heat and much more efficient. Gone are the times of drafty windows and doors, sky-high energy bills and uncomfortable rooms.

But of course there’s a side effect to owning a house that does not flow energy from every crack and gap. Moisture buildup within our walls and also a lack of clean air coming into the house can create poor air quality. Watch how the downsides could be mitigated if constructing a more efficient house.

AIA, Bud Dietrich

Happy accidents. I have long since learned that not every event could be controlled, not every outcome predicted. I have discovered that, in actuality, an unexpected outcome could offer a joyous surprise that enriches life.

Witt Construction

Symmetry. Stand in front of a mirror and look on your own. Draw an imaginary line down the center of your face and torso. Chances are good that your left and right sides match and that you’re symmetrically composed. Not too symmetrically composed, mind you — there is going to be a small variation from side to side. Small differences add interest and keep items from becoming too static.

Explore how architects create and use symmetry in their layouts.

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