Designing Your Ideal Home…Stumbling At The Starting Gate – Some Tips On Getting Back On Your Feet – Part 2

continued from Part-1

So you’ve decided to hire an architect to help you design your new home and you begin to realize that you alone are the one who is ultimately responsible for knowing what you want and how you want it to look. That decision will set the course for how it will ultimately appear. It will have a long lasting impact on your life. With the mounting pressure of that decision you find yourself coming up blank.

 A good place to begin breaking through this impasse is to try understanding how you, personally, see and evaluate your surroundings, especially the built consequences of preferences held by others? How do you respond to what you see around you? What do you like, dislike? Do you wonder why such things ever got built, or does something grab hold of you and make you want to see more of it?

Like many you may start by trying to visualize how your home will look. You may try to recall memories of places you’ve liked. Childhood archetypes of an ideal house, or images of old buildings may crowd their way into the front of the picture.

Or, more likely, as many do, you begin thumbing through magazines searching for whatever draws your attention and inspires you.

But, at this point there’s a dim yet persistent feeling nagging away at you as you start to suffer from image overload, that maybe you don’t know what it is you really want.

Vaguely, you may sense a desire for something somehow different than what you’ve been seeing, something fresher. But you feel caught in a tug of war between attraction to the familiar, which leaves you less than satisfied, and something newer and more exciting, but perhaps scarier.

Missing from this process of attempting to know what it is you really want is any sense of certainty that your choices will be the right ones, ones that you can comfortably live with.

The stuff in the magazines, the childhood images, those period houses from the past, as appealing and right as they may seem, all seem to leave you wanting more.

So you try thumbing through photos of contemporary houses, perhaps uncharted territory for you. A lot of it feels beyond your grasp and, photographically at least, somehow divorced from what you sense should be a house that reflects who you are. So called modern house environments seem to clash with the more familiar images of home as you’ve come to think of it.

The impasse you find yourself at this point begins to frustrate and exhaust you.

You feel the first stab of panic at the prospect of your architect pressuring you into a “look” that’s all wrong for you; pressured because you’re not sure of what it is you really want. This panic grows the longer you feel uncertain. Remaining uncertain easily translates into added cost, the prospect of which inspire flashbacks of “Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House” and “The Money Pit”, driving you further into panic.

Fueling the stress is the mounting pressure to make a decision, one that you know is sound and that you can live with, but feels beyond your capacities to make.

Tossing in the towel now becomes increasingly attractive.

My advice at this juncture is not yet. It’s too early to let your frustrations stop you. Aborting what had the potential to be an exciting new phase in your life calls for some counter strategies.

To give this problem some perspective, remember that no one ever intelligently said that building a home for yourself was the same as visiting a spa. After all, it’s a complex process requiring many months of decision making.

Nonetheless, decisions need to be made.

No escaping it, near the launch of this process you need to know what it is that you really want for yourself architecturally. Or, what you don’t want. Either way, your peace of mind requires some measure of certainty when faced with that crucial decision.

Here are a few suggestions on becoming better acquainted with what you really want your home to be.

A good a place to start as any is to slow down – pull away for awhile; get yourself off the clock. Get back into your body; give your mind a rest.

Let your mind wander.

Begin to actively notice things in your daily surroundings and your response to them. Notice what you love, like, dislike, hate, or are indifferent to. While in a more relaxed state, make an effort to understand why.

Notice whether you like something because of it’s familiarity. We tend to respond positively to those things that we recognize and have gotten use to. On the other hand, be aware that they may also be handcuffing you to something less than what’s possible.

After a while pay another visit to the world of architecture. Do it in small doses. Since most houses are difficult, if not impossible, to experience from the street, go back and visit the architectural media, printed or online.

Visit architectural websites. For starters, as I mentioned above, take a look at my various sites. One of my favorites for this purpose is Pinterest. Visit other online sites such as Architizer, The Architect’s List, Houzz, and Google images and Triangle Modernist Houses. And then there are all the printed mags like Dwell, Architect Magazine, Architectural Digest and many more. Notice your gut reactions to what you see.

Pace yourself. Let all this slowly simmer. Give yourself time to digest it all.

Step back again and let your real likes rise to the surface. What will happen is that the doors in your mind will open up to the process of discovery which is at the heart of architecture.

Take note of your responses. Become familiar with them. You’ll find yourself arriving at a place somewhere along the spectrum of architectural possibilities that begin to feel right for you. Your confidence in your choices will begin to strengthen.

And finally, at some point, with greater peace of mind, you become aware that you’re ready to get on with the journey. The time has arrived for you to let the process be an adventure.

Enjoy the trip.

W.L.

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