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How To Design A Modern House

Want to build a modern home in Nottingham? Today’s contemporary home doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to the ‘Modernist’ look of the 1920s and 30s, in fact a lot of contemporary homes show influences not only from Modernism, but also from a range of other sources. We examine what makes a home ‘contemporary’.


There is constant debate about what consti­tutes the ‘contemporary’ look in present-day house design and one often wonders whether it will merit a generic title (such as ‘Modern­ism’) that will go down in the annals of major architectural styles.


There is little doubt that such a look exists. Many people compare it to the Modernism of the 1920s and 1930s, but in fact today’s ‘contemporary’ style is far more eclectic and draws on influences from many countries and traditions. It is very much an evolving style.


One of the keys to the contemporary look is a willingness to use the many new materials and techniques that are developing all the time. Apart from that, it is hard to see what is actually truly ‘new’ about it. This is because, as house styles and housebuilding methods move forward, it naturally becomes more and more difficult to innovate, and there is obviously more from the past to draw upon. Nevertheless, it is the architects and designers who are able to ‘think outside the box’ that usually come up with the best contemporary designs. These are the people most in demand by the self-builders who really want to produce something fresh and different, because they have the capability to put mat­erials together in a way that nobody has done before.


The really imaginative self-builder in this style will pursue the same objective. If at the end of your contemporary-style self-build you can genuinely claim to have made some materials do things that others have not previously thought about, you will have done well — and been true to the style. If you have also produced a house that really does what you want it to, then you will also have succeeded.


Orientation is vital. Try to make your self-build as site-specific as possible, using detailed knowl­edge of where the sun is rising and falling. If you have a view, use it to the full. This means that the design of your house is likely to be asym­met­rical and will lack a regular geomet­rical façade.


If your house is to be built on sloping ground, try to incorporate a basement or semi-base­ment. It can really prove a basis to improving the quality of life for the modern family and to getting out of the way those things that are not needed for key everyday requirements.


If this is not feasible, ‘stilted’ deck areas can be a great point of interest. The idea is that the ground level is used for covered storage.


Go for simple forms and make them relate to one another. Honesty of construction, purity of materials and crispness in the way they fit together are all hallmarks of the approach of the good architect in contemporary style. Avoid at all cost areas that appear to be ‘bolt-ons’.


Contemporary design is heavily driven by green issues, and this has to relate to the design of the house. In the UK, passive solar energy is the driver. In energy terms, something compact with a minimum surface area, with small windows on the north side and large ones on the south, makes the most sense.


If you have a reasonable-sized plot, a design that is spread out allows you more scope. If you would like to have a garden, consider a series of linked pavilions, or a courtyard-style house. Curved houses, with the curve being used to face the view or the sun, are consid­ered extremely fashionable. At the same time very sharp lines that define the exterior are also popular.


Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the self-builder in this style is to ‘pick and mix’ skillfully. This is the greatest art of all, and the phrase that should be on the lips of the sensible self-builder in this style remains the same as it was when it was coined by the great American master Louis Sullivan almost 100 years ago — “Form follows function.” In other words, the purpose of a building should determine its design. This applies as much to your contemp­orary-style self-build as it does to any other sort of building.


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