What makes a farmhouse

What makes a farmhouse

Traditionally farmhouses are simply homes built on agricultural lands to house and protect who owned or worked the land. The term Farmhouse isn't necessarily connected to a particular style identified by a fixed set of features, but a setting for a way of life. This is most likely why its appeal seems to be timeless.

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Why did I choose residential architecture?

The answer is obvious, it’s personal. Over the course of my relatively short career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a range of residential projects from small renovations to large upper crust homes. Along the way, I’ve worked on commercial projects and even dabbled in some urban planning. Sure they were great for my resume and came with a bigger benefits package, but they lacked the humanity that residential work is guaranteed to come with.

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I’ve had the honor to collaborate with wonderful people over the years. I’m fascinated by their stories and I hope to tell those stories through my work.  It’s not the overall style of the house that does the job; that’s the curb appeal. The stories are carried through in the details - the kegerator, the built-in pet accessories, the doors that give cats their freedom, the concrete floors to withstand skateboarding ollies, the niches that house heirloom furniture, and the closets specifically built for luggage of the frequent flyer club. These are what tell the story of these unique characters and their daily lives.

There’s a sweetness to the way our Clients describe their needs for living with their little ones (human, feline and canine). There’s the outdoor shower for dad and the boys to wash off their basketball residue before re-entering the house, the closed riser stairs so the family dog cannot fall through,  the sensory deprivation space for the child with special needs, the whole house vacuum to keep the cat hair under control, the built-in stage for the ballet performances, the lighting system that creates a pathway for the kids to find mommy and daddy in the middle of the night, and the large kitchen island for grandma to keep an endless buffet out for her 5 grandchildren as they go to and fro.  These aren’t items you would find in a production house to suit generic needs for a target customer base. These are specific qualities of a home to suit the specific needs of specific people.  

My favorite experience was with Ms. Melba. She had recently lost her home in a natural disaster and our team had the task of building her a new one...in 3 months.  When we were going through paint color selections, she chose “Eye of the Tiger”. Me: “You mean for an accent wall?” Ms. Melba, “No, all of it, the living room, kitchen and down the whole hallway. I’ll put purple in the bathroom.”  I admit, I was hesitant, but when she moved in, that orange color created an amazing backdrop to her beautiful dark skin tone. That’s the moment when I realized a home can affect how you look, it doesn’t just make you happy, it makes you radiant. When designing a home, consider yourself in that color, form and scale. It should fit you like a couture garment.

Ms. Melba also taught me that it’s not solely about the aesthetics of the end product, but how the end user feels in it. Her house was completed within a very tight timeframe and when I looked at it, I saw the visible flashing and gap-toothed battens. When she looked at it she told me, “I love it, it’s beautiful, it’s perfect. Thank you.” That’s when I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to this. In his op ed for the the New York Times, Steven Bingler wrote, “We’ve taught generations of architects to speak out as artists, but we haven’t taught them how to listen.” This single wonderful woman in the middle of a post-Katrina New Orleans taught me to start listening.

Jen Lo is a Gator/Longhorn alumnus, mother of a threenager and single-serving-size dessert enthusiast.

The Evolution of Architectural Visualization

The Evolution of Architectural Visualization

Technology keeps evolving. And so do the ways architects reproduce reality and help people envision their new home. While we will always need technical 2d drawings for all the steps of the architectural process, the architecture industry now demands more realistic reflections of their imaginations.

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Site Design 101

Where to start?  How about the root of all buildings – the natural site you have selected for your new home.  It may sound simple. You find a lot with a great view and lots of trees and you are ready to go. 

Doing some research on your lot may uncover many variables that can affect whether the lot will work for your future home. Environmental site issues, Home Owners Association guidelines, governmental regulations, and also the type of home you want designed may create limitations on what you can do with your lot.

If your site is in a neighborhood, do some research into any restrictions dealing with the design or even how your house sits on the lot. You may think that since you are not building in a gated community, but locating near downtown, this shouldn’t matter yet it does.  In some cases these neighborhoods have design restrictions as well. 

Restrictions could be anything from exterior materials, roof slopes, design styles, etc.  It could very well change your dream home from a modern style design to something that adheres to the rest of the development and may not be what you are wanting. 

Other issues could deal with the topography. Some of your property may lie in a flood plain area and thus restrict where your house can be placed.  Impervious coverage restrictions can also come into play for your site as well as other environmental issues including easements, which may not be initially apparent but can limit what portions of the lot you can use.

Natural elements such as existing trees and orientation of your lot in respect to sun angles will also play into how your new home works on your lot.  It is best to situate certain rooms toward certain directions to accommodate the solar gain and prevailing winds, if possible. 

 Another major consideration is the type of design itself.  If you have always wanted a large back yard for kids to play in and your site drops in slope, it may be costly to move the earth to build that flat play area.  If you always wanted a courtyard house yet your lot stands with great views to the back then maybe the courtyard style may not be best to take full advantage of the site.

All of these are just examples of issues to consider when selecting a lot.  It will be to your benefit to have a professional architect provide an analysis of your lot to see if it will suit your needs for your future residence.  With this first step in building your dream home, take your time and make the right decision. 

Site Design