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resource review: the distinctive home - part 2

Emily Oster


The second key factor in creating a distinctive home is a well thought out floor plan. Eck begins this section of the book by explaining that the floor plan of a home should express the way its inhabitants live. Advocating a move away from manufactured, cookie cutter homes (I like to call them McMansions), Eck outlines a qualitative process to better understand the details of how one lives and then to create a space tailored to this discovery. 

For Eck, there are five critical ingredients to a distinctive floor plan. The first is that each room in the plan should be a place that is used and comfortable to be in. The second is that rooms need to work together. The third is that the plan needs to relate to the site outside. The fourth is that a plan should reflect a home's exterior and vice versa. Finally, the plan should have details that help define the use and feel of the space. Ultimately, for Eck "A distinctive floor plan can, at a glance, convey what is most important in our lives" (Eck, 119).  

New Construction: 
1. Eck proposes beginning with a wish list. This can include pictures and sketches but should be focused on the quality of rooms (for example - open and bright) rather than the specific aesthetic details. 
2. From this wish list, create a diagram that speaks to the relationship between spaces. A bubble diagram is often a good way to do this.
3. Determine how many stories by considering the context of the neighborhood - you probably would not want to build a tall two plus story house in a neighborhood of low ranches, what you prefer - a ranch that hugs the landscape or a two story home that provides views out, what will function best for you and your family - will you want to go up and down stairs everyday,  cost - often one story homes can be more expensive because they require more initial site construction and can cost more to heat and cool and finally think about the site and how you want the house to relate to it. 
4. Think about what type of plan would be best suited for you. Eck outlines three types. The first is the condensed plan which combines many activities into a small number of rooms. For example, the kitchen might share the same space as the dining and living rooms. This plan tends to be the most informal. The second and most common is the comprehensive plan. In this scheme, activities and their corresponding rooms are separated and distinct. The third and final type is the compound plan. In this plan, spaces/activities are given specific and distinct locations under separate roofs (think wings of a house). With this approach, hallways and connection spaces become extremely important. 

Purchasing a Home:
1. Same as above although it becomes particularly important not to focus on just the aesthetics. When looking at a potential new home,  think more generally in terms of size and relationship of rooms rather than paint color or flooring. Make sure to take a step back and really think about the layout of the home and how well it fulfills your wish list.
2. Same as above.
3. This point applies with some adjusting. When looking at a home see how it fits into the rest of the neighborhood - you do not want to be "that huge house at the end of the block". Think about the houses that you gravitate towards - if you love the two story farmhouse aesthetic you might not be happy with a one story midcentury contemporary. With regards to function, focus on the layout and size of a potential home - do you really want to have to clean five bathrooms. For costs, think about how the floor plan of the home with affect heating and cooling costs - open and airy might have lower cooler costs but higher heating bills and maintenance - single stories generally have quite a bit more roof area than two stories. Finally, don't forget to gather an understanding of how the house relates to its site.
4. Same as above and choose accordingly. 

Modifying a Home: 
1. While you are unable to change the whole layout of your home, think about how you use your current spaces and if you are optimizing them. For example, if you have a formal dining room that you never use could you add doors and make it into a home office. 
2. Does not apply.
3. Does not apply.
4. Does not apply. 

Check back in tomorrow for a distinctive floor plan example!